Cailyn's Story: On Joy and Resilience

By GoodLife Kids on 20/12/2016

From Cailyn’s mom, Ann.

I got a huge sense of myself through high school and university playing volleyball and through my ability to contribute by being a member of a team. So, when my daughter Cailyn was two, very bright, and excelling in gymnastics and dance classes, I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, she’s going to be an athlete!” I began to think of all the ways I could support her. I could coach her and I could help her develop not only technical sport skills but also the soft skills that I believe are so important, both in sport and in life.

At three-years-old, Cailyn underwent invasive surgery to debulk a tumour in her brain stem. After the surgery, she couldn’t walk, crawl, sit herself up, express herself, or even swallow. She was very unhappy. I asked her therapists and doctors to work with her as if the best results were going to be possible because I wanted Cailyn to live a full life, to walk, to run and to play. Our journey toward health has been fueled by hope and a constant desire to move forward focusing on the best possible results.


Cailyn is now 15 years old. As a result of her medical battles, her left side is up to 75% weaker than her right, she experiences double vision and fatigues easily. What hasn’t changed is Cailyn’s love of being active with her sport of choice: basketball. 

When she was introduced to the wheelchair basketball program through grant recipient KidsAbility, it was like a new door opened. Cailyn says, “It’s basketball for people who can’t run, but love the sport and want to play.”

For Cailyn, the power of wheelchair basketball is in the inclusive team experience. When she’s going to wheelchair basketball she is participating with other kids who understand the challenges of living with disabilities. At the least, it’s a positive diversion in her day. But more than that, it’s an opportunity for her to connect with other kids, to play, and to be part of a team. Especially at her age, you can’t undervalue that feeling - I think every teenage kid is looking to belong to something.

As parents, we all want the same thing. We want our kids to have every opportunity to achieve their ultimate potential. For kids dealing with these unique situations where it’s not as easy to participate with their able-bodied peers, it’s amazing to watch them having fun and being active! On the court, they can just be kids playing the game they love. For our family, wheelchair basketball is all about potential. Cailyn is getting out there, having a great time, growing her skills, and getting more baskets. This goes beyond sport – it’s about Cailyn having the chance to grow her belief in herself. It feeds our resilience and gives us strength to continue facing the fights that will come tomorrow and for the rest of Cailyn’s life. It boosts both of us.

Cailyn has asked me several times since last season, “Mom, what’s going on with wheelchair basketball? When does it start again?” When charities like GoodLife Kids Foundation generously provide kids like Cailyn the tools they need to have experiences that bring them joy, bring them a sense of connection, bring them a sense of fulfilling a goal – it’s exceptional! It reminds you for a period of time that you’re not alone in your desire to help your child achieve their potential. And that is a real gift.

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GoodLife Kids
GoodLife Kids Foundation shares resources and links to help you provide a healthier and more physically active lifestyle for the children in your life.

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The Confidence to Try #FEELGOODFRIDAY Lukas is a 10-year-old Raptors fan who plays basketball with his local chapter of Special Olympics, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was afraid to join a team. Lukas is an outgoing kid who likes to make friends and has always been very active. But his early experiences in organized physical activity were not positive. One of his biggest challenges with autism is struggling to follow directions in large groups. He was often told he was doing things wrong and even that he would embarrass the team. “These negative comments deflated his confidence, and he became afraid to try new things,” explained his mom Lisa. When he was eight, Lukas took part in the Sports of All Sorts program at the Geneva Centre for Autism. The supportive environment in the Sports of All Sorts program, funded by a GoodLife Kids grant, was a real game-changer for him. Constant encouragement and positive reinforcement gave Lukas a safe space to explore new activities without a fear of being judged. With one-on-one support he played basketball, baseball, tennis, and golf. “We’re so glad to make physical activity a regular part of Lukas’ life and we’ve found ways for him to continue practicing at home,” said Lisa. “We bought a tennis net for the backyard, and now that he’s not afraid, he loves to go to glow-in-the-dark mini-putt with his dad!” As Lukas turned around on the basketball court to wave to his mom, he gave her two big thumbs up and her eyes welled up with tears of joy. “Watching him enjoy himself, I’m overwhelmed with happiness and pride,” she shared. “He has talents! But most of all, he has regained a belief in himself – that he CAN do it – and that is so powerful.”

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