Six Prince Edward Islanders are being honored by the governor general’s office for their service to others, their names appearing Thursday on a list of 98 Meritorious Service Decoration recipients.
- Stephen Allen, Don Wright and Ken Zakem “for creating Santa’s Angels, an organization that distributes care packages, food hampers and toys to hundreds of homes on Christmas morning”.
- Carolyn Bateman and Joan Elaine Hoffman teRaa (posthumous) “for establishing the Autism Society of Prince Edward Island and the Stars for Life Foundation for Autism to support family members, professionals, and those affected by autism.”
- Betty Begg-Brooks “for founding Gifts from the Heart, a local charity that collects food, clothing and household items for redistribution to those in need.”
Carolyn Bateman said receiving the honor was “a little surreal, nothing I expected for sure”.
In an interview with CBC News: Compass‘s Louise Martin, Bateman said when she received the email about the award she thought it was a hoax.
Bateman recalled how she and teRaa both had autistic children and founded the Autism Society. As the children grew, the women had to find the best way to support them into adulthood.
Nothing like putting a mother in a corner!—Caroline Bateman
“Once they left the school system, they had nothing to do, no place to go, no place to live if their parents got older,” Bateman said. Her son Adam was “very bright” and graduated from high school, Bateman said.
“We just thought he deserved more than just sitting at home all day, he needed a life. And others like him needed a life too,” she said.
“Nothing like putting a mother in a corner!
So they created the Stars for Life Foundation, a home for autistic adults. Adam Bateman is now 39 and enjoys volunteering and socializing, she said.
Much has been learned about autism since then and thanks to strong fundraising, the foundation continues to be a success.
Bateman was also appointed to the Order of Prince Edward Island in 2016.
“The recipients announced today have undertaken a variety of inspiring initiatives to support the most vulnerable in their communities,” reads a press release from the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General.
He continues, “Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to extraordinary and unprecedented times, and many Canadians have risen to the challenge of supporting and helping others.
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