by Donna Harris, Communications Specialist
Anthony Micallef’s passion for life is unmistakable. “Life motivates me. The longer I live, the more I appreciate it. I don’t think there is a bigger motivator than life itself,” says Anthony.
Anthony was born with Type II, Spinal Muscular Atrophy – an incurable degenerative disease which destroys the nerves that control voluntary muscle movement. He is dependent on a power wheelchair for mobility and requires assistance to complete most activities. Most people diagnosed with Type II Spinal Muscular Atrophy do not live past 30 years of age.
Anthony is now a fourth year, A-student of the Interactive Multimedia and Design program at Carleton University. “I have a natural aptitude for computers. I have always been interested in computers. They help me with daily life,” says Anthony. “I chose my program because I wanted to be able to design things and find ideas to make life easier for people with disabilities.”
Anthony was four and a half years old when he came into foster care. His mother thought it would be best for him because of the progression of his disease. “I was quite lucky. I grew up in a really nice foster home. My foster parents are amazing. Overall, I had the best foster care experience I could ask for,” says Anthony.
Although Anthony is no longer under the care of CCAS (he turned 21 earlier this year) he still has a relationship with his foster parents. They often visit him at school in Ottawa and take him to his doctor’s appointments.
This year, Anthony was one of the 106 Hope for Children Fund scholarship recipients. “Going to university is expensive and I didn’t have an RESP. I was on my own so I applied for OSAP and other scholarships. Without the Hope for Children Fund scholarship I would be in deeper debt or perhaps not even able to complete my education. I am grateful for the additional help,” says Anthony.
Every year Hope for Children Fund awards scholarships to current and former crown wards of the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto who are pursuing a post-secondary education. The scholarship ceremony, held at Hart House, University of Toronto, on September 19, gave students the opportunity to mingle as they enjoyed a wonderful meal, followed by an awards ceremony.
Anthony was unable to attend the event this year because he was at school in Ottawa, however he was glad to receive the scholarship. For students with disabilities, post-secondary education can be more expensive. Anthony lives in a special residence and has access to an attendant who is able to assist him with his daily activities.
Anthony’s former Child Protection Worker, Skye Sweet is proud of Anthony’s academic achievements. “Anthony remains a determined hard working young man, who despite significant challenges remains focused on his goals,” says Skye. “Anthony is very bright, and he also has a great sense of humour. He is also very insightful. You could sit there and talk to him for hours about different things.”
Skye has been Anthony’s worker for more than five years and she is one of his biggest advocates. Earlier this year Anthony needed a new desktop computer. Due to his decreasing mobility, he was no longer able to use a laptop and docking station that he had. In Anthony’s field of study he is required to use a Macintosh computer for design and animation.
Upon learning that Anthony needed a new computer, Skye got to work trying to find someone who could help Anthony get one. “Skye works really hard to help me get what I need,” says Anthony.
Skye was successful – within a matter of days she had found two donors who shared the cost of the new computer. “It is an unbelievable relief that I now have this computer,” says Anthony. “I was very stressed about being able to get a new one. I couldn’t be luckier. I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Still with just over one year left in school, Anthony is excited about graduating. “I hope to move to Vancouver when I graduate, where I hope to get a good job. I know it will involve design and likely programming, but it could be for anything from web to video games. I also plan to use my skills to be a consultant and design for products and services for physically disabled individuals.”
To support other post-secondary students like Anthony, please visit www.hopeforchildren.ca.