On December 3rd, Anne and I received an Advocacy Award. Before Christmas we were interviewed about the award by the local weekly paper, EMC. Today the following story appeared in the paper.
John and Anne Toft have deicated years to helping Ottawans with disabilities and on December 3rd the Glen Cairn residents were awarded a Celebration of People Award.
The Toft's won the Advocay Award in memory of Agnes Wee during the ninth annual award evening that honours individuals and organisations that have made a difference in the lives of people living with disabilities in the Ottawa area.
"We were somewhat overwhelmed," said Anne, of accepting the award in front of hundreds of people.
"We were very pleased," added John.
In 2001 the Toft's moved to Ottawa from Red Lake, a small northern Ontario town that had many resources, programs and housing and employment options for their autistic son, Adrian.
"We lived in Red Lake - it had everything he needed there, " said John. "We came to Ottawa and there was nothing here."
Rather than sit back and accept minimal resources, the Tofts, along with three others, created the Families Matter Co-operative.
"Families Matter Co-op was for and about families," said Anne. "There was a need for housing, day programs, recreation."
"It was there," added John. "just minimally. And, in some respects the situation hasn't changed."
Anne explained that it is mandated that school-aged children with disabilities have programs available to them, but after that, there is no mandate.
"Families Matter helps (families dealing with) all disabilities," said Anne. Its about information, support and advocacy."
"As far as advocacy, I prepared, along with others, Dare to Care, which challenged all levels of government to (build resources)," said John. "We gave then suggestions to what they should be doing."
Families Matter was also one of the organising committees involved in creating the Registered Disability Savings Plan, which helps Canadians with disabilities save for the future - a savings plan that many people still don't know about.
Up until 2008 the Toft's sat on the Board of Directors, but when the co-op received a Trillium Grant to help become more stable, they figured it was a safe time to bow out and enjoy retirement.
John now spends his free time with his hobby-business of making baskets. John Toft Basketry can be viewed and purchased online at johntoftbasketryat etsy.blogspot.com.
The Toft's said they were especially proud of winning the advocacy award because Agnes Wee, the award's namesake, was one of the original five who formed Families Matter.
For more information about Families Matter, visit them online at www.familiesmattercoop.ca.