Tim Cormode’s passion for helping people with disabilities started when he took a summer job at the former Huronia Regional Centre, and it has now landed him a spot in the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame.
Cormode, who lived in Orillia from the time he was four years old until he headed to university, is one of three people who will be inducted during the 27th annual Canadian Disability Hall of Fame ceremony on Oct. 29.
In 1998, he founded the non-profit Power to Be, with a goal to “help people living with a disability or barrier access nature.”
Based in Victoria and Vancouver, the organization has helped more than 10,000 people enjoy outdoor activities.
It was his job at the Huronia Regional Centre, working with adults facing a variety of barriers, that ultimately led to the creation of Power to Be.
“I really loved it,” Cormode said. “That’s how this all got started. It fuelled the passion.”
His family had lakefront property in Orillia and there were plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures.
“Social work and a love for the outdoors — I brought these things together (to create Power to Be),” he said.
His passion was also inspired by his father, Ted Cormode, who was, for years, the only pediatrician in town.
“We lived in a world of caring for others,” he said.
Cormode said he was “super-surprised” when he found out he was going to be inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame.
“I had no idea that someone had put my name forward for this,” he said.
In fact, when he received an email informing him of the honour, he thought it was spam, so he deleted it. When a member of the Power to Be board called him and told him he should respond, Cormode knew it was real.
He has long been inspired by the likes of Terry Fox and Rick Hansen, both of whom are in the hall of fame.
“Just to be even recognized with that group of people is quite special to me,” he said.
Cormode will be inducted alongside Martha Sandoval Gustafson, Canada’s second most-decorated Paralympian, and Meenu Sikand, a disability rights activist. He feels he’s in good company.
“Anyone who really believes in possibilities and can be a role model for people that are, at times, underserved are people that are true inspirational leaders,” he said.
His induction in the hall of fame — a project of the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons — isn’t his alone, he said.
“This award is on the sweat and hard work of many staff and volunteers, so I accept this award on their behalf and on behalf of all the people we’ve supported,” he said.
Power to Be started out by providing outdoor opportunities to people with physical disabilities. It now offers programming for many others, including people with intellectual disabilities and those dealing with life-threatening illnesses. Much of the programming focuses on youth and their families, but there are opportunities available for people of all ages, and the organization subsidizes its programs to ensure money isn’t an issue for participants.
Power to Be has grown to include 43 full-time staff members and 350 volunteers.
The organization’s most recent news is that it has acquired a golf course, which it will “de-golf” and turn into an outdoor education centre to further assist participants.
More about Power to Be can be found on its website.
Information about the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame can be found here.