What We Do

Once a special needs student reaches the age of 21, their formalized high school experience ends and many do not continue on to college, university, the trades, or find employment. Opportunities to build life skills, live independently and be engaged in leisure and social activities are limited, especially in rural communities. Events for Life fills this gap.

Events for Life Centre Inc began as a summer program in 2013, and has grown every year since then. We currently offer day programs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 9 am to 4 pm in addition to PD Days. Local recreational activities create opportunities for increased physicality and community orientation. They include swimming, dance and music therapy, pickle ball, Zumba and yoga.

Our participants also operate a Coffee Nook that is open to the public, where they learn life skills such as menu planning, baking, customer service and basic banking, among others.

Other organized activities outside of the program day are our “Super Socials”. These include activities such as dances, movie nights and traveling to see sporting events and various theater productions.

Our Mission

To enrich the lives of individuals with special needs by providing educational, social and recreational day programs geared towards life long learning in the Town of Blue Mountains and surrounding area.

Our Vision

Events for Life will be recognized as a leading organization supporting individuals with special needs allowing them to live, learn and work in an integrated, inclusive community.

Staff

Barb Weeden

Executive Director

Barb Weeden is the Executive Director for EFL and joined the leadership team in December of 2018. She is so honored to be a part of this amazing organization and community that brings joy and purpose into the lives of those that need it the most. Barb reports to a very committed Board of Directors who trust and believe in the work she does.

 

Barb is from New Hamburg ON and spent most weekends growing up at her grandparent’s farm on top of Blue Mountain. She went to school for Outdoor Recreation and is certified with the Academy of Leadership Development. Before moving to Craigleith in 2016, Barb spent 22 years at Seneca College in King City where she developed her business and administration skills. She managed the Outdoor Leadership Centre and Community Recreation Programs at two campuses and spent her summers directing the outdoor adventure camp, KDC, that she founded in 1993. Barb has extensive leadership and team development experience which has taken her to Costa Rica, Guyana, California, and the West Coast of Canada.

 

After Seneca Barb was recruited to be the General Manager for the Tim Horton’s Foundation Camp in St. George ON. As a NFP organization, fundraising was a large part of this role. She worked closely with the Tim Horton Restaurant Owners in the GTA to facilitate large fundraising events for the Foundation.

Barb has always been involved in the community where she has lived. Since moving to the TBM’s Barb volunteered to help organize two large gala events for BVO and BBBS at Lora Bay and the Georgian Vineyards respectfully. In 2020, Barb sat on the TBM Leisure Activity Planning Committee and is currently a Director for the TBM Chamber of commerce. Barb is a 4th generation Blue girl and is so happy to be living, recreating and working in the Town of the Blue Mountains with her EFL family.

Shelley Higginson

Program Director
Shelley Higginson is the Founder and Program Director at Events for Life Centre. (EFL) Starting in the summer of 2013, Shelley had a vision and together with two friends, began this “grass roots organization” at her farm in Meaford. Shelley realized that once students with special needs graduated from high school at the age of 21, there wasn’t anything for them to do. For two summers Shelley ran a summer program providing recreational activities, social skills and lifelong learning for the students. The word got out, the numbers went up and the program expanded to the basement of the United Church in Thornbury. In 2017 EFL became Incorporated as a Not for Profit charity as was generously gifted the use of the farm house, garage/workshop and use of the trails at Beaver Creek Farms in Thornbury. Shelley has an extensive background and certifications in special education. Formally trained as an Educational Assistant at Georgian College, she has worked as an EA at Georgian Bay Secondary School, supporting youth with special needs in skill development and academic improvement. Shelley represents the architect for progressive growth. She has enhanced program offerings and established community partnerships, while pivoting with grace and integrity to ensure that each individual participants and their family members are respected and honoured for their unique strengths, gifts, and lifestyle. Shelley manages 2 full time staff, occasional part-time staff, seasonal coop students and trains over 30 volunteers from the local community. By completing the Crestcom International Bullet Proof Management course Shelley has, elevated her leadership expertise and enhanced communication for continuous improvement and growth. Shelley continues to live on her farm with her husband and enjoys spending time with her grandchildren Bo and Blake. Shelley is living proof that when you have a vision and are driven to succeed, dreams to come true.

Brenda Topham

Assistant Program Director
Brenda has a background in the education field as an Educational Assistant. Brenda is a calm and compassionate person and she brings these qualities to the EFL program. She has seen the need for programs like EFL in our community and jumped at the opportunity to be part of the program. She finds it to be one of the most rewarding experiences in her career of helping people with special needs.

Jeannette Taylor

Assistant Program Director

Jeannette Taylor brings a wealth of experience to EFL and is a great asset to our staff team.  Jeannette worked as an Education Assistant with the Simcoe Board of Education before joining EFL.  Jeannette has been teaching our participants American Sign Language and has choreographed songs which the participants love.  It is now an integral part of our weekly activities.  Jeannette commutes from Wasaga Beach where she lives with her family.

Katrina Scott

Office Manager
Katrina has spent the last 11 years raising her two boys and the last 4 of them being the part-time Office Manager at The Bowering Lodge and Eagle Maxadventures. Katrina has lived in the community of Thornbury for 30+ years and loves to see how it has come together to support EFL. Prior to having children, Katrina volunteered at a turtle refuge and hostel in Costa Rica, the Georgian Bay Animal Rescue, worked as Program manager at Sail Georgian Bay and worked in the banking industry for 6 years. Katrina is thankful to join such a great team who is making a difference in our community.

Ernie Dean

Program Staff
Ernie has been with us since May 2022 and is currently finishing school as a DSW. He has a background as a chef and brings a plethora of knowledge with him that has helped grow our culinary goals. He has been involved with Special Olympics from a young age and is currently our Meaford/Thornbury Fireballs bowling teams head coach. He is a young leader that is looking forward to helping grow our team and expand our possibilities in the future.

Kait Mcinnes

Support Staff

Kait is from the Markdale area and has been with EFL since April 2022. Kait has supported people from Children to Seniors. She has also been a Personal Support Worker for over 10 years. Kait brings her experience in care, compassion and helping others achieve their personal best to our team at EFL.
She enjoys camping, sports and spending as much as she can with her nieces and nephews.

Chandler Perry

Program Staff

Chandler calls Meaford home.  She worked part-time with EFL last year while pursuing a career in Property Management.  We are happy Chandler has hung up that hat and returned to EFL this winter.  Chandler went to school for Fish & Wildlife Management.  She brings a diverse leadership background and a wealth of knowledge and love for the outdoors .  Chandler’s positive energy is infectious, and she is a valuable member of the team.

Abbey Dunlop

Arena Café Manager

Abbey is from Meaford and has returned home after graduating from the University of Guelph. She brings extensive leadership skills from managing the Senior Residence at the University and coaching the competitive downhill skiers at Georgian Peaks. You may have seen Abbey working at the Roost Winery or serving you ice cream at Pom Pom’s. Abbey has spent time volunteering at EFL and gotten to know the participants. Welcome to the EFL team Abbey!!

Board of Directors

Kevin J. Whyte

Chair

Before retiring in 2018, Kevin spent his work career managing large teams in the areas of technology and operations at TD and RBC banks and other financial institutions. This has provided him with great experiences that he brings to EFL and has been assisting in the implementation of risk, governance, and policies to a growing organization. His financial background also has been a key contribution to the overall financial management and sustainability of EFL. Kevin also ran the Disability program at TD in their Diversity Leadership Council with a mandate to embed diversity into business plans and drive enterprise wide initiatives which allows that background to help drive these changes in our community. Kevin also has spent over 20 years on not for profit boards where he had many roles including chairing 2 large boards. This experience is also incredibly helpful to EFL as we follow down a similar path starting as a very small organization to one that is growing significantly and the experiences that Kevin brings provides us with a strong base.

Kevin is originally from Montreal and then spent over 25 years living in Oakville. He was a weekender at Lora Bay in Thornbury for many years and now he and his wife and son Kyle have lived there full time since 2020. He is an active supporter in his community with several charitable organizations. Kevin’s participation in the not-for-profit community has been inspired by his son Kyle, who has Down syndrome, which led to his committed involvement in the support of individuals with disabilities. He served as board member & President of the HDSA (Halton Down Syndrome Association) in Oakville for 10 years and served for 10 years as a Board member & Chair of the Board of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) before joining the Events For Life Board in 2017. He believes EFL is a unique and critical organization in our community as we not only support individuals in the community with our programs but also creates strong community awareness and supports our families with housing, employment, and many other key areas.

Cathy Butler

Past Chair

Cathy Butler and her family have lived in the Town of Blue Mountains for 14 years. Her son Thomas has been a part of Events for Life since its inception in 2013 with Shelley Higginson.  After completing high school in Meaford, the ” bus stopped coming to pick Thomas up for his day” and ” we knew we needed to do something about that”
As the Board Chair, she has helped grow the organization through her many community connections of life long friends in the Thornbury area.
Cathy also volunteers as the Community Coordinator for Special Olympics in the Meaford/ Thornbury region.  She coaches golf and skiing within the organization.

Katie Sherk

Secretary

Katie has extensive sales and administrative experience with over 30 years in the hospitality and travel industry and most recently with Independent Schools, where she served as Director of Administration for one of Toronto’s top Independent schools for boys, aged 4 to 14. Her diverse areas of focus include: leadership, community growth, sales, organization and customer service. Her Board experience includes being the Secretary to the Board for 12 years in Toronto, as well as being a board member of the Georgian Peaks Club and Founding Board member of the Georgian Peaks Foundation.  Katie has also volunteered for many organizations, including chairing her boys’ public school Parent Council.

Katie has been coming to the Collingwood area all her life and recently moved to Clarksburg with her husband to become a valued member of the Town of Blue Mountains and to enjoy all that the area has to offer. Her love of helping others and making a difference is what drove her to join Events For Life in 2020.

Gary Wilson

Treasurer

Gary and his wife purchased a home in Thornbury (Lora Bay) approximately 8 years ago. While they still maintain a home in the Leaside area of Toronto, they are hoping to relocate fulltime to Thornbury in the next few years.

Gary’s professional career was spent in the financial services sector working in a variety of roles in different organizations. The latter part of his career was spent largely in risk and governance positions. He retired from full time work in 2017 and currently works as a consultant on a very limited basis.

Gary joined the EFL Board approximately 3 years ago to give back and get closer to the community.  The experience has been very fulfilling, and he looks forward to many years of involvement as their mandate grows. In Toronto (pre-covid) he volunteered as a driver with the Cancer Society’s “Wheels For Hope” program and also participated as a Crew Member with ‘Habitat For Humanity’.

Gary and his wife have two adult children – a daughter, a son, and a beautiful 1 year-old granddaughter.

His passions are music (playing poorly and listening) and sports (playing poorly and watching). Travel was also a passion pre-covid.

Melanie Johns

Director

Melanie Johns retired from Georgian Bay Community School, Meaford in 2018. She taught secondary students the subject of Mathematics. She was a staff advisor for Students’ Council, Music Council and Link Crew. She coached various teams over her 30-year teaching career. Melanie also worked for the Ministry of Education creating on-line interactive educational tools for teachers and students. She enjoyed using technology in her classroom as much as possible including the use of a SmartBoard and posted her lessons to a website (even before COVID!). Melanie also had a variety of leadership roles within the school board including coaching other mathematics teachers.  

Melanie started volunteering with Events for Life (EFL) by assisting in an administrative position. She was a founding member of the Board of EFL and assisted in writing documents to attain charitable status for EFL. Interacting with EFL participants is her favourite activity. Melanie’s “Event for Life” is riding her bike across Canada, raising awareness of the need for programs such as EFL across the country and raising money for EFL. You can see the bike ride by following “Bike Canada Event 4 Life” on Facebook, Instagram or Strava.  

Kelly Williams

Director

Kelly Williams is a wife and mother and spent 32 years in education as a classroom teacher and elementary school administrator. She has had many experiences working to support students and their families with diversity.Kelly recognizes the need for opportunities after high school for adults with special abilities to feel included. She is passionate about wellness and development of the whole person.Kelly recently retired and moved full time to her home in The Blue Mountains.  She is invested in supporting equity and inclusion opportunities to help ensure all residents can feel like valued community members.Kelly is excited to be a part of the Events For Life team and work to support the participants to assist them in reaching their full potential.

Christine Lasky

Director

Christine Lasky is a retired resident of Thornbury and has been coming up to The Blue Mountains for over 40 years.  She graduated from Schulich School of Business with her MBA and was the Gold Medal winner in marketing. She worked at Procter and Gamble out of University, then Nabisco and Weston’s. She moved into Financial Services with National Trust and SunLife Financial at Spectrum Investments. The last 13 years of her career were spent at The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation as the Chief Brand Officer and VP of Strategic Initiatives launching The Ride to Conquer Cancer, building their lottery program and other significant fundraising initiatives. She volunteers in the day program at EFL and joined the Board late in 2022. She also is on the board of the Blue Mountains Bruce Trail Club.  She is passionate about using her skills to make a contribution to the community she lives in.

Anna Gordon

Director

Anna and her family have lived in Thornbury for 10 years, where her partner is a local entrepreneur and their 2 children attend Beaver Valley Community School. They love taking advantage of the nature the Blue Mountains has to offer, as Anna is an avid hiker and her children are ski racers and mountain bikers.

Currently, Anna is a People Consultants Director for People & Culture at the University Health Network and teaches part-time in the Human Resources Management program at Seneca College. With over a decade of experience in HR at large organizations and in private career coaching, Anna helps companies identify strategic human resources challenges and implement real improvements from the employee to the organizational level. Anna is a Certified Human Resources Leader in Ontario and holds a Master’s degree in Industrial Relations/Human Resources from University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance from Saint Mary’s University.

Anna is also committed to sustainable development in our region, and was the president of the Harbour West Residents Group for 4 years.