My Cousin Ryan and his Journey to a Good Life
By Mark Fusco
Mark Fusco is the Owner/Operator of Revive Hair Loft in Edmonton, AB.
The handsome guy on the right of the photo above is my cousin, Ryan MacIntyre, who is a college graduate, full-time employee, sports and music superfan and also has a developmental disability. Growing up, I honestly had no idea that families struggled so much with inclusion for their children with intellectual disabilities in the school system, in their communities and eventually in the job market. Ryan is my cousin just like any other cousin, and it was always bizarre to me that excluding Ryan and other children from our communities was a thing, but the older I get I see how naive my young thoughts were. I was so unaware of the struggles he faced by simply wanting to do the same things we all did growing up.
Ryan has accomplished lots of amazing things in his life so far like graduating from MacEwan University, obtaining a full-time position at Sagiper and building a wonderful relationship with his longtime girlfriend, Sarah. That sounds like a ‘normal’ life, but what you don’t see is the long journey and many heartbreaking struggles Ryan and his family have at times encountered in their journey of inclusion for Ryan. Ryan’s mother, father and brother, with the support of Inclusion Alberta, have fought tooth-and-nail to ensure that Ryan could achieve all the ‘normal’ things everyone strives for in a good life.
Last week, I attended the virtual Inclusion Alberta Fundraising Event. The annual event is always a great reminder that without the ongoing support of an amazing organization like Inclusion Alberta, many families wouldn’t have the support they desperately search for. Our society is not yet designed inclusively and segregation, for some reason, is the lazy, unethical and ignorant first choice. This tendency towards segregation results in a reinforced stigma that people with developmental disabilities aren’t worth the effort and have no value to a community. Inclusion works, and creates better communities for everyone.
The stories shared at the event were both heartbreaking and also awe inspiring. Anyone who has been touched by Inclusion Alberta knows first-hand how integral they are to advocate for those who have voices that aren’t heard. I know many of us have been affected financially by COVID, but if you can give and are looking to change someone’s life with a donation, then please consider making a donation to Inclusion Alberta. Let individuals with developmental disabilities in our communities know that you are not ok with them being hidden away.