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Local Difference-Makers Honoured in Video Series

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Zoe Bardal and Barry Piasta of Niverville were honoured in late September by enVision Community Living. EnVision

At the end of September, enVision Community Living ran a video campaign called “Make a Difference,” in support of a fundraising effort to launch a new community living project for people in our area with intellectual disabilities.

The presentation showcased nine people from southeastern Manitoba who inspire equality, inclusion, and the value of all people, including two residents of Niverville, Barry Piasta and Zoe Bardal.

Originally, enVision had planned to host a large fundraising gala to coincide with the video series, but their plans changed due to COVID-19.

“This is a bit of an adjustment because this was originally planned to be a 500-person gala where we would present these awards,” says Lindsay Unrau, fundraising and promotions coordinator for enVision. “Due to COVID, we’ve had no other choice than to go virtual.”

EnVision’s executive director, Jeannette DeLong, says fundraising is usually about bringing people together, but since that just isn’t possible right now, the not-for-profit group has had to think outside the box.

“So much of our fundraising is about bringing people together in a group, providing entertainment or food, and creating hospitality and fellowship. But we can’t do that, so this means totally shifting our brains,” says DeLong. “So we asked, can we still bring people together meaningfully, but virtually? It was April, just a month before the event, that COVID arrived. The videos, which were already intended as part of the campaign we had planned, were already in the works and we were on the verge of having the gala event when we cancelled. And now we’re actually reaching a crowd of people, but in a different way. It’s been interesting to see how new donors are coming up and old donors are shifting how they interact with us. Going virtual isn’t a bad way to do things—it’s just different. And it means we’re able to reach even more people and a different type of people.”

This is the second year for the Make a Difference campaign, which DeLong says seeks to honour community members who have taken steps to do things that celebrate inclusion and support the value of all people.

The funds raised will be used to create a fully accessible home that meets the needs of enVision clients whose needs change as they grow older. Some of these have clients have mobility issues that need to be accommodated.

“With the Make a Difference campaign, we wanted to celebrate people from the community who are already making a difference,” says DeLong. “Because the more people who are just doing kind deeds, the more the door is open to opportunity, and the more we are going to be able to accomplish our purpose toward including those with an intellectual disability.”

Barry Piasta, one of the people featured in this year’s campaign, has long been involved in community advocacy efforts, including his work with Niverville’s town council to create a Citizens on Patrol Program and his campaign to have traffic lights installed a few years ago at the intersections of Highways 59 and 311. He has also helped organize community New Year’s celebrations events, facilitate dog adoption, and launch Niverville’s off-leash dog park.

The video featuring Piasta also provides a glimpse into the health challenges and physical limitations he lives with on a daily basis.

“I guess, in a way, I see how people look at people with a disability or a difference, because I have felt it,” says Piasta.

When Piasta was first contacted by envision about being a difference-maker, his first reaction was that there are many others who are more deserving of such an honour.

“Every person has something to offer in making the world a better place,” he says. “I think to be truly part of a community, you have to participate. Just do something! Talk only goes so far, but abilities are within all of us. The differences that we see in others are not an indication of their abilities.”

Another difference-maker, 12-year-old Zoe Bardal, was recognized for an idea she had to give away her hair to an organization that creates wigs for kids who have cancer. Some key relatives in Zoe’s life had gone through cancer and she was inspired to do something for those undergoing cancer treatments to help make their lives easier.

In the process of donating hair, Bardal soon learned that there is an additional cost to have the hair fashioned into wigs. She quickly decided to step up and fundraise to cover this cost as well.

“I found this one hospital in B.C., mainly for children with cancer,” says Bardal. “I have lost a few people to cancer, and I have a grandma who survived in twice. The hospital gave me my own website… because it has to cost a bunch to make the wigs. So we started raising money.”

To Bardal, a difference-maker is simply someone who thinks of others.

“I think of the person who might get my hair as a wig to wear and help them feel confident and happy again,” she says. “I don’t know who will get it, but it makes me happy knowing it might help someone.”

Like Piasta, Bardal doesn’t see what she’s done as being a particularly big deal. She feels that any young person can do small things to make a big difference in the lives of others.

To other kids, she sends an encouragement “to see past differences and not tease or bother others because they are short, have a funny name, or have other differences. Be kind and treat them how you want to be treated. I try hard with my friends and kids at school to include other people. Today I saw someone sitting alone, so we invited her to play with us. I choose friends who are kind and work with them to make school a happy place for everyone.”

According to DeLong, the difference-makers they’ve chosen are able to elevate the value of people who maybe at first glance are perceived as different.

“It’s really amazing how good people are,” says DeLong. “I think what’s striking is how people see the commonality in each other. Everyone is really the same at their core and deserving of the same things. And then by their actions, they show care and concern and increase a sense of belonging and inclusion. If I think about Zoe, for example, I think she saw an opportunity and how she, at her young age, was able to connect kids who have cancer and other people in her own life she’s seen go through cancer. She’s kind and thoughtful and we were impressed with that. With Barry, he is tremendously community-minded. Despite the challenges in his own life, he has the ability to see the needs of others and step up and do things that improve people’s quality of life and safety. He cares deeply about the community and he has that sense of wanting to engage with creating community, and that sense of not being alone.”

Other difference-makers featured in the virtual fundraising event include Damaris Krahn, Merle Gadsby, Finley Hiebert, Justine Charette, Dennis Coley, Dusty Buchan, and a first grade class from Blumenort School.

For more information

The Make a Difference video series can be viewed on the enVision website: https://envisioncl.com/make-a-...

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