Volunteer Spotlight: Roger Roy

Top photo: Roger is second from the right.

It’s no secret that we love our volunteers. They’re a key piece of what makes our programs and events so special.

This National Volunteer Week, we’re celebrating the positive impact our volunteers have had on Canucks Autism Network (CAN) participants across BC by featuring a handful of their stories on social media and our blog.

Did you know that CAN has 200+ volunteers across British Columbia?
Join our volunteer team >

Today, we’re highlighting Roger Roy.

A retired father of two, Roger began volunteering with CAN because of his sons, both of whom are on the autism spectrum.

After volunteering in both Children’s and Youth & Adult programs, Roger discovered that his ability to relate to teenagers on the spectrum set him apart.

“As much as I loved working with kids in the swim program, I found it easier to relate to teenagers, possibly because I have two grown sons of my own.”

Roger (2nd from left) helping CAN youth & adults with digging & maintenance work at Little Campbell Hatchery.

Roger’s passion for working with Autistic teens was so strong that, a couple of years later, we were proud to have him join our Employment Programs and Services Team as staff.

Having raised two boys on the autism spectrum, Roger knew how challenging it could be finding support for Autistic individuals, especially once they enter their teen years. Rather than enjoying a quiet retirement, he decided to go back to school so that he could provide support to other families like his.

While studying to become a Behavioural Interventionist at Douglas College, Roger signed up to volunteer in CAN programs to get hands on experience working with individuals on the autism spectrum. After his first program, Explore Volunteering, he quickly realized the impact he could have.

“I was volunteering in a program with these two boys that were 15 or 16 years old. They were so fun to be around. I loved working with them, encouraging them, teaching them new things, and kind of being their mentor.”

After volunteering in several Youth & Adult programs, Roger heard about the opportunity to become an Employment Support Worker through CAN’s Skills Training Employment Program (CAN-STEP).

Rogers helps a CAN youth with some holiday wrapping as part of the Explore Volunteering program.

“I remember hearing one of the instructors at Douglas College talk about how there was a need for workers to support teens and young adults. There’s a lot of people going into BI, but a real shortage of people working with that age group. So, when I saw that CAN was hiring, I immediately applied.”

Thinking of his own children and their experiences entering the workforce, Roger was determined to help create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for Autistic job seekers. And it’s clear that he has done just that.

“Roger became an Employment Support Worker about nine months ago and he’s been phenomenal”, said Robbie Hsieh, Director of Employment Programs and Services. “He’s so great at supporting CAN-STEP participants. I recently spoke with an employer that he was supporting, and they said he’s the best job coach they’ve ever worked with.”

For Roger, seeing participants develop their skills and confidence, and supporting them as they learn to navigate workplace culture is its own reward.

“My goal is for them to have sustainable employment, so they can go to work, be accepted, and be able to become increasingly independent.”

While Roger loves his current role, he credits his CAN volunteer experience with helping him find this new direction and giving meaning to his semi-retirement.

“It’s very rewarding work, either as a volunteer or an employee, because you get to change lives.”

“You give hope to people who may be experiencing difficult times, who may be getting bullied, who may not have the opportunities that neurotypical people have. They’re oftentimes looking for personal connections and you can provide that. Be a friend to them. A lot of the time, they’re looking for someone who’s warm and kind, who accepts them as they are.”

If you’re interested in making a difference like Roger, join our volunteer team >

More stories from CAN programs

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Meet Morgan: The first step is understanding and inclusion