“My mother lived her life as though there were no barriers.”
– Mary Jeanne Edgar, Alice Saddy’s daughter
When others commit to realizing a vision we hold dear, we don’t always have control over its outcome. In the case of London’s Alice Saddy Association, however, it is widely agreed that the heart and soul of the organization continue to reflect the dream held by the volunteer for whom it is named.
Former London citizen, Alice Saddy, had a vision that adults who have a developmental disability would have support to lead meaningful, valued lives in their community. Today, the Alice Saddy Association and other organizations offer many opportunities to do this, but when Alice was volunteering in the 1950’s and 60’s, at what is now Community Living London and CPRI, not many of those options existed.
Moving here with her family when she was a child, from a small francophone community in Saskatchewan, those who remember Alice speak of her belief in being a kind friend and neighbour, her passion for helping others and overcoming obstacles, a commitment to living the principles of her faith in everyday life and a capacity for joy and fun that drew others around her. Giving back was who she was and although she did not have a relative or specific person in her life with a disability, to inspire her, the majority of Alice’s tireless volunteering was devoted to improving opportunities for people with this label.
Shortly before her premature death in 1973, Alice shared her wish that London provide more community supports to adults with a developmental disability. Her parish, St. Peters Cathedral Basilica, also had a strong commitment to helping people with disabilities, and responded to her request by inviting Mike Byrne and his wife, Maureen, to provide live-in support to people with a disability, at a three story house owned by the Diocese.
The Byrnes and others who worked there believed that all people were entitled to live with dignity and share and participate in all elements of community life. The early days were full of “good natured improvisation” and many supporters combined their caring with a connection to the arts, which enhanced a culture of kindness and creativity. As an amateur actress herself, Alice would have appreciated the imagination and passion with which help was offered.
As the Association celebrates more than 40 years of service, this tradition of responsiveness to people’s needs keeps evolving. Their supports have expanded to include assistance with finding and keeping employment, independent apartment living, civic and community involvement and contribution, participation in social activities, and especially in developing a rich variety of relationships.
The Alice Saddy Association continues to grow in their imagination and capacity to help the people they support to be full members of their community. They also extend a welcome to Londoners to join them in the vision and work inspired by the woman who modelled activism and citizenship in our city, creating social change together.
By Susannah Joyce