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Prince Edward Island

Rebecca Knauff

Rebecca KnauffRebecca has been working with children of all abilities for 13 years and has found the work she loves most is working with children that face the varying challenges that come with an intellectual disability. She works with children of the preschool age, but also tutors and helps support families once their child (ren) reaches school. Rebecca has been involved with PEI ACL in volunteer and other roles, for the last 6 years. Her other volunteer commitments include the autism society and ECDA.  She was recognized in 2011 with CACL’s Inclusive Education Award, for her outstanding work, in the early learning centers.  Some of her favorite times involved connecting with families from all across Prince Edward Island during the ACL family retreat weekends. She recognizes the importance of families connecting and sharing information with each other and siblings. She finds that families sometimes struggle with navigating the system, and connects them with resources. Rebecca has been on the PEI ACL steering committee for the last year working to create the online family network, and will continue, this year, to help connect families to resources needed, as a family leader.

Ethel Ellsworth and Velda Gaudet

Carpooling to a meeting on inclusive education, from their rural community of Tignish PEI, brought these two vibrant, women together for the first time, but their belief in full inclusion for all has kept them fast friends and powerful advocates for people with intellectual disabilities for three decades. Ethel Ellsworth and Velda Gaudet are true pioneers in the community inclusion movement on Prince Edward Island.
When Scott was born in 1972 Velda knew she was headed down a road less travelled but one she was prepared to navigate. Velda has been his strongest supporter from the early days when she took him and his other seven year old friends to the summer swim program at Skinners Pond Wharf, through the school
system while she was a member of the Provincial Education Coalition and worked with the Jr. High Buddy Program, to present day as she advocates for his residential setting.
Ethel had the volunteer spirit from an early age. In grade 8 she volunteered as peer support during lunch to students with special needs. Some of the friendships forged during those Jr. High years remain strong today.
Ethel was a canvasser for the local ACLs fundraising campaign before she was old enough to drive. Her sense of community volunteerism is evident in the many board position she has held through the years with ACL on every level from local to provincial and national. Ethel and Velda are strong advocates for people with intellectual disabilities and their families and together are a formidable team.
Whether they are addressing the legislature or answering a call from a frantic parent their voices are heard and they are making a difference for people with an intellectual disability on Prince Edward Island.

Heidi Bernardi

Heidi Bernardi became involved in the volunteer movement for individual’s affected by disability soon after her daughter Breanna, was diagnosed as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder. In 2008, Heidi joined the Board of Directors with the Autism Society of Prince Edward Island. In her role as Director, Heidi works with the board to provide support to individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders through family events, monthly support meetings, and advocacy. Heidi has also served on the PEIACL Board as a representative from the Autism Society, promoting inclusion for individuals affected by disability. In 2012, Heidi graduated from Holland College with her diploma in Human Services. Heidi remains connected to the Human Services Program in the role of Parent/Professional providing a one hour presentation to second year students on “Working with Families”.  Today, Heidi works as a Work Trainer with adults affected by an Intellectual Disability. Heidi shares, “The love I have for our daughter is reflected in the passion and dedication I have for the field of Human Services. When I advocate and educate on her behalf; I am advocating not only for her, but for the children who will be diagnosed with a disability in the future- to ensure individuals and families have the supports they need to live life to their full potential.”