While thousands of Winnipeggers packed MTS Centre when the WWE came to town this past March, it’s hard to imagine anyone was more excited about being there than Kevin.
A long-time pro wrestling fan, Kevin was attending a live WWE event for the first time and it was a night he had been anxiously awaiting for months.
Although there was plenty of drama in the ring that night, one of the most dramatic moments took place well before the evening’s entertainment began. It was when Kevin walked through the doors of the arena and made his way to his seat.
The chances of Kevin attending such a noisy, frenetic event seemed pretty remote a few years ago. But thanks to the efforts of his support team – and his own newfound sense of resiliency – it’s just one example of the remarkable transformation his life has undergone since he began receiving support from Epic Opportunities 16 years ago.
Once quiet and withdrawn, Kevin is now quick with a smile and eager to meet new people. He has established his own network of friends, regularly visits seniors at Calvary Place Personal Care Home and volunteers with Meals on Wheels once a week.
“He’s just so excited about his life now. Before he was always so apprehensive. To see him so excited now is empowering,” says Sara Ewer, a Senior Manager with Epic Opportunities and a former Disability Support Worker who worked with Kevin for two years.
Encouraging Kevin to come out of his shell was a gradual process. One of the people who played a big role in the process was Doug Birdwell, one of his former support workers.
A major turning point in this transformation was the work Doug did with Kevin to help him overcome a fear of medical professionals. For more than a year they visited hospitals and clinics in an effort to help allay Kevin’s fears. It worked, so much so that Kevin hardly raises an eyebrow now when it’s time to visit a doctor or dentist.
“The change in him was incredible [after those early visits]. He became this different person. His verbal communication skills improved exponentially,” Doug recalls.
“He was really the architect of the whole thing. And the farther he goes the more open his world is. One of the most satisfying events of my life has been to watch Kevin come out of his shell.”
Boy, has he ever. He now often plays practical jokes on support staff and other people at the Epic Opportunities day services location at 1745 Portage Ave. He swims twice a week at the Centennial Pool in St. James and one of the highlights of his social schedule is visiting the seniors he has established a relationship with while volunteering at Calvary Place
“I really think it comes down to his home team and the team here [at 1745 Portage]. We all really try to work together,” Sara says. “It’s all about what works for Kevin. We’re all really working toward the same goals for Kevin.”