When Kyle Verhulst moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake about a month ago, he left behind a life of routine, contentment, and a volunteer job that shaped his days and gave him a feeling of purpose.
The 36-year-old loves his new home, but he misses all he left behind.
His parents, Dianna, 69, and Adriaan, 70, made the move from their hometown of Windsor for his welfare, and hope now to replace some of the activities he has left behind.
Kyle was born with Down syndrome, and although he is fairly independent and self-sufficient, they have to think about his future, when they’re no longer around to look after him, said Dianna.
His sister Katherine Sykes, a pilot, has settled here in NOTL with her husband, Jeff, of Sykes Landscaping. She will one day be Kyle’s legal guardian, said Dianna, “and we wanted to be here closer to her, and to help her with her baby. It was important to us that Kyle get used to living here now, instead of it coming as a shock to him one day down the road, when we’re no longer here to look after him.”
Kyle is missing his routine, which in Windsor began each day with a walk through his subdivision to an Extendicare long-term care residence — he proudly displays the 15-year pin he earned before he left. His duties would start at 9 a.m., when he would deliver newspapers to the rooms of those who lived in the home.
Kyle is a social fellow who smiles readily and loves to chat — he likes to ask questions of those he first meets, and listens intently to the answers — and it’s easy to understand why he loved to leave the house each morning to go to a job he took very seriously, and thoroughly enjoyed.
His final job of the day was to clear off the tables after lunch. When that was finished, he’d head home for the day. In between he would visit with residents, and became friends not only with them but with their family members who came to visit, he said.
He also had a friend from high school named David, a paraplegic, who was an Extendicare resident, and Kyle spent some time every day with him. “I miss David,” he said. “I miss Extendicare.”
Kyle would like to find a volunteer job in NOTL, something that would get him out of the house and meeting people. Although he loves his new Cannery Park home with the view of the vineyards across the street, and his own space downstairs, he misses getting out and meeting people. He likes to watch TV and listen to music, but he wants to do more than that.
He loves to cycle — for the last 12 years he has participated in a two-day, 150-kilometre ride to raise money for MS from Grand Bend to London and back, always with a family celebration at the end of the ride.
“When he was young, I was aways determined for him to learn to do the things other kids could do, including riding a bike,” said Dianna. That didn’t come easily for him, but by the time he was 10, we were coming to Niagara-on-the-Lake and riding along the parkway. We did that for six or seven years.”
His father is a pretty hard-core cyclist — he is still working in Windsor, and sometimes cycles from there to NOTL, with an overnight stop — and Kyle began riding with him. It was something he enjoyed doing with his dad, and he got to the point where he could do the two-day fundraising ride without training — he would just get on the bike and go, said Dianna.
This year he will take part in the MS ride from Fort Erie to NOTL, as part of Kyle’s Krew, with his father riding as well.
Kyle also likes five-pin bowling — he belonged to a league in Windsor — and Dianna is looking for a league he can join in Niagara. And since the family skies, he skies with them, she said.
But most of all, she added, “he needs a job. He needs something that gets him out and makes him feel useful again.”
“He’s independent, very social, loves to talk to people, and he’s very capable.”
Kyle said he would like to begin volunteering again — it doesn’t have to be in a long-term care residence, although that’s what he is used to — and Dianna is happy to provide transportation.
She would even consider doing some volunteer work with Kyle.
If anyone has a part-time volunteer opportunity which might be suitable, Dianna and Kyle can be reached at 905-262-7958.