CDSS Advocate of the Year Award

BE INSPIRED / CDSS AWARDS / ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR

About This Award

The Advocate of the Year is awarded to one (1) self-advocate (adult with Down syndrome – older than 18-years-old), who is a community leader. The recipient is a person who gives to the community, through work or volunteering, and contributes meaningful change to people’s perceptions of disability and Down syndrome. This person shows their community how to “See the Ability.”

See Selection Criteria & How to Nominate Someone

Eric Vriend

Have you thought about joining Eric’s Army? It’s a group of people who ‘See the Ability’ – people who are committed to treating others as equals and making a positive impact in the lives of those around them. They are inspired by Eric Vriend, a gym owner/manager and volleyball coach from Barrhead.

Eric has Down syndrome and inspires and motivates his ‘army’, gym goers, and volleyball team to ‘See the Ability’, spread positivity and be more active. He is the 2017 Advocate of the Year at the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS), announced on World Down Syndrome Day (March 21, 2017). He will receive a $1000 bursary, which he can put towards tuition, use to fund a special project, or donate back to his community.

“Eric is clearly a community leader,” said Rita Lyster, one of Eric’s nominators. “Most importantly he gives (back to the community) with his positive demeanour and encouragement to the world around…I am proud to be part of Eric’s Army!”

As Assistant Coach with MacEwan University Men’s Volleyball team, Eric has travelled across North America, helping bring out the best in the athletes. “Eric brings an incredibly positive feel to our team that is 100 percent unique to him,” said Ken McLaughlin, Assistant Coach alongside Eric. Ken also submitted a nomination, along with Eric’s sister Tessa.

“In fact, what makes him such a great coach is that he can sense how others are feeling like no one else I’ve ever met in my life,” Ken wrote. “It’s common to have Eric remind me during an intense match that “it’s okay” with a pat on the back… Eric treats people like gold and he deserves nothing less in return.”

Read our interview with Eric below!

Interview with Eric

Tell us about yourself, Eric! How old are you, where are you from and what do you like to do for fun?

I’m 23 years old. I was born in Barrhead and grew up and went to school in Neerlandia until grade 9, when I went to high school in Barrhead. I love going to the lake, boat rides and listening to my tunes. I also like helping out with my brother’s volleyball team at MacEwan University. I’m a Christian. I did a profession of my faith in 2012.

Your job is really unique. Tell us about your gym!

My gym is awesome and so are the members. We (my family) bought the gym in 2015. I still had a year left at Kings so I helped on weekends and the summer. After I graduated, I started running our gym with a co-worker. We have a good-size gym with bikes, treadmills, weight lifting equipment, elliptical, ladies only workout room, and massage therapists.

We wanted the gym to be more, so we started Eric’s Army. Eric’s Army is about people who are committed to making a positive impact in the lives of those around them.

The Advocate of the Year gets a $1000 bursary to use in their communities. What do you plan on doing with your bursary?

Our idea is to give it as a scholarship at our local high school for somebody who shows the qualities of Eric’s Army.

You were nominated by Ken McLaughlin, Rita Lyster, and your sister Tessa. They spoke about your work in the community and your commitment to helping others. How does that make you feel? Do you have any message for them for nominating you? 

It makes me feel good. It also makes me feel humble.

Thank you Tessa, Rita and Ken. You guys are awesome.

What is your wish for the future for people with Down syndrome?

To be accepted for who we are and recognized as productive members of society and that people can believe in the abilities of us all.

What are your own personal goals for the future?

I would like to own my own home.

What does “See The Ability” mean to you?

See The Ability means to me to believe in all people, to be a positive person, to focus on making things possible.

On World Down Syndrome Day, your win will be announced on the CDSS website. What is your message for young people with Down syndrome around the world?

Work hard at being a positive influence in the lives of those around you.

CDSS Advocate of the Year – Past Winners

2016 – Jeremy Abramson

How to Nominate Someone To Be ‘Advocate of the Year’

The Advocate of the Year is awarded to one (1) self-advocate (adult with Down syndrome – older than 18-years-old), who is a community leader. The recipient is a person who gives to the community, through work or volunteering, and contributes meaningful change to people’s perceptions of disability and Down syndrome. This person shows their community how to “See the Ability.”

Nomination details...

Prize

$1000 Bursary for school tuition, a special project, or donation back to the community

Selection

The Advocate of the Year award will be chosen by a committee of CDSS leaders – members of VATTA (the VATTA Chair and Vice Chair), members of the CDSS Board of Directors Advocacy Committee, and members of the CDSS Staff.

Rules

  • These awards are for people with Down syndrome.
  • Entrants must be nominated – no self-nominations will be accepted. Parents and immediate family can nominate
  • Nominees must live in Canada.
  • Nominees are not required to be members of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society.
  • Nominees must not be a full or part-time paid staff member, board member, or committee member (for example, VATTA, or the Conference Committee) of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society.
  • Past winners of the Canadian Down Syndrome Heroes are ineligible to receive this award. Past winners of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society’s Self-Advocate of the Year Award are ineligible to receive this award. Past winners of the CDSS Awards are ineligible to receive this award again.
  • Previous winners of the Canadian Down Syndrome Heroes – Honourable Mentions and Canadian Down Syndrome Heroes – The Super Six are still eligible to enter.

How to Nominate Someone

  • One (1) letter by the primary nominator on why the nominee deserves recognition (600 words MAXIMUM per letter).
  • One (1) to two (2) reference letters by someone other than the nominator (600 words MAXIMUM per letter).
  • Specify that the nomination is for the Advocate of the Year Award in your letter. CDSS has the option to grant a worthy recipient either award.
  • To ensure a successful nomination, please refer to the award requirements.

Please submit your nomination letters – one letter by the primary nominator, one to two letters by people other than the primary nominator – by the deadline, February 16, 2018.
We accept nominations via Email or Mail.

Email:
info@cdss.ca
Subject: CDSS Awards 2018

Mail:
Advocate of the Year Award
Canadian Down Syndrome Society
Suite 103 – 2003 14 Street NW
Calgary, AB T2M 3N4

Take a walk in their shoes and discover a world of possibilities - not disabilities - that will motivate and encourage you to learn more and get involved.