Grandfather turned volunteer gives back to camp that has helped his family grow

John Tanasichukk is on his second year of helping make AAC Camp a success for his grandson

Amanda McCarthy - 29 August 2018

John Tanasichukk likes to give back. An avid volunteer, he served as president of the Autism Society of Edmonton Area until 2016. When his term was done, he knew he wanted to find a new cause to support.

This is when he heard about the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Camp-a camp that his 10-year-old grandson, Aydan, just happened to be attending.

"Aydan went to his first AAC Camp in 2016. At the end of the camp, his parents were so enthusiastic about it-about all the good it does. I thought, well, maybe this is a good organization to get involved with."

Every year, the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine's Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders offers a weekend away for children who use augmentative and alternative communication devices. The camp, which is a partnership with March of Dimes Canada, allows children and their families the chance to communicate and build friendships, practice social communication and participate in training and networking opportunities. This year's camp took place August 24-26 at Easter Seals Camp Horizon.

John, who is a part of the AAC Camp organizing committee, is now on his second year of volunteering.

"Planning is my background, so I'm trying to help out with the camp however I can. Whether that's doing background work, such as strategic planning, or just being an extra pair of hands-moving tables, running errands, anything that needs to be done really."

While John is happy to be able to give back to the AAC community, he also sees his volunteer role as a way to learn more about the devices his grandson uses.

"Aydan has autism and he is non-verbal. So, of course, it is hard to be able to have a conversation and communicate with him," said John. "One of my dreams is to have a conversation with Aydan. I know it will most likely be through the use of a device. The camp gives me the chance to learn about the devices and how they may be able to benefit our relationship in the future."

The chance to be with his grandson and watch him flourish means that John won't be straying from camp anytime soon.

"I will definitely continue to volunteer for the camp in the future, and I recommend anyone else looking for a chance to give back do the same. Unless you have an intimate connection with someone who uses an AAC device, it's really hard to appreciate what a blessing this camp is. By volunteering, more people could see all the good this does for the children and their families."

For more information about the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Camp or to get involved, visit our website.