“I want to help other kids like me.”

November 30, 2021

My whole life, things have just been a little bit harder for me.

Harder to make friends. Harder at school. Harder to feel good about myself. But CAN has been by my side almost my entire life. Every step of the way, they’ve helped me realize just how much I can do.

My name is Nate Keller and I am a 19-year-old on the autism spectrum.

One of my earliest memories with CAN was when I was just six years old. My mom signed me up for their soccer camp at Eric Hamber. I was super nervous because I didn’t know anyone. I only knew me. I felt so scared I could barely look up. My hands felt like they were glued inside the pockets of my favourite black Adidas pants.

But something about the people there made me feel better. I remember feeling comforted by the staff. It felt like they already knew me somehow. They had a special way of making me feel safe. They made me feel like I belonged.

Every gift will help cover the true cost of ~$500/participant in a multi-week youth and young adult program.

Your generosity will allow someone like Nate to find their confidence and voice.

My mom says that I used to start every day by asking if it was a CAN day because then I would know that it would be a good day.

When I was little, CAN programs like soccer and basketball helped me learn to play sports like the other kids my age. Then when I became a teenager, I found myself caring more about social stuff, like making friends.

When the CAN Hockey program started, I knew I wanted to join. I made some of my best friends on the team.

We got to go to tournaments and stay in hotels, like other kids who played hockey. I loved being with the guys and talking to them on the bus and blasting trap music in the locker room. We had so much in common and we just understood each other, because they were like me and I was like them. Even the CAN staff made it easy for me to talk to them. They were always a good place to go when I needed support.

At school, I don’t always understand the jokes and things that other kids talk about. I had friends at school but it was hard to talk to them sometimes and I didn’t always feel included. I used to be really nervous talking about my autism because I couldn’t tell if people were curious or just making fun of me. CAN made me realize that my autism was not something bad, but something special and unique about me. CAN made me feel good about myself and who I am. I didn’t know I could feel like that.

After so many years with CAN, I decided that I wanted to help younger kids like me by sharing my own experience with autism. I joined CAN’s Youth and Adult Leadership group and it taught me how to be confident. It taught me that my voice matters.

I then started volunteering for CAN so I could thank them for everything they did for me. Now I have this dream of working for CAN because I love the people there.

They understand me and how I think. They give us a safe place and make us feel good about ourselves. I want to do that for other kids. I want them to know that people will love you because of your autism.

I want them to know that having autism is special. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I was recently asked what life would be like without CAN. The answer is easy. Life without CAN would be very hard.

Everything I have done at CAN has really helped me over the years. CAN allowed me to gain confidence and build a community of people I could talk to. CAN helped me become more happy with myself. I don’t think I could have made friends or joined the swim club or track team at school if I didn’t have CAN. But mostly, I don’t think I would have a good outlook on the world if it weren’t for CAN.

I guess I don’t know for sure where my life would be without CAN. With your help, no child on the spectrum will have to know what growing up without CAN would feel like.




Nate Keller
CAN Participant, Volunteer, and Future Staff



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