Dream Makers: The Charrois Family
By Sara Protasow
For the Charrois family of Edmonton, giving back has always been a family activity. Andre, his wife Lynne Davies-Charrois and their two children Laura and Patrick, both university students, have been connected to Inclusion Alberta for over four years as both an inclusive employer and as Dream Makers.
“It got me thinking that individuals with developmental disabilities can do more than just service and labour jobs,” says Andree, who then worked to create an administrative position within his firm in order to hire inclusively. After interviewing a few candidates, he hired Peter Lee, who has now been at Foster Park for over four years. Andre says that the work Peter does is vital to their workplace, and that Peter is one of a few vital staff still working in the office during COVID restrictions. This past fall also saw the 1st Annual Peter Lee Golf Classic at The Links in Spruce Grove raise over $15,000 for Inclusion Alberta.
“When Peter decides to take vacation, we hear people grumbling that he’s gone and we get backlogged,” Andre laughs.
Equally as important to the work, says Andre, is the positive culture change that Peter brought with him to Foster Park. Peter does his job well, is one of the most punctual employees and truly loves coming to work.
“He just accentuates the great culture we have here, and I don’t know what life would have been like without Peter in the last 4 years,” says Andre. “There are so many people with developmental disabilities who are really eager to work and want to prove themselves. [Peter has] the same aspirations that everyone else does, and he wants to advance. It’s an opportunity to change someone’s life, I think [hiring inclusively] is a social responsibility for all employers out there.”
About a year after becoming an inclusive employer, Andre also became a member of the Dream Maker Society, joining over 200 other individuals and organizations that have made a commitment to donate $1,000 or more per year for five years to Inclusion Alberta. Since then, Foster Park Brokers, Lynn and both children Laura and Patrick have all become Dream Makers.
“From my firm’s standpoint,” says Andre, “I didn’t just want to employ Peter, I wanted to walk the walk and have them join as a Dream Maker as well.” Lynn has long been a supporter of Inclusion Alberta, and it felt like a natural progression to them both to bring their children, who have always been actively involved in the family’s philanthropy, on as Dream Makers as well this year.
“I think we’re pretty unique in having a whole family of Dream Makers,” says Andre, “but hopefully we can be a springboard here that can generate some more sustainable contributions from everybody.”
“It’s not just something we do, it’s the way we live,” adds Lynne. “Being part of Inclusion Alberta is a part of our lifestyle. We want to ensure that it’s a family affair, and hope that our children continue to contribute and be there for causes that are important to them in the future.”
Laura is appreciative of her parents having always shared their giving experiences with her and her brother.
“I feel really lucky that we have parents that are showing us the importance of this impact, and of taking your privilege and using it in a way that helps lift others up,” she says. “Inclusion Alberta is such an amazing resource for people with developmental disabilities to help them get to those same opportunities that maybe others can easily find on their own.”
Given his passion for inclusion, Andre says that people are often surprised to hear that he himself does not have children with developmental disabilities.
“But we believe in equality,” he says. “And I’ve heard the stories from parents who have kids with developmental disabilities, and the challenges they’ve faced. And I can see it through the parents’ eyes, and the hope that they have. For us, it’s about hope and giving people a chance to succeed.”
Learn more about investing in the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families by becoming a Dream Maker.