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This article was published 20/4/2018 (1370 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
After 20 years, Margy Nelson is retiring as executive director of the Movement Centre of Manitoba.
"To retire from my labour of love, it’s got a lot of mixed emotions for sure," said Nelson, who cofounded the innovative non-profit group in the spring 1998. "Once your baby, always your baby."
"I started the Movement Centre because I’m the mother of a set of twin boys, one of whom has cerebral palsy," Nelson explained.
After attending Ability Camp, northeast of Toronto, with her son Bryce in 1997, Nelson was convinced that Manitobans with physical disabilities could benefit from the teachings of Conductive Education.
"I came home with a different child," Nelson recalled. "A boy who had more physical abilities, but more than that was his level of confidence, his I-can-do-it attitude, which he hadn’t possessed before. I knew how good the program was."
Nelson, a longtime St. Vital resident, joined forces with Marie Berger and Dianne Ferguson, two other parents of children with cerebral palsy who had seen the benefits of Conductive Education first hand, to found the Movement Centre of Manitoba.
"We had our pilot project of March 1998 and it just took off," Nelson said. "It literally started in my living room."
Dedicated to providing "affordable access to all individuals who could benefit from Conductive Education programming," the Movement Centre began offering sessional programming to children at the Rehab Centre for Children. The response demonstrated a need for a full-time, year round facility.
In 2002, Martin and Miriam Bergen built and donated a 53,000-square-foot complex, complete with an Olympic size swimming pool, located at 1646 Henderson Hwy. that the Movement Centre calls home to this day.
"That was a huge gift, absolutely," Nelson said. "I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with friends, make new friends, and secure strong financial support behind the centre."
In 2006, the Movement Centre undertook a trial program for those who have had a stroke. Since then, the centre has increased that stream of programming. It is an area where Nelson feels the centre can continue to offer growing support.
"We don’t want to have to know you, but you need to know we’re there if you need us," Nelson said.
Because the Movement Centre is a charity that does not receive direct funding through provincial or federal health care initiatives, funding to grow their programming is always needed. While Nelson officially retires on June 1, she said she hopes to continue to support the Movement Centre by helping to source those funds.
"The way to get funders, honestly, is to bring them into the Centre to see for themselves," she said. "Words don’t cut it, it’s hard to describe what we do."
Nelson said she believes the Movement Centre is poised for a period of growth. On May 7, she will "pass the baton" to incoming executive director Olivia Doerksen.
Doerksen, who has been a volunteer at the Movement Centre for five years, previously served as director of public relations and marketing for the Insurance Brokers of Manitoba.
"My mother and grandfather both have MS. As a caregiver, I understand the life struggles that come with having a physical disability," she said in a statement. "As a volunteer... I have seen the impact our programs have on clients and families — it is truly remarkable. There is an incredibly strong foundation here to build on — we want to be able to provide more services to more Manitobans living with physical disabilities."
For more information on the Movement Centre of Manitoba, visit movementcentre.ca
Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7112