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In 2015, Innovative LIFE Options Inc. embarked on a project to see how we could reach out and support families who have not yet found services for their son or daughter with a disability, or whose children were not yet old enough to qualify.  Throughout the months in 2015 we met with dozens of parents around the province for what we lovingly called “Kitchen Table Talks”.  From the Kitchen Table Talks outcomes we were able to identify an objective of bringing families together by organizing a family focused conference. Our goal was to bring people together over a weekend to share, talk and to be heard in a small scaled gathering. The hope of the gathering was to create a comfortable atmosphere for families to have the opportunity to discuss their concerns, share their stories and learn from one another. We have to say we believe this was a great success!!!!
In mid-October sixty parents came together from across Manitoba, with the intent of learning, growing and connecting with others over the shared vision of a good life for their family member. Parents explored the themes of Vision, Relationships, Support Networks and Self-determination, as well as Advocacy. Presenters shared about each theme from a theoretical standpoint which was followed up by lived experiences from families and self-advocates.
Family members jumped at the opportunity to come together in smaller groups after each theme presentation. This gave parents the chance to share each other’s experiences, and learn from one another. We quickly saw this as one the most beneficial portions of the weekend, as parents came to life in their discussions and left feeling “nourished and nurtured”. The parent lead conversations offered a unique learning opportunity to families; a chance to hear each other’s stories, from all stages of life and diverse experiences.
The Gathering was a wonderful opportunity for parents to come together and feel connected to something bigger; beyond this there was also the chance to learn new concepts and skills developed around the themes. One parent stated “there were lots of actionable ideas in listening to the presentations, loved ideas for specific actions that I can take away”… “Learning how a network works and how we need to expand our network” was one example shared by a parent.
Organizer Rose Flaig stated “there has not been anything like this offered to parents for a while now” and organizer Laura Schnellert commented, “The conference provided a good blend of helpful, relevant and specific information. There was great interaction among parents and participants. Many shared their experiences and stories and I heard them acknowledge situations that demanded their best efforts which often brought positive results. I smiled as I heard parents saying "I understand, I have been there too"
Hearing feedback such as “eye opening and inspiring, empowering parents to help empower family member“ as well as “It opened my eyes to my son’s life more” were powerful statements that drive us to keep initiatives like this happening more into the future and let us know we reached our goal.
As you can see the feedback we received from families was extremely positive! Many families indicated this gave them time to reflect on what a good life means for their family member and there was a shared appreciation for the opportunity to connect, grow, and feel heard. We are so pleased at the outcome of our Family Gathering and are encouraged to ensure families are given this opportunity more often! 

Entrepreneur Workshop

On Friday, April 21, 2017, approximately 30 ICOF Employers, network members, and staff gathered at 120 Maryland Street to participate in an Entrepreneur Workshop. Sponsored by Innovative LIFE Options, Community Futures Manitoba, and World Trade Centre Winnipeg, the workshop was designed to provide ICOF Employers with information, ideas, and resources to assist them in starting their own businesses.
Some of the highlights of the day included small group discussions to generate business ideas, a tradeshow of provincial entrepreneur resource agencies, and a Skype interview with ICOF Entrepreneur Devon Yelinek  to learn about his business, Devon’s Cookies. During the morning, participants also had an opportunity to learn about product development, customer demographics, budgeting, and business promotion by creating their own lemonade stand businesses.
Congratulations to David Weremy and Corey Demontigny for receiving an award for the best lemonade stand presentation and to all of the participants for their energy and creativity throughout the day. We look forward to watching your ideas grow into successful businesses.

Transition Forum

Innovative LIFE Options participated in the Transition Forum on November 3, 2016, hosted by the Metro Winnipeg School Divisions in partnership with Metro Winnipeg Council for Exceptional Children (MWCEC).

This was a great opportunity to share information about Innovative LIFE Options, In the Company of Friends funding model and our Options for Services program. This event was very well attended in the afternoon and evening by teens with special needs, their parents and educators from various school divisions around the city.

We had some wonderful conversations about this funding model, connected with other organizations in this field and gave away a fair amount of literature about ICOF, LIFE and OFS. Our stress star give away was very popular and we ran out twice! We look forward to participating again next year!

Presentation at RRC

On September 16, 2016 ICOF employer, Chantal, was invited to speak with a group of students from the Disability and Community Support Program at Red River College. Chantal was asked many questions by the students who shared an interest in learning about the ICOF model. Chantal was happy to answer the following questions,

Why she decided to become and ICOF employer?
How long she has been with ICOF?
What supports her Network assist her with?
How she created her Network?
What is good about being an ICOF employer?
What she has had to learn to be an ICOF employer and who helped her learn it?

Chantal was also asked who decides what you do, what you eat, what you wear? Chantal simply pointed to herself and smiled. There was a powerful silence that everyone could feel the importance of such a simple answer but one that Chantal was proud to express. Chantal further stated she makes choices and decisions in her life and has a great support staff and Network who support her in those decisions. It was a great afternoon of learning and the students thanked Chantal for making the afternoon so comfortable and being open and sharing. Chantal made public speaking look so easy and the students were right her energy and spirit made the afternoon comfortable and enjoyable.

What does an Accessible Canada mean to you?

In-person consultation sessions are taking place across Canada to inform the development of planned accessibility legislation. Did you know that approximately 14 percent of Canadians aged 15 years or older reported having a disability that limited them in their daily activities? And that there are approximately 411,000 working-aged Canadians with disabilities who are not working but whose disability does not prevent them from doing so? Almost half of these potential workers are post-secondary graduates. Click here to read more.

For the most up-to-date information on in-person venues and dates, and to participate online,
please visit

Winnipeg Session is being held on October 3, 2016
Delta Hotel by Marriott (Meeting Room: Delta AB) 350 St. Mary Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3C 3J2

Presentation for the Seoul Center for Independent Living Delegation Team

On June 7th, 2016 LIFE staff Michelle Pinette presented for the Korean Delegation Team from the Seoul Center for Independent Living. They are looking at setting up a program to offer person centered supports to people with disabilities in Seoul, Korea. They were interested in learning more about In the Company of Friends (ICOF) and Innovative LIFE Options as a self-directed model. They were interested in our structure, policies, procedures, person centered planning, and our philosophy.

Michelle provided information via a powerpoint presentation outlining the history and evolution of In the Company of Friends, support networks, Innovative LIFE Options, and Options for Services. Also provided were copies of our many publications. They had many questions regarding supported decision making, attaining funding, referral processes, eligibility criteria, LIFE’s relationship with government, financial reporting, and how person centered plans are conducted.

On June 13th, 2016 LIFE staff Michelle Pinette and Dana Johnston returned for an informal Question and Answer session as they had many more questions to ask and wanted to learn further about In the Company of Friends and Innovative LIFE Options. They were curious about support networks and how many people needed to be involved. They wanted more information on how LIFE supports people to prepare for the administration related to managing the model. They were curious as to why more people are not involved with In the Company of Friends. Finally, they were interested in Options for Services as a response to the overload some experience related to the administration.

All in all, it was a wonderful opportunity to connect with others from around the world and share about this amazing funding model.

It was a successful day of sharing about the ICOF model and sharing about the Disability Matters 2016 Campaign issues. Support was shown by teachers, students, parents, ICOF employers, networks, support staff, community members and businesses by wearing the Disability Matters pins, taking posters, stickers and Lawn signs to display at their home or business.  ICOF Employer Patrick also assisted Resource Coordinator to put up Disability Matters lawn signs in the community and showed his support by displaying a sign as well.
If you want to show your support with a lawn sign or get involved you can contact
or Dana Johnston at


"There are two ways of spreading light - to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."

Edith Wharton