Best of Richmond People

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Rick Hansen Relay

Emily De Boer and Rick Hansen

Emily and her sister, Audrey, were medal bearers in the Rick Hansen Relay. Check out the following links for the full coverage:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jEjp5eeTi4
http://www.richmondreview.com/news/152044735.html
http://www.richmondreview.com/community/152604225.html
http://www.richmondreview.com/news/152043515.html

Community gives Emily a new start

By Matthew Hoekstra – Richmond Review

Emily, Charmis, and Brian

It started small as most things do, but having lunch with the Man in Motion quickly changed that.

As Brian Williams sat across from Rick Hansen—the man who wheeled around the world raising money, awareness and hope for people with spinal cord injuries—he heard the story of Emily de Boer. Emily, a bright, athletic 12-year-old Steveston girl, had recently lost the use of her legs following a surgery that went wrong. On Feb. 14, 2011, an attempt to correct a spine curvature left her a paraplegic.

Emily needed a new bathroom—something right up the alley of Williams’ Richmond-based company, Ashton Service Group. But Williams and a growing army of volunteers decided to do one better: build the family an entirely new house.

‘We needed to start over’

During a visit home from the hospital last year, the de Boer family was hit with the understanding their newly-renovated Steveston house wouldn’t be their home for much longer. It wasn’t accessible, and alterations would be too costly.

Dad Grant carried Emily upstairs into the living room, where the family cat found a place to rest in a familiar lap. But when the cat darted down the hall the family fell silent.

“It was a very sad moment because she couldn’t run after the cat,” said mom Charmis. “That night she said to (us), ‘I don’t think I can live here.’ We needed to start over.”

They did, selling the home and buying a fixer-upper nearby. An architect drafted plans for another renovation.

Meanwhile, Williams and his wife Julie arranged to have dinner with Emily’s parents to hear the whole story. The next day, Williams knocked on the door of the de Boer family’s “new” house. What he saw was an old two-storey dwelling that needed a lot of work. It had a pool—Emily took up swimming again—but it wasn’t heated. And without an elevator, Emily was trapped downstairs.

A caring team

Williams, a father to 1 boy and 2 girls, was moved by Emily’s story, and shared it the next day over breakfast with a supplier, who immediately offered to donate bathroom fixtures. That had Williams thinking.

He approached his friend and contractor Ken Johnson. The pair had previously completed a similar renovation project for a Richmond firefighter paralyzed from a highway accident. Johnson didn’t hesitate to help again.

Renovation costs were tallied and the pair approached the de Boer family a few weeks later with more than just sketches for a bathroom.

“I think we should knock it over,” Williams told them. “Go find an apartment or house close-by and give us a year.”

Williams and his wife formed the Ashton Caring Team—focused on community involvement, volunteerism and corporate responsibility. The concepts weren’t new to Ashton, but the scale of the project led the company to organize its efforts under one umbrella.

Things started moving quickly. Williams started talking to friends and associates and offers to help began to pour in: lumber, plywood, roofing materials, windows, electrical supplies, kitchen cabinets, labour. So far 30 organizations or individuals are on board to help with what’s now being called “Project Emily.”

“The outpouring so far has been amazing,” said Williams. “Someone yesterday sent me a very large cheque. I couldn’t even phone him because I was so blown away by it… There’s a lot of compassion here.”

Wall of Giving

The de Boer house on Springhill Crescent—the one the family had originally planned to renovate—was flatted Dec. 15. Planned is a new 3,400-square-foot home with wheelchair accessibility at the top of the architect’s list.

Williams said the house is scheduled to be finished by late 2013—and give Emily some of her life back. Light switches will be within reach for Emily, and she’ll be able to open the front door, go upstairs in an elevator, make her own meals, take showers and access a heated, barrier-free pool outside.

Williams said his goal is to build the $500,000 house with the least amount of money from the de Boer family. His hope is to have the entire cost covered to help the family cope with future expenses.

A four-by-eight-foot sign is scheduled to be installed this week at the construction site to recognize donors. It will be called “Emily’s Wall of Giving.” And as the site is prepared for a new foundation, Project Emily is still seeking help from the community. Cash donations are needed, as is volunteer labour. A fundraiser is planned for the new year and a website (ashtoncaringteam.org) has been set up to co-ordinate donations.

“If everybody just gives a little, we can really model ourselves off the Free the Children motto, ‘From me to we,’ really quick,” said Williams, still amazed at how the project has come together so quickly. “I don’t go to church on Sunday, but I do figure that I’ve been pretty blessed somehow. It’s amazing how fortunate we’ve been.”

The de Boer family is now temporarily living in an apartment. Mom Charmis admits to nervous moments, especially seeing the flattened landscape where their house once stood, but said it warms her heart thinking of the support her family has—even from strangers like Brian Williams.

“He’s an angel, he really has no reason to be doing this. He just is.”

Making an impact

Williams’ company Ashton Service Group is one of the founders of the Caring Companies Program, a joint community initiative with Volunteer Richmond Information Services and the Richmond Chamber of Commerce.

The program brings together like-minded businesses wanting to make an impact in the community, and provides the tools, resources and connections to make it happen.

Volunteer Richmond’s executive director  Elizabeth Specht said Ashton’s commitment to the community—both the company and employees—is “awe-inspiring.”

“It’s just so obvious that Brian through his leadership, and now throughout his staff has created a culture of caring,” she said.  “The de Boer project is the ultimate of culture of caring. It’s phenomenal what Brian and others are committed to and are bringing others along to do with them.”

How to help

•Visit ashtoncaringteam.org to learn more about Project Emily and how to help. Trades and skills are needed, along with financial donations and general volunteers.

•For more information about the Richmond Caring Companies Program (third series begins in January) call 604-279-7020 or e-mail info@volunteerrichmond.ca.

Read the original article here: http://www.richmondreview.com/news/184992321.html?mobile=true

Richmond, B.C., Girl Gets New Home Thanks To Volunteers

Emily De Boer

A team of volunteers are working to build a new home for a 12-year-old Richmond girl left a paraplegic during an operation two years ago. Emily De Boer had an operation to fix a curvature in her spine but an error during surgery left her a paraplegic. She had trouble getting around her family’s current house, so some big-hearted volunteers are rebuilding it for her — complete with hardwood floors and an elevator. “It’s going to be, like, awesome, so I don’t have to get lifted everywhere,” she said, watching as the claw of an excavator dug into her home’s roof on Saturday. “I kind of like watching it come down because I know the sooner it’s down, the sooner the finished project,” she said. The project is being done entirely by volunteers like Brian Williams, who heard about Emily and her family through his friend Rick Hansen. The project started as a renovation, but soon turned into a full-scale demolition and rebuild.

“We decided, ‘I think it would be better to take the house down and start again,’” Williams said. Choking back the tears, Emily’s father Grant De Boer says he doesn’t even know how to begin to thank everyone. “I love them,” he said. “It feels like the end of our hard times and the beginning of some way better times.” The family’s new home should be ready by next Christmas.

See the original story on the Huffington Post’s website here: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/12/16/emily-de-boer-richmond-bc-spinal-curvature-new-home_n_2312131.html

Paralyzed girl’s family believes in angels after man’s help

Officially, Brian Williams is the long-time owner of a plumbing, heating and gas company, the man to call when your furnace is not working or your toilet is overflowing. But ask Charmis De Boer and she will call him an angel. A complete stranger just half a year ago, Mr. Williams is now spearheading a construction project that will help Ms. De Boer’s family, in many ways, rebuild.

In February, 2011, Ms. De Boer’s daughter, Emily, underwent surgery to correct a curve in her spine. Something went wrong during the procedure, and the active, athletic girl – then just 11 years old – lost mobility in her legs. The family was devastated.

A three-storey Steveston house that Emily’s dad, Grant, had spent years renovating into the family’s dream home was suddenly impractical. The family consulted an architect, but was told it was not feasible to make the property wheelchair accessible; the lot, for example, was too narrow to have wide passages on each floor. The family sold the home and moved into an old fixer-upper nearby, believing it would be easier to renovate.

Early this year, mutual friend Rick Hansen, the renowned advocate for spinal cord injury research, put the De Boer family in touch with Mr. Williams and his wife, Julie. Mr. Williams, president of Ashton Service Group, had some experience with access renovations, having recently helped renovate the home of a friend who now uses a wheelchair due to a car accident. The hope, Ms. De Boer said, was that Mr. Williams would help redo the bathroom and provide some general renovation advice.

“A lot of contractors are great at what they do, but when you take the accessibility piece into it, it’s like starting from ground zero,” Ms. De Boer said. “It was a big relief when Rick told me Brian was going to call … I was thinking it would be nice to work with a contractor with experience.” The families met in June.

The De Boers did not have the money to make all the needed changes at once, but figured they could tackle them – lower counters, wider hallways, double swinging doors and such – one at a time, starting with the most important elements.

Mr. Williams had another idea. Soon after their meeting, he said, he “began chirping” to friends in the construction industry. Suddenly, companies started coming forward with offers of labour and supplies, including plumbing fixtures, heating, lighting, electrical and excavation services. About a month after their meeting, Mr. Williams returned to the family with a thought: Let’s demolish and rebuild the entire house.

“I had to leave the room,” Ms. De Boer said. “My eyes welled up and I said, ‘You don’t understand.’ They can’t do that. At the time, I was thinking they didn’t understand we didn’t have the financial strength to pull this off. He said, ‘Don’t worry, we have some people helping us.’ I didn’t know what to say.”

She pauses to collect her thoughts.

“I think the gratitude for me is so large that I had a hard time getting past, ‘Really?’ It was just so big. You hear about things coming together like this on TV … but it doesn’t seem like something that happens to regular people.”

 

 

Brian Williams

Click here to read the story on Global and Mail’s website.

Volunteer Richmond – A Lesson In Giving

Emily de Boer

Emily de Boer and her sister Audrey are two of the most inspirational people you’ll ever meet. (If you don’t believe us, just read this story.) This blog post, by volunteer writer Benjamin Yong, is about them and the Richmond Christmas Fund and how giving back to the community has no age restrictions.

In November, Emily de Boer had her own booth at the Steveston Farmers Market. That in itself isn’t much of a story. But what if I told you that Emily is only 12 years old? The story’s getting a little more interesting, right? And what if I told you that she wasn’t there to sell anything – not arts and crafts, or jewelry, or baked goods – but was there instead to support the Richmond Christmas Fund, a cause she believes in and one her and her family have been involved with since she was just a toddler? At this point, I think you’ll agree that the story just got downright awesome.

Emily’s mom, Charmis, said that every holiday season, Emily and her younger sister Audrey, 10, would accompany her on a special night of shopping at Richmond Centre or Lansdowne Centre to buy gifts to donate to families in need, something they still do today. It was this lifelong involvement that was part of Emily’s motivation to hand out Christmas Fund brochures and collect cash and toy donations at the market on November 18.

“There are less fortunate families that don’t celebrate Christmas to the full potential, so this is just to help make Christmas a bit better for them,” said Emily, who, along with Audrey and a couple of their friends, returned to the Steveston Farmers Market on December 2 to help spread the word about the Christmas Fund. “I just feel like Christmas is supposed to be family time, and if people can’t enjoy it, it upsets me.”

During her first outing, Emily said a lot of people came by her table giving everything from the loose change in their pockets to $20 bills. Even Audrey’s Lord Byng Elementary classmates stopped by to show their support.

We don’t use the term “role model” very often, or very lightly, but even at just 12 years old, Emily de Boer definitely fits the bill.
For Charmis, the Richmond Christmas Fund’s message that giving is greater than receiving really lays the foundation for what the holiday season is all about.“The simplest things mean the most. If you’re a family that’s struggling, you can be struggling in many ways. We live in a world that’s very demanding on us financially and emotionally, and the Christmas Fund takes some strain off that.”

In 2009 Charmis’ workplace, Innovation Networks, an IT company in Richmond specializing in technical support, took part in a Leadership Richmond pilot project taking old computers donated by clients and refurbishing them to give to needy families. Student and company volunteers would help, and sometimes, even her children.

“My kids, being my kids, would get involved, and they witnessed what it means to give back,” said Charmis.

Obviously, Emily and Audrey learned a lot from what they saw. And now, perhaps others can learn from them.

See the original story here: http://www.volunteerrichmond.ca/News/VRISBlog/BlogDetails/12-12-05/A_Lesson_in_Giving.aspx

Ashton Service Group

Read the full PDF article http://www.richmondchamber.ca/files/Business%20Report%20Nov28.pdf.

Global BC Video News Cast

Emily with Brian from Ashton

See the video on Global BC’s website here: http://www.globaltvbc.com/video/community+helps+with+home+renos/video.html?v=2313996116&p=1&s=dd#stories.

Emily de Boer

Building a home for Emily

Business owner helps rebuild a home for wheelchair-bound child

By Lauren Kramer, Special to the News – December 6, 2012

There are angels among us in Richmond, and though he may look like a regular man in jeans and shirt, Brian Williams is surely one of them.

The owner of The Ashton Service Group, a 25-year-old plumbing company in Richmond, Williams is orchestrating the reconstruction of Emily’s House on Springhill Crescent.

The $500,000-rebuild will include an elevator, as well as rooms and bathrooms that are handicap accessible. Oh, and the owners won’t pay a cent towards it.

That’s because after his friend Rick Hansen sat Williams down over lunch several months ago and told him Emily’s story, Williams knew he had to do something.

Emily de Boer is a 12-year-old Richmond child who walked into BC Children’s Hospital for a spine curvature procedure on Valentine’s Day last year.

Something went horribly wrong during the surgery, resulting in a catastrophic T11 injury and leaving Emily a paraplegic.

Over the months that followed, this determined, optimistic youngster refocused her goals.

Instead of becoming a hockey and soccer champion, she decided she’d turn to swimming and make it her goal to excel.

Her living conditions were a challenge, though. At the time of her injury, the de Boer family had just moved into a newly-built, three-level Steveston home.

Entirely impractical for a wheelchair-bound child, it had to be sold.

Instead, they purchased an older house on Springhill Crescent in May, one with a swimming pool, but no greater handicap accessibility.

“We thought we’d modify it, piece by piece,” said Charmis de Boer, Emily’s mother. “But when we started working with an architect to find out what we’d have to do, we were pretty overwhelmed by the costs involved.

“Everything needed to be redone so that Emily could be safe and move fluidly through the house.”

Enter Brian and Julie Williams, who were so moved by Emily’s courage that they made a point of sitting down with the family, meeting Emily and discussing their situation.

“Initially I thought they just needed a bathroom renovated,” Brian Williams said. “But once I gained a deeper understanding of their needs, I spoke with my friend Ken Johnson, who owns Carrera Projects in Surrey, and we decided that rather than renovate, we were going to rebuild this home.”

A leader with a big heart and a large database of friends and connections, Williams set about forming a committee and requesting donations for Emily’s new house.

Moen offered to supply the faucets, Kohler stepped in for the plumbing fixtures while local supplier BA Robinson agreed to supply all the mechanical, heating and plumbing equipment for the project.

The offers came pouring in, Williams said.

“My relative works for Coniflex Lumber in McKenzie, B.C., and when his boss heard about the project he said they’d supply all the lumber for the house.”

Delta Aggregate volunteered to demolish the existing property on Dec. 17, Disposal King supplied the bins for the demolition and Pure Image in Vancouver has set up a webcam that can be viewed from Williams’ website, ashtoncaringteam.org.

The company will also donate a sound system for the new, 3,400-square-foot home.

“Forty per cent of the job is done, the big things have been donated already and we’ve spent very little so far,” said Williams.

He’s still looking for companies to step up and take care of roofing, landscaping, paving stones for the driveway and pool deck, cabinets, tile and finishing material such as doors, paint, drywall and insulation.

But once that’s all done, Martina Wilson, an interior designer, will wave her wand and make Emily’s new house an attractive new home for the family when they move back to Springhill Crescent next Christmas.

De Boer has no words to express her appreciation and surprise at what Williams and his team are doing for her family.

“It’s just beyond what anyone would ever expect of human kindness,” she said. “I can’t even say what this means to me without bursting into tears. There are no words to express how grateful we are for the help and support.”

After close to two years of severe financial and medical obstacles, challenges and struggles, she’s anxious to get some normality back in her family’s life.

“Our new normal is going to be a long, long marathon, forever far from what normal is for most people,” she said.

“But I can’t stress enough how important it will be just to have a family home that’s fluid and free of barriers for a child who would never have expected, at 12 years old, to be in a wheelchair.”

No stranger to acts of kindness, Williams says he has three children of his own and knew that “this could happen to any one of us. But Emily is so positive, she’s going to be the next Rick Hansen,” he said with a big smile.

Every now and then he receives emails from the de Boer family expressing their heartfelt appreciation for the project he’s initiated and is overseeing.

“I told them, ‘this is just a stop on the road for us. We’ve got to get your house done because we have a whole bunch of other people we need to help – and you’re coming in with me on the next one.’”

“With just a little bit of effort from everyone, we can go from me to we pretty easily and make a difference in our town,” he said.

Read more: http://www.richmond-news.com/life/Serving+across+religious+nets/7558654/story.html#ixzz2FLY0Zn6R

Read the full story on Richmond News’ website here: http://www.richmond-news.com/news/Building+home+Emily/7663328/story.html

Emily Boer, CBC News

Richmond, B.C., Girl Gets New Home Thanks to Volunteers

A team of volunteers are working to build a new home for a 12-year-old Richmond girl left a paraplegic during an operation two years ago.

Emily De Boer had an operation to fix a curvature in her spine but an error during surgery left her a paraplegic.

She had trouble getting around her family’s current house, so some big-hearted volunteers are rebuilding it for her — complete with hardwood floors and an elevator.

“It’s going to be, like, awesome, so I don’t have to get lifted everywhere,” she said, watching as the claw of an excavator dug into her home’s roof on Saturday.

“I kind of like watching it come down because I know the sooner it’s down, the sooner the finished project,” she said.

The project is being done entirely by volunteers like Brian Williams, who heard about Emily and her family through his friend Rick Hansen.

The project started as a renovation, but soon turned into a full-scale demolition and rebuild.

“We decided, ‘I think it would be better to take the house down and start again,’” Williams said.

Choking back the tears, Emily’s father Grant De Boer says he doesn’t even know how to begin to thank everyone.

“I love them,” he said. “It feels like the end of our hard times and the beginning of some way better times.”

The family’s new home should be ready by next Christmas.

See the original article on CBC News’ website here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/12/16/bc-emily-de-boer-new-home.html

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