December 1, 2023
The 2023 CAN Pro-Am Luncheon, sponsored by TD Bank Group, is an opportunity for CAN supporters to mix and mingle with NHL Alumni while supporting the cause.
This year, CAN participant & staff member Brayden Bradbury took to the stage with his grandma, Lori, to share his incredible story. The following is the speech that Brayden & Lori delivered to a room full of 300+.
They received not one, but two standing ovations. Here’s why.
Good afternoon everyone. Brayden and I are so grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today about the Canucks Autism Network and the incredible impact they have on people’s lives.
We know because CAN changed Brayden’s life.
We all have hopes and dreams for our children and our grandchildren. Dreams for success and an extraordinary life. I wanted that for my grandson too.
But when he was diagnosed with autism, it made those dreams harder to believe in. But, I still had them – I mean, you have to!
Childhood can be tough enough for kids with autism. But adolescence became a very dark time for Brayden. A dark time for us all. In his struggles, he lost hope. He felt life was over, that he shouldn’t be here, that life was empty and meaningless.
He felt so lost and afraid. He thought the only solution for personal protection was self-imposed isolation.
By 15, he had dropped out of school and spent the next 3 years barely leaving his room.
In the summer of 2018, my nana found out about the Canucks Autism Network. And it completely resurrected my life.
But it was their Explore Volunteering program that changed who I was. It’s an eight-week program where you go around the community and help at other non-profits.
I had no idea I was so capable. I had no idea I could relate to others. And that I was compatible with other people.
Before the program, I believed that I was bound to be nothing. I also believed I was bound to be alone. But for the first time, I didn’t find myself so isolated anymore.
For the first time, I started to feel like I could do something with my life.
Before we found CAN, I kept telling Brayden how much I wished for him. But his future was always something we butted heads about.
He would tell me, “You know – getting a job, finishing school…that’s never gonna happen.”
But CAN gave him a belief in himself. They gave him an opportunity to feel in control. To feel responsible for what happens to his life.
I will never forget — after the Explore Volunteering program, Brayden came to me and said, “Nana – I think I want to find a job.”
To have your grandson say to you, after two and a half years of fighting – “I need to get a good start on life. I need to go back to school or it’s not going to be possible.”
It was something I’d only dreamed of. CAN had flicked a switch in him. By 2020, Brayden had received his Adult Dogwood.
Since then, he has worked as a Program Assistant at CAN’s Hockey, Active, Multisport, Gymnastics and Swim programs and is now a Support Worker at CAN Skate. And this summer, he worked as a full-time Program Assistant for CAN’s Summer Day Camps.
But Brayden’s involvement with CAN isn’t limited to his work with them. He continues to attend CAN programs like hiking, mini golf, and snowshoeing and even joins CAN’s Adult Leadership meetings when he has the time. And I truly hope he has the courage to access their mental health programs this coming year.
CAN’s impact on my life continues to this day. It continues with events like this one.
When the 2020 CAN Pro-Am was announced, I was just old enough to sign up. My nana registered me and told me that I had to raise the money myself and I did! That first year, I brought in $2,250 for my team, helping us land 6th overall pick on Draft Night.
After Todd Bertuzzi and the Sedins were drafted, my team narrowed it down to two players: Canucks Alumni Brad May and Mason Raymond. May went 5th so our decision was made.
We welcomed former Canucks winger Mason Raymond onto our team. Based on how the tournament went, I think we may have come out with the best pick in the draft.
On day one, Raymond kept setting me up, but I just couldn’t score. Although we lost both of our Saturday games, we were all having fun, and that’s what mattered most. We got a laugh out of Kyle Wellwood’s cherry-picking against us. And taking a faceoff against Geoff Courtnall was something I never thought would happen.
Then, on our last game of the tournament, I scored a goal assisted by Mason Raymond and Taylor Pyatt! Never in my life would I have dreamed this would happen. But CAN makes things like this possible. They’ve made so many things possible for me that I never could have dreamed of.
For me, hockey is a place where I can be myself. Hockey doesn’t care who I am. It soothes my soul and lives in my heart.
And at CAN Pro-Am, I get to be “just one of the guys.” The atmosphere is electrifying, and the environment is so warm, friendly, and welcoming. It’s like coming home.
I’m so proud of him. I tell him every day how proud I am.
Just a month ago Brayden obtained his Learner’s Driver’s License; another milestone which he thought would never happen.
And thanks to a recommendation from a fellow CAN member and CAN Pro-Am teammate, Brayden has now joined a Co-Ed Rec League.
Sometimes, I can’t believe how far Brayden has come.
CAN was the light in the darkness and a lifeline for Brayden both mentally and emotionally.
As Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”
We know in our hearts that with CAN by his side, Brayden will find that why.
I thank Canucks Autism Network and I thank everyone in this room. CAN relies on people understanding the benefit of what they do. And it is because of your support that CAN is able to change the lives of thousands of people just like Brayden.
Before CAN, I was a high school dropout who never left the house.
Today, I am so busy with work opportunities that I often face conflicts in my schedule. Who would have ever thought this would be my reality?
Because of CAN, I believe I can be something in this world.
CAN has changed my life. I honestly cannot express my gratitude enough. Thank you.