Furthering the idea of success stories, I came acrioss this story on one of my friend's newsfeeds on Facebook. I knew Jan in highschool, and even worked with a few teachers on creating an afterschool Eco Club where Jan, and other students with Special Needs, joined, came out and we had fun. Again, a heart-warming, and beautiful success story that doesn't come without its challenges....but she's doing so very well, and contributing to our world so beautifully.
PICKERING -- There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Jan Heeney belongs in a feature series about inspiring people. Unless, maybe, there’s a smidgen of doubt in the mind of Jan Heeney herself.
“She’s very excited,” says Mike O’Neill, principal at Father Fenelon Catholic School in Pickering, on the November morning that a visitor arrives at the school for an interview with Jan.
But not even her resume of accomplishments, impressive enough for anyone let alone a woman with Down syndrome, can do true justice to the engaging spirit who awaits.
She’s found in the school library, her domain, where she’s volunteered for years and where she’s regarded as a staff member by teachers and students. Her face breaks into a warm smile at the sight of the principal approaching.
A decorated Special Olympian, she counts among her talents synchronized swimming, gymnastics, track and field, and five-pin bowling -- perhaps taking after her Hall of Famer father Walter in that sport -- competing in and out of the province. Recently, she’s taken to the stage at the Abilities Centre in Whitby, where being part of an improv drama class, including a public performance in the role of a cat, has sparked an interest in acting. Named by the Durham Catholic District School Board in 2013 as a distinguished alumni, Jan was recently a speaker at the Abilities Centre when its field house was renamed for the late Jim Flaherty, and spoke to 500 people about her experiences with the drama group. (“That didn’t faze her one bit,” her mother Catherine said in a later phone conversation).
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