Marj Kennelly, Physiotherapist and Grandview employee of nearly three decades, has decided to retire from Grandview Children’s Centre. Though she may be heading into retirement, we know her legacy will live on.
So what inspired Marj, beloved Grandview PT, to begin her career working with children?
“I think the main thing is my fourth year placement in university, where I was working in Ongwanada with my clinical instructor Betty Torrible,” says Marj. “It was the connection with the kids and her connection with the kids, that was a huge part of it.”
She says that quite a few of the children she was working with at that time were actually inpatients at that hospital, and one of the children spoke to her.
“All you had to do was look at his face,” recalls Kennelly. “He was so engaging and wanting the attention and wanting you to play and help him figure out what he was going to do. He inspired me to go in this direction, more than anybody else. The kids kind of call to you and you really feel like you could make a big difference for them.”
Grandview: The Beginning
Soon after her placement, Marj began her career at Grandview Kids, though she didn’t start as a physiotherapist.
“I actually started in the school health program. When I was hired here we actually had the contract for the school health program so it has actually come full circle with the Special Needs Strategy coming,” says Marj.
At first, Marj was also doing work with the Preschool Outreach Program (POP), then worked with the 0-2 age group, then with the kids at Campbell Children’s School. It wasn’t until the last four years that Marj began working with adolescents.
After asking many colleagues and families about what impressed them most about Marj, it was her ability to keep the magic alive for kids who have reached their adolescent years.
Working with Adolescents
For Marj, it’s all about paying attention to what the client wants.
“You have to know what stage the kids are at and what their struggles are. If you can find out what they want to achieve and you treat them like a regular teenager, that’s where you start,” says Marj. “If they see you’re engaged in what they’re interested in and problem solving that, then I think you’ll get a lot further with them.”
According to Marj, the adolescent program doesn’t have many resources. She hopes to see a growth in this program in the future. For now, though, she’s a big supporter of using what the Abilities Centre has to offer, from the weight training programs or the track.
“If we can show them how to be successful when they’re in therapy and at Abilities, they should be able to bridge that out into the community and their schools,” says Marj. “I’m really hoping that with the special needs strategy, and the consolidation of the school health teams with the treatment teams that there will be more time and more efficient use of time so that we can do more program development and really meet the kids where they want to be participating.”
Marj’s technique with her clients is to push the kids to their fullest ability.
“There was this one guy and he’s going to know who he is, he was probably 11 and he had just come through a very tough orthopaedic surgery and he was a hard worker,” recalls Marj. “I was seeing him several times a week and it was a Friday afternoon…and I said to him ‘okay, I think you’re doing so well you’re ready to try something new!’ He looked at me and said ‘Marj, you’ve worked hard this week and I’ve worked hard this week. I think this can wait until next week.’”
“That’s what I love about working with the kids. They are so funny and so frank and they want to make changes and you just have to make that connection and they will come along with you, or they take us along for the ride really,” says Marj.
The Amazing Memories
Her fond memories of working with the kids here at Grandview don’t stop there. She remembers working with one of her clients, Ryan, to creatively adapt a canoe to his needs. To read more about this story, click here.
She remembers working with kids to get them downhill skiing and even having clients walk the halls of Grandview wearing flippers, to keep their toes from turning inwards. Marj’s creativity and innovation seems endless.
Marj also recalls that much of the children’s success would come from how invested their parents were. In one case, she recalls a client who was starting to find staying active difficult, was gaining weight and losing some skills.
“His dad came to me and said what do we do to turn this around, how can we keep him on his feet. He could do bike riding and that dad got him a reflective vest and adaptive bike and they rode the Courtice hills,” says Marj. “The kid changed dramatically and it was that dads connection. He just went all in after my recommendation. Has had a different outcome than where he was headed.”
Retiring After Nearly Three Decades of Service
As she looks back on her memories at Grandview Kids, Marj says that she has mixed feelings about leaving.
“I’m excited for the next chapter but I will definitely miss my colleagues here and the families and the kids,” says Marj. “The other hard part about leaving is that there are kids who are in the middle of something right now. Preparing for a surgery, or in the middle of casting or in the middle of a change that I know they’re going to achieve and I wish I could see that through, but on the other hand it’s my time to go…I’m very thankful that Corrie is going to be taking on this caseload, because she has a very similar vision to me and has that creativity and connection with adolescents especially. It gives me a lot of relief to know that she is taking it forward.”
Marj says that the kids and their families are what have kept her here for nearly 30 years.
“The kids, the connection, it’s the needs identified by the families that, it just feels like my calling. It feels like I’ve had an impact. I’m very proud of the programs that I’ve developed and a lot of them in conjunction with different peers over the years. The front line staff here are incredible and an incredible support, says Marj. “I really feel connected to the families and the kids.”