At Big Bob’s BBQ on May 20, the MRU community joined together to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Transitional Vocational Program (TVP), which began in 1980. TVP helps to prepare adults with developmental disabilities for employment and greater independence. Many TVP alumni, staff and current students were on hand for the festivities.
The annual event is a fundraiser for TVP and has raised more than $110,000 over its 33-year history.
Big Bob is named for Bob Charlton, a long-time Mount Royal employee in Security Services, who started the event with his colleague Stu Gauthier in support of TVP, a cause dear to both their hearts. Bob retired in 2001 but continued his unfaltering support of TVP and Mount Royal until he passed away last year.
Fittingly, Big Bob’s BBQ took place beside the Charlton Pond in the Gauthier Courtyard. These favourite campus spots were named in honour of the two men who exemplified community at Mount Royal.
There is now a Bob and Christel Charlton Memorial Scholarship, and this year the first Charlton Gauthier Memorial Award was given to Linda Strangward, an employee who is a strong proponent of volunteer culture at MRU.
Gord Gillies of Global TV hosted the event. He helped to hand out the door prizes, including a $500 Costco gift card, a weekend for two at the Delta Kananaskis Hotel, and hand-crafted patio furniture, as well as numerous other prizes donated by TVP supporters within Mount Royal and from the surrounding community.
Entertainment was provided by the Calgary Fire Department’s Cappy Smart Band and an MRU faculty ensemble called the Pre-Fab Four and the Accidentals.
Calgarian Gerry Law spearheaded the creation of the Vocation Development Program at Mount Royal in 1980. Gerry’s son Jamie was born with cognitive and developmental disabilities. At the time, there were not many options for people like Jamie. But Gerry could see the spark in Jamie and decided his son would have the same opportunities and experiences as everyone else. He worked with Mount Royal to create those opportunities.
After successfully completing the program, Jamie went on to work for Canada Safeway — a position he’s held for 35 years.
In the years since Gerry’s initiative, Mount Royal’s Transitional Vocational Program has served over 4,000 adults with developmental disabilities, teaching them skills to realize their full potential.
“I can’t think of a better example of community at MRU than TVP,” said President David Docherty. “One of the great joys in my life is delivering flowers around campus with TVP students.”
This feeling was echoed by Dean Charles Webber of the Faculty of Continuing Education and Extension, who said, “I have a soft spot for this program and the important work it does. I’d like to recognize the staff of TVP, an amazing group of people providing support to the program.”
“I am so proud to be part of the legacy (past and present) of this program,” said TVP Program Administrator Craig Baskett. “It has worked with thousands of Albertans with developmental disabilities to give them a post-secondary experience while receiving support to transition to independence and inclusion in the community.”
Recent TVP grad Kim Fraser spoke about the support of her instructors and fellow students in making a big difference in her personal and professional life, and helping her to attain her current position at Toys’R’Us. Kim is often complimented for her excellent customer service in her job.
Carol Galbraith and her husband Bob were in attendance, along with many other alumni. Carol graduated from TVP in its first year and went on to a 30-year career with Panda Daycare. She and Bob are active with Special Olympics.
Retired Program Administrator Donna Sharman was with TVP for 16 years, starting as an Employment Specialist. “I love coming back to see the great community at Mount Royal. It’s always amazing to see what students can accomplish given the right supports.”
Elaine Danelesko, now Program Director for Business and Professional Education in Cont Ed said, “From 1985 to 1999 I was proud to be a teacher and then leader at the TVP, a forward-thinking, inclusive education program within a college setting. I believe the program remains progressive and should be applauded for supporting hundreds of students to achieve their goals.”
“We all want to add value in this world, and our students just need a little extra support,” says Program Administrator Craig Baskett. And the Mount Royal community is happy to help them do just that.
Read an article about the TVP Anniversary in the Calgary Sun.
— by Karen McCarthy
— photos by Michael Poon and Mitsue Kudo