There’s an energy that Donald Binder brings to The Village of Winston Park that adds a special spark to the community. It’s the same liveliness he brought to the neighbourhoods in Kitchener where he grew up, always eager to help his neighbours shovel snow or sort their waste and recycling ahead of collection day. It’s the same vitality that led him towards sport and saw him compete against athletes from across the country in the first Canadian Special Olympics held outside of Ontario in Regina in 1978 and the same glimmer he brings to the Village he calls home today.
As he opens up his scrapbook filled with pictures and awards from that era, he says he loved meeting people from across the country at these events. He laughs when he sees the fit young man in the photos, but he’s made good friends with kinesiologists he’s met in the Village since he moved in late 2019, and they’ll help keep him in shape, he says.
Donald always loved floor hockey in his younger days and in his scrapbook is a photo of the team he was named Most Valuable Player for. He’s one of the athletes competing in the Virtual Schlegel Olympics in mid-March and floor hockey shootout will be his event. The Schlegel Olympics has always been an exciting way for residents and team members from across the organization to gather in the spirit of friendly competition and camaraderie, but this year’s event will be held virtually as COVID restrictions still dictate.
This year will be a warm-up for Donald, and his eyes light up at the prospect of a future event that will draw people together once again in person from across the province.
As he walks the Main Street to his Williamsburg neighbourhood single suite, team members greet him at every turn, offering jokes and laughing at his. It seems that Donald knows everyone. His friend Dale, who was featured in Donald’s photos from his teenaged years, lives in the apartments a few floors up from him with his mother Regina. Donald sees them as they finish lunch and he leaves the scrapbook for Regina and Dale to peruse.
A few minutes later, he connects with Ranka, the housekeeper he quickly became friends with not long after he moved in and who still comes in a half hour early for every morning shift so she can have a coffee with him.
“She’s the only one who can make my hot chocolate right,” he says with a laugh, and Ranka smiles. She taught him how to take care of his laundry in the Village and he’s often in the main laundry room to help her through her work. Ranka was there to shine his shoes and make sure his suit was pressed so he looked his finest on the day of his mother’s funeral; she gives much more of herself because she cares about Donald, and watching their interactions it’s clear that the feeling is mutual.
Donald’s parents moved to the Village at the same time as Donald; he has always lived with them and it was important to everyone that they remained close when they chose to move into a home with more supports. They both passed within months of each other and Donald says he misses them dearly. His brother visits at least every week, picking him up so they can tour the construction sites around the city. The family business is in concrete, and Donald smiles and shakes his head when asked if he’s inspecting the quality of the work on these jobsites.
He doesn’t say it, but its clear that Donald is relationship-driven in all he does. He was shy in school, he says, but a favourite teacher helped him get past that and, today, bashful is a word few would ever consider using to describe him. Kind, hard-working, curious, mischievous, friendly – these all seem apt as descriptors.
Donald’s energy and the energy the team has for him can make a Village thrive, and the people he has befriended and the residents he helps so often feel it every day.