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Compassionate • Enthusiastic • Energetic

Her Story

Debbie Murphy Quinlan

Coach - Special Olympics Swimming, Soccer and Baseball Teams

Debbie's Story :

I am grateful to have the opportunity to give to others in our community, especially those who face adversity.

Growing up in Thunder Bay, I was inspired by the time and commitment my parents gave to the service of others. I saw how much joy they received and brought to the lives of others. My father fulfilled a dream by building a summer ‘Wilderness Camp’ for families and children with physical, intellectual, and autistic exceptionalities. My mother gave her time unselfishly through volunteering with the Cancer Society.

Throughout my childhood, my mother and father fostered my love of performing in the arts and sports, specifically musical drama, choir, synchro and speed swimming. I experienced the impact of positive teamwork, encouragement, and determination. These passions are something I still enjoy today.

I believe in instilling these positive traits, and I’ve worked hard to do so through my teaching career, volunteer work, and while raising our family. When our children were faced with challenges and difficulties, ‘significant others’ came into their lives and made a difference. These individuals believed in our children, focused on their strengths, and developed their passions. My husband and I are forever grateful to these people. They inspired me and served as examples of positive service to others.

Visiting the elderly has also been a fulfilling experience for me. When our sons were younger they had a paper route; our daughter and I would help out on occasion. It was on the paper route that I met a wise woman named Jean, an 84 year old ‘customer’ who lived on her own.
We became great friends, meeting weekly for over 11 years! You never know how and where opportunities for meaningful relationships will emerge!

Volunteering with the Sick Kids Autism Research team, the Mount Community Centre, ‘Give Kids The World’ in Kissimee, Florida through the ‘Make a Wish Foundation’, and coaching Special Olympics and Challenger Baseball here in Peterborough motivates me to do more for the betterment of others. Special Olympians and Challenger baseball players energize me with their passion and the abundant joy they bring to sport. These players embody sport in its purest form. And team coordinators, managers, coaches, and community volunteers work to promote inclusivity.

Retirement has provided me with the gift of additional time, allowing me to expand my involvement in our community. This year I am thrilled to have the opportunity to bring women’s soccer and synchronized swimming to Special Olympians in Peterborough for the first time. I am currently working alongside a dedicated team of women to build inclusive, safe residences for individuals with exceptionalities. There is a huge need for this in Peterborough. But housing is just the start. While people need homes, they also need to be meaningfully involved in their communities. They need a sense of belonging. We should see the ABILITIES in individuals with exceptionalities and what they CAN do. Communities need to provide meaningful opportunities and employment based upon each individual’s STRENGTHS.

It is difficult for parents to navigate through the system to provide for their adult children; it is even more difficult for parents who lack ‘significant others’ or who struggle themselves. They simply fall through the cracks. I continue to work to support individuals and their families to try to prevent people from falling through the cracks and to realize their potential.

As I age and transition in life, this is becoming an increasingly significant focus for me, and I hope to approach it with the same passion and energy that I bring to my other areas of volunteering.