Taylor Redmond receives Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers

For Taylor Redmond volunteering isn’t just something that he does – it’s a fundamental way of life.

The 24-year-old Aberfoyle resident is heavily involved in the Ontario Special Olympics and has been an athlete with the program since he was just eight years old.

In addition to maintaining his athlete status, Taylor also presents motivational speeches and participates in fundraisers in support of Special Olympics.

“I do like to share my knowledge with young people and others with disabilities,” Taylor said.

Simply put, volunteering makes him happy.

Taylor participated in the 2016 Ontario Special Olympics Spring Games in Guelph from May 26 to 28, taking home the silver medal in basketball with his Guelph team.

On May 30, just one day after the games concluded, Taylor headed to Toronto to receive the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers from Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell at Queen’s Park.

This year only 10 nominees received the medal, which is the highest honour a young person aged 15 to 24 can achieve for volunteer contributions to the province.  

Jason Dudgeon, former program director at the Community of Hearts Lifelong Learning Centre in Guelph, put Taylor’s nomination forward. The not-for-profit organization helps adults with disabilities continue to learn and gain more independence.

Taylor has Down syndrome and he’s not just a Community of Hearts participant – he also offers to help out others in the program.

He reflected on one instance where he was bowling with the group and he helped out a man who had a walker.

“Since he has a walker there was no way he was going to bend down and then get the ball,” Taylor said. “There was a ramp they have there and they wanted somebody to help him so I was the guy that made sure he can at least line up a ball so he can shoot it.

“So it was a fun day that I get to help him with.”

In his nomination letter Dudgeon stated, “Taylor’s self-confidence, engaging personality and perseverance have helped him succeed in his life. He now wants to help others ‘be the best that they can be.’”

Taylor’s dad, Steve Redmond, said it took a few days for the significance of the award to sink in, but once it did, Taylor was happy.

“I did feel pretty good because the supports that were there, like my parents were there, my mom and dad, my nominator Jason Dudgeon … and his wife Andrea and my two friends Glenn Macdonell (CEO of) Special Olympics Ontario and also my buddy Nick Boychuck,” Taylor said.

Steve too was happy with his son’s accomplishment.

“Well, I think that my wife and I, we were very, very proud of the young man and we were very … in awe that he won the award,” Steve said.

“But he truly deserved it.”

Taylor’s volunteerism in the community is going to continue.

One of the big ways he contributes to Special Olympics is through MotionBall, a not-for-profit organization that strives to bring awareness to and raise funds for the Special Olympics Canada Foundation.

Taylor participates in the gala fundraiser as well as the Marathon of Sports, where corporations enter teams to play two games each of soccer, basketball, benchball, ultimate frisbee and flag football in one day.

Steve explained that each of the approximately 70 teams that participate include a Special Olympics athlete. He said the Marathon of Sports raises approximately $300,000 for Special Olympics in one day.

Taylor is also a motivational speaker who travels to elementary schools, high schools, universities and corporations to tell his story.

Last year he did four speeches at Denso Canada, a corporate fundraiser for the Special Olympics and he also did a speech at Rozanski Hall at the University of Guelph in front of more than 400 third and fourth year kinesiology students.

He told them about the Marathon of Sports as well as about his Special Olympics journey.

“I do it because I want to help and I’m happy with volunteering,” Taylor said.

His first volunteer gig was at the Mitchell Athletic Centre at the university, which has now turned into a part-time job.

In addition to Sports Taylor is passionate about interviewing and reporting. His two passions paired well when he began a Sports radio show on the campus radio station.

“Boss” Taylor can be heard every Wednesday on CFRU 93.8 FM with his show about Gryphon Sports, community Sports and Special Olympics. Two fellow Special Olympics athletes co-host with him.  

Taylor and Steve spend time each week combing through the Gryphon’s website for campus Sports information and then they put together a script for each show.

“He tries to get the other guys involved but they don’t want to read the script so he does and they have breaks in between,” Steve said.

In addition to his volunteer position at the radio station Taylor video records his interviews to air on his YouTube channel. To see some of Taylor’s material visit http://www.taylorredmond.ca.

 “I want to do all of my interviews but I think my future interview will be Drew Doughty, hopefully,” Taylor said.

The Los Angeles Kings defenceman played for the Guelph Storm and both Taylor and Steve are hopeful they can set the interview up.

“That would be his dream, his dream interview,” Steve said.

Taylor is no stranger to high profile interviews. His first ever was with race car driver Mario Andretti.

In addition to his volunteer work and athletics, Taylor is enrolled in the University of Guelph and the Community Living Guelph Wellington pilot Campus Friends program.

“They try to experience campus life on the campus,” Steve explained.

“So they sign up and they have a partnership with University of Guelph so the main focus is [in the library] and they go on the computers and things but then they go out and visit classes.”

University student volunteers take the participants in the campus friends program to various classes around campus with the permission of each of the professors.

Taylor is part of the first cohort to move through the program and has one more year before he graduates in June 2017.

Now that the Special Olympics Spring games are over Taylor is going to continue training in basketball, get back into swimming, continue his advocacy for persons with disabilities and continue searching for interesting interviews for his radio show and YouTube channel.

“We’re just following his lead and that’s what I think most parents should be trying to do,” Steve said.

“If he likes Sports and media, which is what he likes to do, try to follow the lead and move them in the direction of their passion and what they’re good at.”

To his son Steve added, “you’re good at doing what you are Taylor, with the media and the interviews.

“It’s like a snowball, we’re going to just keep following you and if we need to do extra work to do it we’re going to be doing that extra work to get where you want to be.”