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Resilient Families: Walking Together through Every Generation

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Hebron Christian Reformed Church

4240 Anderson Street

Whitby, ON L1R 2W1


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Registration for Resilient Families has ended. If you have not yet registered, and plan to attend, walk-ins are welcome. Please let us know that you plan to come by sending a note to Heather at
Event description


A Connection and Training Event for disability advocates, people and families living with disabilities, church leaders.

Keynote: Sara Pot – Lamentations and Lessons Learned: Parenting Children with Special Needs

Sara Pot and her family

Photo: Sara Pot with her family

*Scholarships available for people who have disabilities. Contact Heather at for information.

*Childcare will not be provided.

*Please review the workshop descriptions below before registering, as you'll need to select two workshops when you register.


8:15 Registration begins

9:00 Opening worship and devotional

9:30 Keynote speaker: Sara Pot

10:15 Break

10:30-12:00 Workshop

12:00-1:15 Lunch

1:15-2:45 Workshop

2:45 Networking opportunities at conference end


Family Panel: Resilient Families Dealing with Mental Health Issues - June Zwier and Karen Donovan

We will hear several stories from family members who have experienced or are experiencing mental illness within the family. The members of the panel will emphasize what has helped or supported them to be resilient and will also share their ideas on how the church family could be more supportive. There will be a time for questions and discussion with the family panel.

Living Grief - Sara Pot

Grief doesn't just come with the death of someone we love; grief can also influence us while we are among the living, be it the loss of a job, a dream, or a relationship. For Sara, parenting Rachel and Janneke bring a living grief. While thankful for their lives, Sara and her husband Ralph must grieve the dreams they had for these two daughters. In this workshop, we will discuss the concept of living grief and how to weave this reality into our daily living. Participants will be invited to share best practices and questions, but given the vulnerable nature of this topic, participants will also be well to just listen. All are welcome.

Understanding Alzheimer’s in the context of the power and hope of the Gospel - Peter Dykstra

This workshop will explore the nature of Alzheimer’s and other dementias so that we might gain an understanding of how it connects with the power and hope of the Gospel. We will explore practical ways that we can relate to and care for those who have dementia. The main source of this presentation is a book written by Dr. Benjamin Mast entitled The Second Forgetting: Remembering the Power of the Gospel during Alzheimer’s Disease.

Inclusion: What Could It Look Like in Your Church? - Heather Voskamp

Through personal experiences as a disability advocate and Friendship mentor and more recently as a friend and mentor to a man with autism who lives with Heather and her family, Heather will share a variety of practical ways that her church has engaged people with disabilities in the life of the congregation.

The Future is Now: Helping Parents with Adult Children with Disabilities - Tom Francey

Using the Bible as guide, this workshop will help parents and people supporting parents to navigate their own feelings of shame and inadequacies, provide helpful tips to partner with community resources and their own family and church communities, and provide tools for parents and for coming alongside parents of adult children with disabilities as they navigate the balancing act between caring well for and letting go of their son or daughter. Most importantly it will provide hope for the individuals, families and community partners.

Have You Met My Sister Sam? Supporting Siblings of Adults with Disabilities - Tom Francey

Many siblings of people with disabilities will become or already are the guardians and/or care-givers of a brother or sister with a disability. These responsibilities can lead to stress and questioning of how best to support and love their sibling, especially if non-disabled siblings do not agree upon how best to care. Drawing on 35 years of engaging with people with disabilities and their families, including many years as a behaviour therapist, Tom will provide perspective and practical tips for siblings of adults with disabilities including partnering with community resources and their own family and church communities, and ideas for provide support in the most loving way.

Bubble Wrap the Future of Your Son or Daughter - Graeme Treeby

The presentation shares information concerning ODSP, Wills, Henson Trusts, Funding Methods including the use of Life Insurance, Selecting and Training Trustees, Disability Tax Credits, RDSP's and many other issues. The Special Needs Plan will bring the pieces of the planning puzzle together into a clear, well-articulated plan that will bubble wrap your son or daughter’s financial security.

Presenter Bios:

Tom Francey is married with 4 grown children, one son-in-law, and three granddogs. Three years ago he retired after 35 years at Bethesda, an agency operated by the Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches which provides a variety of services for individuals with an intellectual disabilities in the Niagara peninsula area. Working extensively with families, Tom was a Behaviour Therapist for most of his years at Bethesda and currently works part-time with Person Centered Care as a life coach with the vulnerable sector population. Tom is an active member of Bethany Community Church in St. Catharines.

Tom Francey

Sara Pot and her husband Ralph are parents to four beautiful girls: Emily, Sophia, Rachel and Janneke. Though they celebrate the gifts and abilities of their daughters, they are often consumed with the needs of Rachel and Janneke who were born with an undiagnosed syndrome. Rachel and Janneke are g-tube fed continuously, and both girls are unable to walk independently or talk. Given their many limitations, Rachel and Janneke bring joy with their smiles and teach grace through their dependency on others.

Peter Dykstra administrates Grace Manor at Holland Christian Homes in Brampton, Ontario. He has worked with people who require long term care (mostly elderly persons) since the mid-70’s as an orderly, an adjuvant, an activities and volunteer manager, and for the last 15 years as an administrator of a long term care home. His passion is to enable older people with chronic disabilities to live a meaningful and fulfilled life according to God’s plan for them.

Peter and Linda Dykstra

Heather Voskamp is mother of four children and a long-time Church Disability Advocate and mentor in a Friendship group. The summer of 2015, she and her family opened up their home to a 40-year-old man who has autism.

Graeme Treeby is the parent of 3 children, including their youngest, Jenny, who has Cerebral Palsy, Developmental Delay, PDD and other issues. Since 1990, he and his wife have been researching and discovering planning tools and techniques which would allow them to provide for Jenny's long term needs. Graeme gave up his Accounting Career in 1993 to share this information with other families throughout the province of Ontario and founded the Special Needs Planning Group in 1997.

June Zwier and Karen Donovan: June is a Marriage and Family therapist and Mental Health Resource Director at Shalem Mental Health Network. She has a passion for working with churches on how to be a caring community to members who are experiencing the effects of mental illness and their families/caregivers. Karen Donovan also has experience with people struggling with mental health issues and is a recent graduate from Tyndale Seminary in the Clinical Counselling program. Karen is a therapist with Life Care Centre. June and Karen both work for Faith and Hope Ministries of Classis Quinte for the purpose of bringing awareness of mental health issues to congregations.

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Hebron Christian Reformed Church

4240 Anderson Street

Whitby, ON L1R 2W1


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