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Sebastian: “Living a life I like”

April 24, 2020

#WeBelieve that every individual with autism should be supported during important transitions into adulthood.

Sebastian Ralphs is not only one of our longest tenured participants – he is one of our most active volunteers! He has used a lifetime of experiences to build confidence, gain life skills and secure meaningful employment. This is his story.

“Living a life I like”

Hi, I’m Sebastian Ralphs. I‘ve been a Canucks Autism Network (CAN) member since it was founded in 2008. First, I was a participant. Then in 2014, I became a volunteer to help other kids with autism. I’ve done so many fun things and learned so much at CAN. Let me tell you about it!

My family and I first heard about CAN from our neighbours, whose daughter worked there. My first activities with CAN were horseback riding at a stable in Southlands and golfing at the driving range with a golf pro.

These experiences were programs that were piloted in CAN’s early years before we shifted our focus on our current sports & rec offerings. Sebastian has been with us for a long time!

I did a lot of summer camps with CAN which helped me be more confident with things like high ropes and rock climbing. I was a little scared with those at the beginning, but the staff and volunteers helped me. I did many years of soccer and swimming until I moved on to CAN’s youth and adult programs.

Sebastian at 14 years old with his friend Tilman. CAN Overnight Camp in 2011.

One of my favourite programs was the CAN music program with the Sarah McLachlan School of Music. I was in the first-ever class that was offered. And that made me happy because I love music. I met new friends and also my first girlfriend in the music classes.

We learned to sing as a choir and also play percussion. Our choir sang at the first CAN Reveal Gala, and we sang “Ice Cream”.

I even shared a microphone with Sarah McLachlan herself!

I was able to do the music program for two years as a participant – and then two more as a volunteer.

My mom first told me about the opportunity to volunteer with CAN back in 2014. I really wanted to do it so I could help other kids with autism. My first volunteer position was at the soccer program. I only expected to do things like set up and take down equipment.

So I was happy that I got to lead warm-ups and stretching and demonstrate skills that I had first learned as a participant.

I have been a volunteer in the Explore Volunteering program, where I helped other youth and adults with autism with various tasks, like making a forest trail and stocking clothing at the Union Gospel Mission Thrift Store.

This program is for youth and adults with autism to sample volunteer opportunities in the community. As an experienced volunteer already, Sebastian helped out in a ‘peer support’ capacity, providing a positive role model for our participants!

Sebastian has additionally participated in one of our first two Translink Accessibility Tours for youth and adults with autism. View video of the first CAN x Translink Accessibility Tour.

I’ve also really enjoyed volunteering at many community events, like CAN’s info booth at Canucks games, family events like Sports Day and fundraisers like the Reveal Gala. I see so many friends and people I know from so many years at CAN.

I’ve been able to do so many fun things, like being a people greeter, assisting at information booths, giving kids stickers and demonstrating games to kids.

CAN has helped me be more social and confident in connecting with other people.

Volunteering with CAN even helped me get another volunteer job as a Sun Run clinic leader at Dunbar Community Centre for the last 4 years. My volunteer experience also helped me get a paid job at Vancity Credit Union.  I’m not doing any of my jobs now because of the pandemic, but hopefully it will end soon.

I am proud that I have these jobs. CAN is helping me have a life I like!

Read more

Volunteer Spotlight: “Be friendly to one another”

Behind the scenes with the Reveal Gala choir

Sylvain Formo: Changing my thoughts about autism

Former hockey player gives back at CAN skate

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