In October of 2020, NONA celebrated its 45th birthday. As the Centre rapidly approaches half a century, we tasked our 2021 summer student, Maddy Tupper, with the job of documenting our history.

Maddy writes, “It was easy to visit the record room and read binders of past AGM meeting minutes. The binders contained factual events about NONA along with the dates in which they occurred. However, the records did not capture the true essence of NONA. For 46 years, this organization has provided physical therapy and support services to children and families in the Okanagan. There are many forgotten personal stories, shared laughs, family milestones, and treasured experiences”.

Through the month of July, Maddy conducted eight interviews with past and present staff. She heard about the emotional side of NONA and the personal experiences of staff. Maddy noted that everyone made it clear that they loved their job and described their experience at NONA with passion. She reported that staff faces lit up when they recalled a child’s success or remembered a fun staff event. From the interviews, a theme emerged: the importance of teamwork and friendship in the workplace.

Maddy also reported that she learned valuable life lessons from listening to these eight women. As a 20-year-old student, she is unsure of her life direction. However, after talking with NONA staff she shared that she wants to love her job as much as they do, or did. She reported that many of them worked at NONA for more than twenty years and from the way they gushed about their work experience, she was not surprised at NONA’s long employee retention rate.

Maddy collected the staff stories along with newspaper articles and photographs that had been packed away in the basement of the Treehouse building. Staff helped her with dates and gave her old photos and documents as she compiled a timeline of major events in NONA’s history.

What we have learned is that this project is not yet complete and we look forward to hearing more stories to add new chapters in our history book.

Excerpts from Maddy’s interviews:

The Lives Touched

“T Bear was my therapy assistant. He was a bear that was about the size of a child and he was portly. At first, his chest was about the size of his head. I thought no respectable bear would have that slim a torso so I made him fatter. He’s got legs that move with clumpy feet, and his arms I made just a bit longer. I made a pocket so my hands could go in the arms and I could control him.”

– Maureen Thiel

“There was a young fellow who had a disability. I was in the store one day and I heard his voice shouting Joyce Todd, Joyce Todd, It’s Joyce Todd!! I knew who it was immediately and we had a great conversation at the top of our lungs in the middle of the store. There are families who live within our hearts that we will never forget.”

– Joyce Todd

“At Easter, we would get kids to decorate these paper Easter bonnets then we’d staple them and we would do a parade within NONA because we used to be in that warehouse in the big long building and so we’d go down the hallway and stop in every office and it’d be like an old small-town parade in the 50s just within the little NONA community. You’d be pushing a wheelchair or pushing a child with no language but they were a part of this parade with the little bonnets. Everyone loved it and the kids really looked forward to that.”

– Laurie Russell