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‘Look beyond the differences’: Halifax mom inspired to found Living Outside the Lines in honour of daughter

After Robin Gushue’s daughter, Olivia, was born with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, epilepsy and severe gastroesophageal reflux disorder, she started a blog to share her story and connect with other parents, which has since expanded to founding Living Outside the Lines. Here, Gushue is pictured with a model at See The Ability Fashion Show. - Renena Joy photo
After Robin Gushue’s daughter, Olivia, was born with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, epilepsy and severe gastroesophageal reflux disorder, she started a blog to share her story and connect with other parents, which has since expanded to founding Living Outside the Lines. Here, Gushue is pictured with a model at See The Ability Fashion Show. - Renena Joy photo

By Heidi Tattrie Rushton

Four years after Robin Gushue’s daughter, Olivia, was born with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, epilepsy and severe gastroesophageal reflux disorder, she started a blog to share her story.

“I was struggling with what many families raising children with extraordinary needs struggle with: the feelings of grief and loneliness,” she says. “Through my writing, I was able to connect with other families and it was here where my passion for advocacy developed.”

In February 2018, Gushue used the inspiration from her blog to start an organization called Living Outside the Lines in Halifax. Gushue spends her volunteer time running the organization with the board of directors, speaking to school groups about inclusion and has even spoken to the Nova Scotia Legislature regarding the Accessibility Act. She also puts a lot of hours into organizing events to help fund their programs.

Gushue’s favourite event of the year is the See The Ability fashion show, which features models who are living with extraordinary needs.

“When these kids and teens step and roll out onto the runway, they don't just shine, they beam,” she says. “Immediately, you can't help but be swept away by their confidence and poise. The purpose of this event is to teach society to look beyond the differences and see the person, and it’s doing just that.”

The funds raised at these events go towards the Bryleigh Young memorial scholarship program, which provides financial support for secondary education or training to high school graduates living with extraordinary needs, and an equipment funding program for specialized adapted equipment.

Accessing the resources and support needed for medically complex and disabled children can be financially challenging. As an example, Olivia, now a nine-year-old, requires specialized equipment, medication and various therapies daily to allow her to participate in activities and live a quality life.

“I see families like ours, every day, struggling with financial, physical and societal barriers,” Gushue says. “I live for the day that every child who requires specialized resources has barrier-free access to these resources, without putting their families into financial ruin.”

Gushue is motivated to keep volunteering because of the inspiring people she has come to know through the organization.

“They are talented, incredible individuals who are artists, philanthropists, athletes, daughters, sons, sisters and brothers, all who happen to live with extraordinary needs,” she says. “They have overcome adversity and have faced many challenges, but their drive and determination persevere.”

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