By Louise Leger
It’s been 10 years since Carrie Hage donned her running shoes and ran her first half-marathon. It was a turning point for her.
“I really enjoyed the challenge, and then a lightbulb went off. I thought, ‘If I can do this, what else can I do?’” It inspired her to go back to school and get her Masters in Applied Theatre—and led to her most current challenge.
Carrie is taking part in SAAAC’s annual fundraiser August 2-9, which this year has morphed from a walkathon to a fundraiser with captains (like Carrie) undertaking various fitness and wellness challenges and encouraging others to do the same or to sponsor them.
“I am someone who needs a goal to do something so this fundraiser gives me something to work toward,” she said. “It has been a tough time for everyone lately, and this challenge will help me get out the door and keep up my motivation, and maybe encourage others to do the same.”
Carrie is going to start at 5k on August 2 and add a kilometre every day so that over the week it will add up to 45k. She is sharing videos and posting recommendations and sharing some of her favourite ways to keep healthy and happy.
Carrie is an ongoing supporter of the SAAAC Autism Centre in Scarborough, which helps families touched by autism—many of them new Canadians—through diverse therapies, arts and fitness programs and social support.
As an artist-educator and autism advocate, Carrie first collaborated with SAAAC in 2015 on the Sensory Storytelling Project, an adaptable way of storytelling that uses all the senses, household items and actions to create and tell stories and to help parents and caregivers tell relatable stories.
Since then, she has directed Silver Linings: An Autism Musical in 2018, about the journey of an artist with autism working towards his dream of becoming a recognized musician.
She has also worked with SAAAC on several other storytelling projects.
“Working on the storytelling program and seeing the impact, and seeing the kids, is a constant reminder that there is more than one way to do things,” Carrie says. “There are many ways to tell a story and to communicate.”
Sometimes however, working with kids with learning disabilities or autism, it can take, time, effort and imagination to reach and connect with them, she says. But, as we know, Carrie likes a challenge.
“It can be challenging to find a way ‘in,’” she says. “With sensory storytelling, I am not just helping the kids and parents, I am expanding my communications skills as well to find that connection. I’m always learning.”
The Storytelling Project at SAAAC was inspired by Carrie’s work and training at Mencap, a U.K. charity for people with learning disabilities. There, she says, she learnt the importance of “telling stories with children, instead of telling stories to children.”
“Meeting and working with Geetha Moorthy, founder and executive director of SAAAC Autism Centre, “has been amazing,” says Carrie. “What she has created in terms of a community is incredible, and she always made me feel most welcome. Geetha understands and celebrates the importance of the arts in education.”
Carrie currently work with the British Council in Toronto, on their arts programs. “I really believe in community-building through the arts,” she says. “So, I have loved working at SAAAC. I hope SAAAC gets as much out of it as I do.”
To donate to Carrie’s pledge page, please visit https://walkathon.saaac.org/challenges/30.