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“It was 2007 and my husband, Milne, and I were out for a walk. The remodelling of a home in our neighbourhood piqued our curiosity… It looked like it was being improved with a specific purpose,” said Mary Lou Oakes.

“Intrigued, we knocked on the door to learn more. A young lady enthusiastically greeted us. She described her role as a professional intervenor and invited us in for a tour.”

Intervenors provide visual and auditory information to individuals with deafblindness. They are trained to act as the “eyes” and “ears” of the person through the sense of touch.

“This home was in fact being remodelled with a purpose. It was a new residential location of DeafBlind Ontario Services, which provides accessible, barrier-free, affordable housing, and access to Intervenor Services 24/7 for people with deafblindness,” said Mary Lou.

Deafblindness is a combination of hearing and vision loss that is unique to each person. It impacts access to information, communication, as well as mobility, and can lead to social isolation and affect a sense of community. About one percent of Canada’s population or approximately 368,400 people are deafblind. In Ontario, an estimated 147,736 individuals are deafblind.

According to DeafBlind Ontario Services’ Chief Operating Officer, Karen Keyes, “with the right supports in place, the potential of a person with deafblindness is limitless. Our team of intervenors is dedicated to ensuring consistent and holistic person-centered plans are in place for the individuals we support to live full, meaningful lives.”

“Philanthropy is very important to Mary Lou and me. The more we learned, the more we became committed to supporting this organization,” said Milne.

Mary Lou joined committees for DeafBlind Ontario Services’ signature fundraising events. The couple also spent time during a few winters generously clearing snow from the residential location’s driveway and walkways.

One year, with the help of a few friends, Mary Lou and Milne even purchased a snow blower for the location.

“From the beginning of our involvement, DeafBlind Ontario Services has been a charity of choice for us. We believe in the invaluable work of this organization. As the years passed, we decided to increase our gift through a donation of securities,” said Milne.

Gifts of publicly traded securities can be made within the donor’s lifetime or in the form of a bequest. Mary Lou and Milne have also made a gift in their will, calling it a “natural extension of their giving”.

“The holidays are a time when many consider ways to give-back, whether through acts of kindness, gifts, or volunteerism. It has enriched our lives knowing that the people supported by DeafBlind Ontario Services are getting every opportunity to expand their horizons and live more independently,” said Mary Lou.

“Mary Lou and Milne demonstrate the spirit of the season year-round. What started as committee work and snow removal, has turned into something much more. Small actions can truly have big impacts… Mary Lou and Milne are the perfect example of this,” said Karen.

“This holiday season, I encourage you to think about how you can extend this spirit in your own lives both now and into the New Year to come.”

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