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Improving the world with inclusion of all

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

Sean Chase/Daily Observer
Nick Foley, founder of Celebrate the Hero and Move for Inclusion, addresses the annual general meeting of Community Living Upper Ottawa Valley. Foley spoke on the need to improve the world by encouraging inclusion and acceptance of all people.

Sean Chase/Daily Observer Nick Foley, founder of Celebrate the Hero and Move for Inclusion, addresses the annual general meeting of Community Living Upper Ottawa Valley. Foley spoke on the need to improve the world by encouraging inclusion and acceptance of all people.

Five years ago, Nick Foley was on a business trip in New York City when he overheard a conversation in a restaurant that shocked him.

Two fathers were discussing removing their children from the schools they were attending because the teachers were pairing them up students they considered to have physical and intellectual disabilities. The derogatory remarks that the two men were using so incensed Foley that he left the restaurant. He just couldn't believe that, in the year 2012, he was hearing such discriminatory language.

The incident set the Belleville, Ontario resident on a mission to improve the world by encouraging inclusion and acceptance of all people without bias. It led to the founding of Celebrate the Hero and Move for Inclusion, two initiatives that motivate and empower people of all ages to make a difference by propagating good through action.

“We live in the unbelievably diverse, idealogical cultural mosaic of many different people going in many different directions, and as such, not one person in this beautiful town and in this beautiful country we call home should ever feel devalued or discriminated against because of their ability, physically or cognitively,” Foley told the annual general meeting of Community Living Upper Ottawa Valley last Thursday night. “We have the capacity to include everyone.”

An impassioned and engaging speaker, Foley has addressed audiences around North America and is also the author of two books, “Act Like You’ve Been There: Rules For My Brother,” which is a guide to living with integrity and perpetuating good citizenship, and the children’s book “Kapernakus,” which focuses on self-esteem and inclusion.

Delivering his speech in front of a large screen with a picture of his daughter, Brynn, who was born in 2012 and diagnosed with Down Syndrome, Foley said child continues to be the greatest teacher in his life.

“The minute she was born I became a better man,” he said. “I look for inspiration and I see it in her.”

With a desire to perpetuate an environment of self-worth, acceptance, and empowerment in communities, schools, businesses, and families, Foley had special praise for the work being undertaken by Community Living in this area, especially their mantra that things can always be better for the people they serve.

“Community Living is the only completely inclusive environment in the world,” he said. “You celebrate the greatness in every single person. You celebrate acceptance of all people without bias. That's disrupting the status quo.”

In 2015, Foley decided to take his campaign for inclusion across the nation with a bike trip from Victoria, B.C. To St. John's, Newfoundland. He completed the 8,312-kilometre journey in 95 days speaking to thousands of people along the way and raising money for charities that support inclusiveness in the community. When he was about to begin the trek, Foley admitted having his fears and doubts about this venture but then he thought of his daughter.

“What I was doing today was to have a profound effect on tomorrow,” he explained. “Don't you allow someone to tell you it can't be done. Everything you do leaves an impact on the world.”

SChase@postmedia.com