What Happens Next
The WorkPlace Group and Dan Edwards
Dan Edwards hasn’t always had a disability. Dan was a typical high school student, active in sports, getting into typical teenage trouble with hopes of continuing on in athletics in his post-secondary education. But a random accident that occurred in the summer of 2006 resulted in a complete lifestyle change. When wrestling with a friend, Dan fell on his head and became a c5-c6 quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down. Dan endured several surgeries, countless hours of rehab and learned to cope with a very difficult situation at a young age. Through his adversity, Dan remained very positive and optimistic.
Now, five years later, Dan is attending his final year at Lambton College in Business Marketing. He also holds a part time position with The WorkPlace Group as their Diversity Awareness Facilitator. Not only is Dan living with a disability, he also advocated for hiring individuals living with a disability. Noeleen Tyczynski heard about me through word of mouth and my interest in public speaking about my cause,” Dan said. After the positive feedback from one event that The WorkPlace asked Dan to speak at, Noeleen asked him to become a part of their team at The WorkPlace Group and help out there where he could. Dan believes that the resources and help that The WorkPlace Group provides is very beneficial to a lot of people by helping those with and without disabilities find meaningful employment. So Dan began promoting their services and advocating for them, which he continues to do today. The WorkPlace Group has also supports Dan with his own case, **it happens, and Dan makes use of some of the resources that The WorkPlace Group offers for residents, making this a great partnership.
Noeleen Tyczynski, Executive Director of The WorkPlace Group, believes that the position that Dan holds with their organization is “mutually beneficial.” Not only can they provide training, mentoring and support in addition to a part time job, but also “Dan brings a lot to the table,” says Tyczynski. Dan is helping The WorkPlace Group connect with a younger population, and he along with other young staff members are teaching The WorkPlace Group how to utilize new social media as a new avenue to engage with the public. Tyczynski feels Dan has been a wonderful addition to their group. “He fits in really well with the team,” she says and explains how “he’s doing a great job with his public speaking, not only because people love to hear Dan’s story, but because of how Dan has handled his challenges.” Noeleen states that “Dan is the essence of our mission statement” which is: To enrich the community of Sarnia-Lambton by providing quality, professional employment services that encourage and engage individuals towards achieving their maximum employability. Noeleen says Dan will have employment with The WorkPlace Group as long as he would like, but also hopes to support him with his long term goals, even if that means he has to leave their team.
**it happens and The Rick Hansen Foundation
Dan got the idea to start this non-profit organization **it happens from the “Do it for Dan” fundraiser that helped raise over $200,000 for Dan and his family to help pay for medical, home renovation, transportation and other expenses after Dan’s spinal cord injury. The money raised from his organization goes towards the Rick Hansen Foundation Direct Funding Program, which helps assist families and individuals with the extra expenses that come with spinal cord injuries. Dan wants to make a difference for families dealing with spinal cord injuries by helping out in the same way his Sarnia community came together and helped him and his family. By selling his trademark T-shirts and speaking at events or meeting whenever he can, Dan is making a difference. He hopes to devote more time to his organization once he has graduated, but for now, school is a main priority.
Dan started working with the Rick Hansen Foundation without any recognition by simply raising money and donating it. He eventually got in touch with a senior speaking coordinator from Vancouver, told him about his story, how his injury happened, and also about the work he was doing in his own community with his organization. The coordinator was thrilled to hear what he had been doing. Dan was then asked to speak on their behalf while retaining his own identity. Dan also participated in the Rick Hansen Relay when it passed through Sarnia in November 2011.
Dan’s story is a wonderful reminder that things do happen and it’s how we deal with them that defines us. Dan doesn’t dwell on the past but instead looks towards the future. He says that because of his “faith, family, friends and community,” he has been able to stay positive and strong since his accident. Dan knows that there are people out there in much worse situations and therefore he is trying to make a difference through his organization by helping others financially. Dan is also trying to give back to his own community. He hosted his own BBQ in partnership with IronWorks Fitness, a fitness centre that helped Dan with his rehabilitation. He was able to raise $2000 and purchased equipment for the facility. Dan is keeping very busy with school, work and various philanthropic events.
Dan Edwards is the kind of person that all of us can learn from.
**it happens website: whathappensnext.ca