Wednesday, December 12, 2012

From Switzerland -- with love

I had some special visitors yesterday! Tekeal Riley (left), a BLOOM reader in Bern, Switzerland, was visiting her family in Toronto and stopped by Holland Bloorview. You'll remember this beautiful piece Tekeal wrote for us: Growing up.

Tekeal visited with her mother, her grandmother (second from right), who just turned 100, and Livia, her six-year-old daughter. Livia has Down syndrome and by extraordinary coincidence Tekeal had met my cousin Jennifer -- who also lives in Bern -- at a support group for parents of children with special needs a couple of years ago.

Livia loves to dance and she soon had us in a circle, following the movements to one of her school dances -- which she pulled up in a video on Tekeal's phone. The highlight was when Livia asked me to do a dance just with her, and led me through the steps, including some "swing your partner" moves.

She speaks in High German (is that right Tekeal?) and I was thrilled when Tekeal interpreted and told me Livia had asked if I could be her babysitter (high praise!).

As we chatted, Tekeal's mom mentioned that she and Tekeal's grandmother had attended a performance of RARE in the summer -- the Toronto Fringe Festival play in which nine adult actors with Down syndrome tell their stories. RARE is produced by Madeleine Greey, a dear friend of mine, whose daughter Krystal is one of the actors. Krystal was a BLOOM role model several years ago. Tekeal's mother Bernie raved about RARE and we soon realized that the "beautiful woman with blonde hair" she'd spoken with afterwards was Madeleine.

I reminded Bernie that RARE is doing a BLOOM speaker night for us Jan. 9.

I e-mailed Madeleine last night to tell her about the connection.

"You've made my day!" she wrote.

Sometimes the world of special needs is very small and very cozy.


dear louise,
it was so much fun dancing with you!
livia speaks the bernese dialect of swiss german, although she's starting to learn high german as well in school.

looking forward to our next visit (maybe up north in huntsville with my dad!)
tekeal xo

Yes to next visits! Do you celebrate the holidays? I am imagining that LIvia is very excited right now and I would love to see that. Tell her that I'm so grateful for our dance!