Champions Career Centre: Research Participants Needed! Champions Career Centre: What kind of smartphone should I use? Champions Career Centre: Champions Open House, April 30th Champions Career Centre: Alberta Works Week: Employer Forum, May 2nd Champions Career Centre: 5 Steps You Should Think About Before Buying Assistive Technology, Part 2 Champions Career Centre: Parkinson's in the Workplace Champions Career Centre: Disability Awareness: Parkinson's Disease Champions Career Centre: Scotiabank Calgary Marathon: Support Us Champions Career Centre: The 5 Steps You Should Think About Before Buying Assistive Technology, Part 1 Champions Career Centre: CFT7 Disability Employment Symposium, May 8th and 9th Champions Career Centre: Anne's Story: Finding My Purpose Champions Career Centre: Diversity Champion: TELUS Spark Champions Career Centre: WhatGivesYYC: Vote for Us!

HRAC Golf Tournament, May 27th

Thursday, April 25, 2013

We would like to extend a thank you to the Human Resources Association of Calgary (HRAC) for selecting Champions as the Charity of Choice for their upcoming Annual Golf Tournament!

Please join us for a day of fun on the links with our friends from the HRAC as we shift the perception of disabilities in the workplace!

When: May 27th, 2013

Where: Earl Grey Golf Club

Time: 1:00 pm Shotgun Start

Non-member cost: $200 | Member cost: $125

Event Information: Golfers of all skill levels are encouraged to participate. Come and meet your fellow HR professionals (and win some fabulous prizes while you’re at it!)

Mulligans (aka do-overs) will be for sale at registration check-in. All proceeds from Mulligan sales will go to the Champions Career Centre(

Registration includes: lunch, 18 hole green fee, power cart, range balls, dinner and prizes.

Register before April 26, 2013 and you will be automatically entered into winning a $500 Travel Gift Certificate to travel to any destination you would like! Vegas...Mexico..Europe - Your Choice!

Dinner and Prizes to follow after golf.
To register, please visit

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Research Participants Needed!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Are you a person with a disability or the immediate family member of a person with a disability?

The Government of Canada is conducting a study about government programs for persons with disabilities and issues related to saving for the future.

If you or your immediate family member with a disability is in receipt of the federal Disability Tax Credit, you might be eligible for the study.

As a participant in this study, you will be asked to participate in:

1) a 2 hour focus group (which is scheduled for May 14 in Calgary) or
2) a 40 minute telephone interview.

In appreciation for your time, you will receive a $75 cash honorarium.

To volunteer for this study, please contact us at 1-866-770-4649 and leave a message with your name and telephone number. Someone will call you back to confirm your eligibility for the research.

This study is being conducted on behalf of the Government of Canada by Phoenix SPI, an independent Canadian research firm.

Your personal information will be treated in complete confidence.

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What kind of smartphone should I use?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

*The following is a guest post by Mark Flores of Handi Enterprises. Mark has 17 years of experience in providing adaptive technology and communication devices and is confident that Handi Enterprise can provide solutions to meet your adaptive technology and communication needs.

Many people, including me, say that smart phones are the personal computer of the 21st century.  They are about as common as the Walkman was in the 80s or the pager of the 90s.  Because of these amazing inventions people can now work and play anywhere they choose.  Yes this does include people with disabilities.  As a company we receive several questions a month from our consumers asking, what kind of smart phone they should use.  I am writing this blog post to answer this very question.

One of the 1st things we tell our customers is that their choice of smart phone should depend less on its style or its status symbol and more on their ability to use it.  You can have the slickest looking smart phone on the market but if you cannot physically use it, is just as good as a pet rock.  We like to say that you should look at smart phones just as you would any other type of assistive technology.  This means that doing your research is most important.  Research not all of the plans available although that is important as well; but research about the physical aspects of using the smartphone of your choice.  Ask yourself “how easily can I make a phone call, send an email, this into music, surf the Internet or review media on this phone?”  You should also reconcile your smart phone choice with your physical ability.  Are you going to be able to push the buttons on the phone?  Can you hold the phone?  How difficult is it going to be for you to use the phones operating system?

As a person with a disability wanting to join the smart phone age you should look at your daily life and activities which will help you start to think about what exactly it is you need the smart phone to do.  Are you like me sending hundreds of emails a day?  Or do you just wanted to be able to access your Facebook page?  Is listening to music your main concern?  Answering questions like these and the ones posed above can help you through your journey in selecting one of these amazing phones by helping you narrow your focus, allowing you to be honest about your own ability.  Once you can be that honest you can start to choose a phone that will work and not just one that looks great.

It is important for you as a consumer to know that there have been many advances in the field of assistive technology specifically related to the use of smart phones by people with disabilities.  So even if you do not think that you could ever use a phone there are probably many ways in which you could.  In future blog posts myself and my team here at Handi Enterprises Inc. will discuss some external forms of assistive technology that can help you control smart phones and tablets.  But for the purposes of this blog series I will be discussing some of the amazing advances in adaptive technology specifically through accessibility settings on the phones themselves that could make all the difference in the world for you.  I will be discussing these from my perspective as a user with Cerebral Palsy and as such I will not be able to comment on every accessibility feature on both the Android and Apple systems.  Rather I hope that my experience of 30 days with both of these forms will give you some insight so that you will be able to make your own choice.  I will be rating the features that I do discuss using the following criteria:

1.) Ease-of-use
2.) Responsiveness
3.) Does the product perform as advertised?
4.) How much physical dexterity is required to use the product i.e. can anyone with any disability utilize it?

Stay tuned for next week’s post and I will begin by talking about my experience with the iPhone.

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Champions Open House, April 30th

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Struggling at work or with your job search?

As part of the inaugural Alberta Works Week, we are hosting an Open House on April 30th to allow you to meet our staff, view our business centre and computer lab, and learn about how Champions can help you find the right job or succeed in your current role.

Our doors are open to the public from 10 am to 4 pm, please feel free to come in at any time during our Open House.

We will be hosting a general information session and an interactive workshop for those people looking for a more in-depth look at the services Champions provides. The general information session will show how we emphasize your skills, ability, potential and self-worth while developing an employment plan which is right for you.

Our complementary workshop, "Help employers see your disability as an advantage", is an hour long interactive session which will help identify your strengths and show you how to communicate them to employers.

All of the services we provide at Champions are at no cost to you.

Date: Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Time: 10 am to 4 pm
Address: Suite 650, 839 5th Ave SW, Calgary, Alberta

Information Session: 1:00 pm
Workshop: 3:00 pm

Space is limited for the information session and workshop, reserve your spot by using the link below or calling 403.265.5374.

Register Now

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Alberta Works Week: Employer Forum, May 2nd

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

We would like to extend an invitation to all of our employer partners and interested parties to a special event during the first annual Alberta Works Week.

The focus of Alberta Works Week is to increase public awareness of labour needs and employment resources for all Albertans. An important consideration is the engagement of under-represented groups in the labour market and how they contribute to Alberta’s Workforce.  A triathlon of employment events is being held in Calgary assisting mature workers, persons with disabilities and persons with developmental disabilities successfully find and secure jobs.

Wrapping up Calgary’s triathlon will be the Sprint to the Finish Line – Hiring Untapped Talent employer forum.  We know how important it is to find skilled, suitable and responsible employees.  This forum for employers will focus on talent pools found among persons with disabilities and mature workers.  Keynote speakers, opportunities to share stories about challenges and successes, and networking with fellow employers will make for a fast-paced and interesting event.

If you would like to attend, please see below for event details, including registration instructions.

Event:  Employer Forum - Hiring Untapped Talent
Date:  Thursday, May 2, 2013
Time:  8:30 a.m. to 12 Noon
Location: McDougall Centre, 4th Floor, 455 - 6 Street S.W., Calgary
(Please register by Friday, April 26.  Space is limited)

For more information on activities being held during Alberta Works Week, please visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at

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5 Steps You Should Think About Before Buying Assistive Technology, Part 2

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

*The following is a guest post from Mark Flores of Handi Enterprises, Inc. In this five part series he discusses assistive technology and the process each person should go through in purchasing it. Come back each week for a new article about buying assistive technology. You can view Part 1 here

Prices in the assistive technology industry are out of reach for most of our customers.  So much so that most of them need to access outside sources of funding in order to buy it.  As an informed consumer we recommend that if you think you need to secure outside funding in order to afford adaptive technology, do some research as to the funding sources that may be available to you.  In Alberta, there are several governmental and nongovernmental resources that you may be able to access to help you.  Some of the funding programs that we work with from a government perspective include programs like: ACETS, ICAN, REACH AADL AHS, and DRES just to name a few**.  Click here to learn more about how these programs may be able to help you.  If you find that these government programs just are not for you there are a number of nongovernmental organizations who may be able to help.  Check with a disability organization that serves you to see if they offer this type of funding.  Here are a few that we work with: Canadian Paraplegic Association Alberta (CPA,) Easter Seals Alberta, and the Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta (CPAA.)  If you have access to disability insurance many of these companies can help you access assistive technology.  Here is a list of Canadian disability insurance companies that might be able to assist you.  Two notes here: many of these programs have their own eligibility criteria we recommend that you check with the ones that you would like to use to make sure that you meet their eligibility requirements.  Some of these programs also offer assessment services so that they along with the assistive technology company that you use can ensure that you are matched appropriately.
Our experience working in the industry has taught us that the most successful adaptive technology implementations have been with clients that are not afraid to be their own advocates.  Let us face it in this world of funding things happen; assessments can take forever, funding applications can get misplaced, you may be low on the priority list or you may have been rejected and have to file an appeal.  In these situations one should not be afraid to advocate for themselves by 1st, contacting continuously the particular funding programs to which you applied just to let them know that you are still in need.  Some funding programs will go as far as to put your request on a wait list or deny your request outright just to see if you are willing to go through the appeals process.  A good assistive technology company will help clients identify what funding sources will best work for them.  However, we can only take you so far in the application or appeals process because we have to maintain positive relationships with the funders that we work with.  Make no mistake, in this game it is the most active bird that gets the worm.
As a customer you hold the ultimate power; the power of choice.  What I mean by choice is your ability to choose the assistive technology company that will best fit your needs.  Most assistive technology companies are resellers; this means that we have the ability to bring in a number of products from a number of different manufacturers.  This does not mean that the company you choose has the technology that you are looking for.  So when you are evaluating assistive technology companies make sure that the one you want to use can get the products that you need.  You also want to make sure that the company you use knows what they are doing.  As a client you want to make sure that the company you choose to go with has the proper certifications and experience to install your product as well as to teach you how to use it.  When exercising your right to choose you should be looking for an assistive technology company that is known for their great customer service.  A good customer service team should realize that the process of implementing and making sure that your client is successful at using assistive technology does not just end when the sale is completed and your money is in their bank.  What makes assistive technology company great is how hard they are willing to work for you.  Do they offer more than just the products and installation?  Do they offer extensive after sales support?  How far are they willing to go to help you not only get the technology that you need, but to be able to use it successfully?
**Champions assists both clients and employers to complete their necessary paperwork required to access Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES). Contact us today to learn more about how you can access funding for assistive technology. 

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Parkinson's in the Workplace

Friday, April 12, 2013

As we mentioned in our blog post yesterday, April is Parkinson's Awareness Month and an excellent opportunity for us to discuss how this condition may have an impact in the workplace. A significant number of people diagnosed with Parkinson's disease are under the age of 65 and may have to find ways to accommodate their symptoms while at work.

Similar to many other health conditions, the symptoms and limitations facing each individual may vary dramatically. Certain people living with Parkinson's may not require any accommodations, while others may require more attention. Having an open and honest discussion between an employee and manager is always the key to finding the right supports.

The most common symptom associated with Parkinson's is uncontrollable shaking or tremors, which can cause difficulties with motor skills at work. Assistive Technology can provide many solutions to these difficulties. There are many alternatives to the mouse and keyboard which can make using a computer easier to use for someone experiencing tremors. If typing becomes too strenuous or tremors are too violent then speech recognition software can help. Similarly, page turners and grip aids can help with other tasks while at a desk or workstation.

Fatigue is also a common symptom related to Parkinson's and very simple accommodations can help mitigate some of the weakness related to the condition. Scheduling periodic breaks and flexible work schedules can allow an employee to work when they are feeling at their best. Simply moving a desk closer to other work areas - like a printer or restroom - can also serve to reduce fatigue.  Using a scooter or similar aid can also make travelling to and around the office easier.

Problems with concentration and focus are also related to Parkison's, whether it be from the lack of dopamine production in the brain or because of sleep pattern problems. An office or workspace which is quiet can help remove distractions, and written reminders and scheduled interruptions can help an employee struggling with concentration stay on task. Providing clear, written instructions and prioritizing job tasks can also make it easier to focus on pertinent activities.

As you can see, almost all of these accommodations require little or no cost. They just require a different perspective and open attitude to how to help an employee succeed. For those accommodations which may be costlier - like a mobility aid or assistive technology - there are funding supports available to employers and employees in Alberta.

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Disability Awareness: Parkinson's Disease

Thursday, April 11, 2013

April is Parkinson's Awareness Month and an excellent opportunity to raise awareness and education about this disease. About 1 in 250 people in Canada over the age of 40 live with the disease, with the rates increasing to 1 in 100 for those over 65. However, in rare cases the condition can appear as early as childhood.

You are probably familiar with the most common symptom of Parkinson's Disease, which is uncontrollable tremors or shaking. Over the past 20 years we have watched as high profile celebrities, like Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox, have battled with the disease - often in the public eye.

The symptoms of Parkinson's extend beyond tremors and shaking. Stiffness and rigidity in the muscles, impaired balance, fatigue and problems with handwriting or posture can all be linked to Parkinson's. All of the symptoms are related to the death of cells in the brain which produce dopamine, a chemical which carries signals between the nerves that control movement and coordination. As a degenerative disorder, the symptoms worsen over time as the brain produces less dopamine as the disease progresses.

Currently there is no cure for Parkinson's, but there are many drugs that can help treat symptoms of the disease. Parkinson's progresses at different speeds in each individual and drugs can have varying effects on each person. 13 years after announcing his departure from television because of his battle with Parkinson's, Michael J. Fox is returning to a new show this fall thanks to a new drug regimen.

With the average age of diagnosis being in the mid-50's, there are many people who have to finish their careers or working lives while managing symptoms of Parkinson's. Tomorrow we will discuss Parkinson's in the workplace and accommodations which can help employees who are living with this condition.

In the meantime, please visit the Parkinson Society of Canada to further educate yourself on the disease, spread the word about Parkinson's, and help support the ongoing efforts to find a cure.

If you would like to read an account of what it may be like to live with Parkinson's Disease, then please read the personal story of Stephen, one of our volunteers here at Champions.

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Scotiabank Calgary Marathon: Support Us

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Do you love to run? Do you want to support Champions and our mandate to help persons with disabilities obtain meaningful employment?

Then join us for the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon on May 26th!

Champions has joined the Charity Challenge with a goal of raising $5000 for our organization. Many members of our Champions team will be participating, but we are also looking for people to run with us and others to sponsor our runners and organization for the race.

There are several options available for those interested in running, including:

  • Full marathon
  • 1/2 marathon
  • 10 km run
  • 5 km walk and run

Are you interested in running with us and raising money to help shift perceptions of disabilities? Here is how you can participate:

1. Register for the Race (You will need to do this before going to step 2.)

2. Follow directions on your confirmation email or if you have already registered for the race, but not the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, select the Champions as the charity you wish to support from the list on the left

3. Click on "Fundraise" then the "Sign Up" button and enter your information

4. Fundraise on your own or join a team and fill in your information

Now you can set up your own page and start fundraising!

If you just wish to to donate to Champions or support one of our runners, then follow these instructions:

1. Select a charity from the list on the left that you wish to support

2. Click on the "Fundraise" button

3. On the left column it says Support This Event click on "Individual and Team Search"

4. Enter the name of the individual or search for Champions Career Centre and make your donation!

If you are interested in making a direct donation to Champions then please just follow this link.

Thank you for supporting us in this endeavour! If you have any questions about the Charity Challenge or how you can participate in this event, please contact us. 

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The 5 Steps You Should Think About Before Buying Assistive Technology, Part 1

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

*The following is a guest post from Mark Flores of Handi Enterprises, Inc. In this five part series he discusses assistive technology and the process each person should go through in purchasing it. Come back each week for a new article about buying assistive technology.*

Technology Does Not Always Come First

If you think about it technology drives most of what we do every single day; be it sending an email down the street or around the world, using a cell phone while you are on your way to your next meeting or for coffee with a friend, to using a pair of headphones so you can listen to the latest audiobook bestseller or bring back memories that you associate with that favorite song.  Imagine if you could not easily do these things, if you needed another piece of technology just to be able to use something like your smart phone.  That is what assistive technology does.  Assistive technology evens the playing field for people with disabilities. Because it can do this it is no wonder that some of our clients get so excited when we show them something that can help them become an active part of this electronic age that we now live in.  For a few of our clients that excitement can wane. In this blog post I will explain why and what you can do to start enjoying the assistive technology that you need.

The 1st thing you as a prospective buyer of assistive technology can do is be honest about your need.  What I mean by that is, your search for assistive technology will go much quicker if you are able to fully articulate what you need the technology to do.  When you are thinking of why you need assistive technology, try to ask yourself these kinds of questions: will I need it for work or just for personal reasons?  What parts of my disability do I need to address?  For example, do I need it to type for me or do I just need to transcribe conversations?  Also ask yourself what kind of environment will I be using this technology in?  Will it be an open air environment or a closed environment?  Do I need to take it anywhere or can I just leave it at home or at work?  I find that the best way to answer questions like these is to take an in-depth look at everything you do throughout the day and everything that the piece of technology could help you with.  These questions are just examples.  Your situation might be a little different.  It is important to remember that there are no wrong answers to these questions.  Assistive technology has come so far that questions like these are not meant to keep you from using it they are just meant to make sure you are using the technology that is right for you.

As many pieces of assistive technology are designed to work with specific disability types for example real-time transcription for the deaf and hard of hearing community or computer-based speech recognition for those with mobility impairments, you need to be honest about your own ability level.  Clients often find it frustrating when they are presented with a particular piece of assistive technology that would work great for someone who can push a button but because they cannot, they are often stuck trying to make something that should work seamlessly into something that will only partially work.  When it comes to this type of technology you should never settle for “only partially.”  People in the assistive technology industry are good at adapting particular pieces of technology to work with individual levels of ability.  Assistive technology professionals are here to make your experience the best it can be so never be afraid to let us know when something just is not working for you.

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CFT7 Disability Employment Symposium, May 8th and 9th

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Community Futures Treaty Seven (CFT7) will be hosting their 6th Annual Disability Employment Symposium this May 8th and 9th at the Coast Plaza Hotel and Conference Centre in Calgary.

CFT7 advocates for inclusion in our community by collaborating with organizations and businesses that are actively hiring, training, retaining and supporting employment of First Nations People with disabilities.

The Symposium features several speakers, workshops, an interactive panel discussion and information fair.

For more information please visit or contact Johnathon Red Gun at

When: May 8th and 9th
Time: 7:30am to 5pm
Where: Coast Plaza Hotel
1316 33 Street Northeast
Calgary, AB T2A 6B6
(403) 248-8888

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Anne's Story: Finding My Purpose

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

“It all seemed so simple at the time but who knew that the pain and numbness in my hands would turn my life completely around.”

Having worked at a paint store for several years, Anne was used to working with her hands, but it was unusual when she first started experiencing numbness in her hands. Then one day she lifted a can of paint and her right hand gave way to severe pain.

Anne went to see a doctor, who confirmed that the tendons in her right hand were stretched beyond use. The doctor splinted her right hand and Anne was back at work a few days later….this time using her left hand to lift and load the paints. Eventually, the strain and overuse of the left hand led to its injury, the end of Anne’s job at the paint store, and landing on EI for nine months.

At this point in her life, Anne’s hands were so bad she could not even lift a cup of coffee.  She purchased kitchen equipment like food processors and changed up her routine and recipes, so that she could continue to cook. Her husband was also instrumental in helping her adjust to her new life. “I never thought of myself as disabled, says Anne. “I simply couldn’t use my hands and had to find new ways to do things.”

Anne was successful in landing a position with TD Bank for four years, and despite her injuries extending to now include her elbows, she worked there until the department was closed. Soon afterwards, she obtained a job with Calgary Health region as a receptionist, but was only able to work three months before the pain in her hands from the repetition of using computer keys became unbearable. She was laid off once again and forced to go on EI for six months.  

 “This was the first time in my life where I had no idea where to turn,” says Anne. “Your self-esteem takes a beating when you feel as if you can’t do anything anymore.”

After this, Anne tried her hand at several different positions, like working as a Recreational Aide to seniors, but the combination of the pain in her hands and the physical requirements of pushing seniors in wheelchairs eventually resulted in Anne being laid off once again.
Back on EI, Anne felt hopeless.

“I wanted my life to have purpose again. I knew I could do something, besides sit on social programs, and that is when I found Champions, “says Anne.  “Champions provided me with the direction and supports I needed to get my life back on track. Through their workshops, I learned new skills and met others who were also in the same position as me.”

Today, Anne is enjoying her new job as a companion for seniors.  “I love my new job – as a companion I visit with the seniors, play games, go for walks, push some of them in wheelchairs and sometimes even help feed them.  "Thanks to Champions, my life has purpose once again."

And thanks to new technology, Anne has undergone laser treatments for her hands and elbows. While she isn’t completely pain free, she still feels the results have been nothing short of amazing.  

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Diversity Champion: TELUS Spark

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Participants play Disability Jeopardy. For the full gallery,
click the image above.
We wanted to extend a huge thank you to the team at TELUS Spark, the Calgary Science Centre, for inviting us in to facilitate a Diverse-Abilities event this month.

Participants braved a snowy Calgary evening and it was refreshing to see such enthusiasm and active participation in learning more about disabilities from the staff at Spark.

The evening started with a competitive round of Disability Jeopardy, where three teams competed in a test of knowledge about disabilities, accommodation and accessibility. From there, the team at Spark were challenged to complete our disability simulation activities which included playing Nintendo Wii with a vision impairment, concentration exercises, wheelchair races and more. All of the activities are designed to show participants what it may be like to live with a certain disability, the barriers which may exist, and how simple accommodations can overcome these challenges.

Jolee Coulter, Manager of Daily Programs at the Science Centre, talked with us after the event to discuss her thoughts what her staff was able to gain from the event.

"These activities were absolutely perfect for the group we have, a mix of silly and learning, which is what we do for our visitors here. One of our greatest challenges at TELUS Spark is accommodating wheelchair users and older people with mobility issues. For our facilitators, the wheelchair races were a great way to understand what it means, and how it feels, to be in a wheelchair and how to better interact with our customers who use them."

Thank you once again Jolee for inviting us in and to the entire team at Spark for your enthusiastic participation. We took many photos and you can see the entire gallery of the event by clicking on the image above.

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WhatGivesYYC: Vote for Us!

Monday, April 01, 2013

We are honoured to have been selected as one of six finalists in the annual WhatGivesYYC contest hosted by Antosz Orthodontics.

So what is WhatGivesYYC? 

In their own words, "it’s all about connections. It’s about using a contest to connect you and your friends to some amazing charities in Calgary through the power of social media. It’s about connecting all of us to something better. It’s about connecting people to make our communities a better place for all of us."

Starting today, you can vote online - from your computer or mobile device - to select one of three charities to win a grand prize donation of $8000! You can vote for Champions daily, so make sure you come back every day to demonstrate your support.

With your help, through the simple click of a mouse, you can help support our mandate to shift perceptions of disabilities in our community and in our workplaces. So vote for us today, share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter, and be part of supporting persons with disabilities in Calgary.

"You Decide. You Vote. You Share. YOU will never know the difference YOU can make."

Vote for us today. 

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