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Community Volunteers Throw a Strike for Special Needs Community

Client Guy Parsons with Best Buddies volunteers Josh Schiff and Chris Hamilton

December 2, 2019


MONTREAL – The overarching goal of Miriam Home is to treat and support children, adolescents and adults with intellectual disabilities and/or autism spectrum disorders – and to help them reach their full potential as individuals.

Miriam Home is the host site for both the McGill University and Dawson College chapters of Best Buddies, which offers people with intellectual disabilities chances to experience activities that most of us take for granted: things like going for coffee, going to the movies or just being with a friend. The program provides members with opportunities for social interaction and helps build lasting and meaningful friendships.

Enter Joanne Cutler and the wonderful B’nai Brith Quebec Community Volunteer Services program. With financial assistance from a few B’nai Brith lodges, they teamed up with Best Buddies for a day of bowling at Laurentian Lanes in Montreal. The latter is owned by Irving Grundman, the Jewish one-time Montreal Canadiens general manager.

“It was an enormous success,” Cutler raved. “Everyone played for two hours and enjoyed hot dogs and orange juice – all compliments of B’nai Brith. The smiles and laughter were inspiring and infectious.”

Cutler wanted to give special thanks to two of her newest volunteers, the mother and daughter team of Mickey and Masha Dror. “We have been helping the Miriam Centre with a few things over the past couple of years such as art supplies, tickets to football games, handheld PC devices and now two bowling events so far,” Cutler explained.

Miriam Home’s Elspeth Sparling was full of praise for Cutler and B’nai Brith and was extremely thankful for their time and generosity. There were about 50 clients and volunteers at the bowling event.

Caroline Sugar Miller, 25, is a Miriam Home client. This marks her first year in the Best Buddies program. Her mom, Harriet, notes how the buddy program puts a big smile on her face and gives her the gift of friendship. “That’s a really valuable gift,” she said. “Her buddy is an engaging student at McGill who comes over to the house regularly, takes her on outings and sometimes even stays home and teaches her how to knit.”

Harriet is the co-founder of Fondation Alink, aimed at building alliances for inclusion of young adults with neurodiverse challenges.

I also spoke to Herbert Cooperman, who at 74 has been a Miriam Home client for most of his life. “I am grateful to B’nai Brith for giving us such a fun day,” he said. “I happen to love bowling. I actually go the Laurentian Lanes each week and I do pretty well on the lanes.”

Bravo to B’nai Brith Canada for once again delivering a mitzvah for people who really appreciate it.

Mike Cohen is a veteran writer and municipal politician. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @mikecohencsl