Grandview Physiotherapist Marj Kennelly didn’t always plan on spending her time working with children. It wasn’t until connecting with one patient at Ongwanada (a children’s outpatient centre in Kingston) that Marj’s passion for working with children was sparked.
Kennelly recalls one young patient during her time there who really inspired 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. That’s what’s moved me to peadiatrics and what’s kept me here.”
Eventually, Kennelly’s life brought her to Oshawa, where she has worked at Grandview Children’s Centre as a physiotherapist for the past 30 years
For Marj, stand out moments happen almost every day. One particularly moving story, though, would be Ryan’s. Ryan was a normally developing child who had one major medical event that changed his life and his family’s lives forever.
This family used to spend their summers camping and enjoying the outdoors. After Ryan’s medical event, the family struggled to adapt to this new change. So, Marj decided that she would help them figure out how to continue to enjoy nature.
“We found them a lifejacket that was going to work for him, figured out his positioning in the canoe and since then…they travel with a camper and bring all of their equipment – he has a lot of specialized equipment – they pack it into the camper and bring it with them. It hasn’t slowed them down, they are still out and enjoying the things that they love,” says Kennelly.
Ryan’s mom, Kelly Smigielski, is incredibly thankful for the extra work Marj has put in for Ryan. She says that being able to see Ryan enjoying a paddle with his family again brought tears to her eyes.
“Ryan and Marj have a very unique relationship, one he has not had with any other therapist,” says Kelly Smigielski. “I know that she is always looking out for what is best with Ryan and how everything and anything can be improved to help him move through his life experiences.”
Marj has made house visits to make sure Ryan is moving safely around the house, checks to make sure that his home equipment is properly fitted and even attended his high school transition meeting to lend her expertise to the school team.
So, how does Marj come up with such unique and successful ideas for kids like Ryan?
“I don’t think we have to re-invent the wheel, I think we need to go out and look for people who are doing amazing things and then try and put our Grandview stamp on it and really pull Grandview forward so we can be on the leading edge,” says Kennelly.