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Military couple normalizes receiving support from community

Military couple normalizes receiving support from community

Support Our Troops programming helped this military family feel supported as they navigated the financial realities of raising a child with exceptionalities.

Jackie Girvan, a Personal Selection Officer in the Army, has accomplished so much throughout her 16-year career. From graduating from her psychology program at the Royal Military College of Canada, to training as an International Military Sports Council (CISM) athlete, to now also working as a life coach, Jackie is the definition of leadership and perseverance.

She and her husband Matt, a fellow Officer in the Army, joined the military for a life of service and contribution. Together they have many accomplishments to be proud of, but their most cherished is their daughters, Paige and Wynn.

It’s well known that military families face many challenges, including risk, long absences and relocations. But these challenges are compounded when raising a child with special needs. Jackie and Matt’s five-year-old daughter, Paige, has a genetic deletion syndrome that has resulted in global developmental delays, and a complex eye condition often shortened to its acronym, BPES.

Due to the unique nature of their lifestyle, Canadian military families can find themselves on wait lists for medical care, and can lose access to critical services when relocated. Raising a child with special needs is expensive, and additional fees are not always covered by insurance. From respite care to occupational therapy, specialized equipment and shoes, and frequent trips to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), the Girvan’s quickly realized it was simply more expensive to raise a special needs child.

Through a monthly support group, Exceptional Families Network, Jackie learned of the Support Our Troops’ Special Needs Grant, but was hesitant to reach out.

“We really struggled at first with accepting help,” says Jackie. “It wasn’t a matter of needing money or not. As well paid members of the Canadian Armed Forces and responsible parents, it felt uncomfortable to accept financial help. But we’re human and we did need support. The grant made us feel like our community was on our side and wanted to help alleviate some of the pressure. It wasn’t really about money, it was about accepting a helping hand.”

Jackie and Matt used the Special Needs Grant for respite care, a parking pass for their frequent trips from Petawawa to CHEO in Ottawa, and a walker for Paige.

Raising a child with exceptionalities, like Paige, can bring many challenges, but for the Girvan’s Paige has been the most fulfilling.

“The greatest joy is watching your child overcome - over and over and over again. My daughter couldn't just hop on a little tricycle at two years old and ride it,” says Jackie. “She has worked countless hours in physio doing squats and tippy toes, and uses supportive equipment to get her there. As a result, watching her hop on her little tricycle with her cute little helmet and use her legs so powerfully to ride it down the road just makes our hearts beam.”
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