All the World’s a Stage, and Everyone Can Play a Part

A United Way Winnipeg donor-supported agency gives Winnipeggers the chance to belong and become who they want to be.

All the World’s a Stage, and Everyone Can Play a Part - United Way Winnipeg

Luke with his mom, Kathleen

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“And the Oscar goes to…”

Hearing their name after those words is something many actors dream about, and for 25-year-old Luke, one day this just might happen.

Luke is hopeful about an acting career. He also wants to be a professional cook. And he loves to tell stories with illustrations, too, so he might write a book.

“I’m thinking of doing it all,” he said.

This ambitious young Winnipegger wants what many of us want – a job. An income. A chance to reach his full potential.

And at Inclusion Winnipeg, a donor-supported United Way Winnipeg agency, that’s exactly what they want for him, too. For over 60 years, Inclusion Winnipeg has been dedicated to making life better for children and adults living with intellectual disabilities, while promoting respect, empowerment, and belonging.

When Luke was three years old, he was diagnosed with a developmental delay. Over the years, Luke would continue to have cognitive challenges, including difficulty with reading and memory deficits.

Luke’s been a proud participant in Inclusion Winnipeg’s programs for over a decade, including their Art Among Friends art program, self-advocacy workshops, and his favourite – acting class. Most Saturdays, Luke joins his fellow thespians at Inclusion Winnipeg’s theatre group, Inclusion Players. The group does skits and improv, with creative guidance from drama coach Sue Proctor.

Inclusion Winnipeg has not only provided Luke the opportunity to do what he loves, it’s always given him the chance to connect with other young people. His best friend is also part of Inclusion Players.

“When you don’t have a pre-conceived idea of people’s abilities, you’ll find they can amaze you.”

Luke met his best friend in high school, where he enrolled in a program for students with special needs, which focused on building important life skills. Luke thrived in this program and made lasting friendships, which was not the case in his early years.

“It was the first time in his life he had friends – and a best friend too. That alone made the decision to move him to a more specialized program worthwhile,” said his mother, Kathleen.

“Luke struggled in junior high,” adds Kathleen. “There were a lot of reasons but mostly it came down to not fitting in. By high school, it was clear what he needed most was to really be part of a class, to be part of a community – to have friends, and to be a friend. Inclusion Winnipeg helped with that.”

In addition to their many programs, Inclusion Winnipeg has given Luke the opportunity to gain real-life work experience.

This past summer, Luke and Kathleen volunteered at the Inclusion Booth, a concession stand at IG Field, where they helped prepare tasty fare for hundreds of fans at five Winnipeg Blue Bombers home games.

Despite the hectic pace, Luke worked extremely well under pressure.

“Things got really busy,” said Kathleen. “I was having a hard time keeping up, but Luke was doing it all – working the fryers, making poutine . . . and he was enjoying himself so much, because it was something new and different.”

While volunteering has been great for Luke in building skills and confidence, he wants to use his volunteer experience as a springboard for meaningful employment.

“I want a job that pays me money,” he said. “I really like to work.”

Now that Luke has demonstrated work experience under his belt, Kathleen hopes this will open the door to job opportunities for her son.

“When you don’t have a pre-conceived idea of people’s abilities, you’ll find they can amaze you,” she said. “There’s so much that they want to do and so much they CAN do – if given the chance.”

Help change lives like Luke’s in Winnipeg now.

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