The definition of family is not just about blood relations. It can be who you live with, friends that you spend time with, care about, want to see succeed. Here is what I witnessed at the Sunbeam family day;  clients and staff hugging because it’s been awhile since they have seen each other, commenting on the new hair style they are sporting,  getting the opportunity to meet someone’s child (teenager) that they have heard a lot about, remembering their pet dog’s name and the stories around the animal. These were just some of the conversations I overheard.  I left thinking, “what a great family to be part of at Sunbeam.”

When I arrived, the front parking lot had been sectioned off for the fire trucks, ambulance and police cars to arrive. Someone was directing cars to where the guests could park. There was music playing in the background while clients, staff, staff children, staff parents and grandchildren were all outside of the day program building chatting, giggling, jumping, hugging and waiting in line for treats. The air was full of many smells. BBQing hot dogs off to the side as to keep all safe from the flames, fresh popcorn popping and blue cotton candy being made on the spot. The blue tongues gave away who had just enjoyed the cotton candy and some were in line for another one. There was so much joy in the air – Especially coming from the bouncy castles. Clients and children were seen enjoying them. The costs for the bouncy castles were picked up by Unifor local 1106 union.

This is the 3rd Annual Family Day that has taken place and everyone that I talked with hopes that it will continue on for many years. There were 150 that RSVP’d to attend this event which began at 11 and lasted all afternoon. The musical talent of Erick Traplin entertained everyone after lunch.  Rock songs, Country songs and Silly Kid songs like “Bubbles in my hair” and “The Spiderman” were sung by all. The Kitchener emergency responders arrived and vehicles could be toured and conversations were had with the professionals about their job and how the vehicles worked. There was never a time where there was nothing to do.
When asked what the purpose of starting family day was, one of the staff told me there were two reasons. One being to have a safe and fun event for clients to enjoy and meet their caregiver’s families. The other is to open workers’ families to their work world and to grow the next generation to be understanding, patient and not afraid of people with disabilities. As a young boy was pointed out to me who has been to visit Sunbeam with his mom many times, I could see the ease he had with clients and I could see why family day is important for all that attend.

As a part of Sunbeam’s new fundraising team each event at Sunbeam is an opportunity for me to get to know more about Sunbeams clients, staff and community. I thoroughly enjoyed myself at this event and as with all interactions with Sunbeam I continue to be inspired by the work and community that has been built. Such amazing work makes my work with Sunbeam easier and very meaningful.