Whitemud Equine Centre occupies 48 acres on the south bank of Edmonton’s River Valley. Originally a farmstead owned by Dr. Frederick Keillor in 1917, the site has operated as an equestrian facility since 1959. The community facility provides Edmontonians access to a variety of equine experiences including the Little Bits Therapeutic Riding programs for persons with disabilities, lesson programs for all ages, equestrian competitions and events, City of Edmonton River Valley day camps and access to the river valley trail system. The new facility replaced an outdated facility that no longer met the needs of the users and did not have a high level of accessibility. Efforts were made to make the new facility accessible to everyone, from beginner to advanced riders, children to adults and those with physical or mental health issues.
Sherri Bessette has been a Care Manager at Laurier House since October 2016. She is the embodiment of the Alberta Health Services VISION of “person-centred care.” To Sherri, problems are properly perceived as challenges to an individual’s freedom, to be cheerfully overcome with ingenuity and flexibility. For persons with disabilities, this approach to any kind of difficulty completely erases the idea of disability. They are seen only as “persons.” Sherri sees any individual as one to be treated with respect and dignity. Equality of access to quality of life is her goal. Not only is Sherri extremely intelligent and perceptive, but she actually listens to and hears individual concerns, cares enough to promptly investigate various solutions, then balances the concerns of residents and staff within all relevant guidelines.
Diane demonstrated leadership by advocating for persons with disabilities in the Edmonton area for the past 40 years through her employment and volunteer involvement. Throughout her life she lived with a neuromuscular disorder, and she used a power chair for mobility. Diane furthered her education by completing the Rehabilitation Practitioner program at MacEwan University, and later became a Life Skills Coach. Diane’s employment spanned more than twenty years at MacEwan University where she was as an instructor in two programs serving persons with disabilities. Diane was then employed with the Community Enrichment Program which was an independent living skills program for adults with a broad range of physically disabling conditions or brain injuries. Diane was also an advocate by being on the Board of Directors of the Handicapped Housing Society, as well as Paralympic Sports Association and the Boyle McCauley Health Centre. In the mid-90’s as Diane needed more personal support, she moved to Abby Road Housing Co-Operative. During Diane’s years living at Abby Road, Diane also coordinated placements with students of the Residential Aide Program at MacEwan to do practicum placements with individuals with disabilities.
Peter is the President of Run for Support and Health (RuSH), a charitable student organization at the University with an emphasis on rehabilitation, health and philanthropy. He is also a disability researcher, and has worked as an interventionist for the Centre for Autism Services Alberta. He has made a significant contribution to the community, for example, he has developed a novel community outreach program under RuSH at the University Infant Toddler Centre and other schools and daycare centres within Edmonton to implement the Physical Literacy for Active Youth (PLAY) program, which is a program to educate children about healthy activity, exercise, play and nutrition. Moreover, he has done independent research on the social model of disability. In addition, Peter has worked on a personal level with many children with disabilities working together to find better ways to cope and adapt to life with a disability.