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Bill and Pat Spark

When their daughter Sherri was born with Down Syndrome, Bill and Pat Sparks wanted what any other parent would want for their child: a good life with full participation in her community. This evoked their journey of advocacy and involvement with Community Living Toronto, impacting the lives of people with an intellectual disability through education, inclusion and independence for over 40 years.

Both teachers in their professional lives, Bill and Pat were early and strong advocates for inclusive education. Bill even took a year from his professional life to identify best practices not only in Toronto but across North America. This has helped create real choice and inclusion of students with an intellectual disability in our schools. Bill and Pat knew that inclusion started from birth, and providing support to other parents who have ‘been through it’ gave new parents not only reassurance, but guidance on navigating a new world. That’s why they helped other parents form Pilot Parents, a key support program for new parents.

In memory of their daughter, they created The Sherri Sparks Travel Training Program, which has helped hundreds of people increase their independence, confidence and self esteem by learning to use the Toronto Transit Commission.

Bill and Pat have also been active members with various committees at Community Living Toronto, including the Scarborough Regional Council, the Education Committee, the Board of Directors and SEAC. Bill has also been the President of Community Living Ontario and was recognized by the Province for his work related to the Five Year Plan for Deinstitutionalization.

Garry R. Cooke

Closing in on almost 50 years of volunteerism with the Community Living movement, Garry has served in many roles.  He is currently on the Board of Directors of Community Living Ontario as Regional Director for Durham East and is the President of Community Living Oshawa/Clarington. Garry chairs the Government Relations Committee and the Nominations Committee and he is a member of the Executive Committee and the Finance Committee.

One of Garry’s claims to fame is that he was President of Community Living Ontario during a key period in the Community Living movement.  He was President during the closures of institutions; overseeing the most significant change in Community Living history.

Mr. Cooke also served on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Association Community Living and was a member of the executive committee and the management committee. 

Garry volunteered with the Ministry of Community and Social Services in several capacities over many years. He was also on the Board of Directors of the Roeher Institute at York University, and a member of Durham College “Creating Futures” University Fundraising Committee. 

But Garry’s commitment to volunteering is even broader.  He is a member of Technical Standard & Safety Authority, Fuels Safety Division, Ontario Propane Association, AF&AM No 21 GRC Jerusalem Lodge and the Royal Canadian Legion and the Navy League of Canada.

Garry and his wife have three daughters.  Their eldest daughter has Down Syndrome.