A new volunteer at the Riverview Fire Department in New Brunswick is inspiring the entire fire house and teaching those inside about the power of inclusion.
Nicholas Gauthier, 20, who has physical and intellectual disabilities, has been volunteering at the Riverview fire hall once a week for the past two months.
“Every firefighter here are all my friends,” said Gauthier.
Gauthier is part of a provincial social inclusion program through the New Brunswick Association for Community Living. The program helps people with intellectual disabilities find opportunities to volunteer in their community.
Captain David Candy said the fire hall welcomed Gauthier with open arms and treats him like any other employee.
“We get him to check out equipment on the trucks, he knows the routine now. Very very capable of doing anything we do,” said Candy.
Candy said the goal is to integrate Gauthier into their daily routines and teach him how to check and test equipment. They hope it’ll make him feel like part of the team.
“Sometimes we do like truck checks and sometimes we wash the fire trucks,” said Gauthier, who calls Candy his best friend.
Veronique Luce is a community animator for the social inclusion program. She said the goal is not only to help people like Gauthier tackle new skills, but to also build relationships.
“It’s not just benefiting Nicholas it’s benefiting all of the people at the fire station, all of the firemen,” said Luce.
Candy said that Gauthier has been an inspiration to every fire fighter in the department.
“There are some things that we think, well, maybe he can’t do it and he comes around and finds a way to do it and that is what is really inspirational for us,” said Candy.
Gauthier, who walks with the aid of a walker, has even suited up in more than 70 pounds of gear — an overwhelming feat given his slight physique.
“It was heavy to put everything on,” said Gauthier.
Candy said Gauthier has taught every fire fighter in this house about the power of true grit and determination
“It’s about inclusion. He has really broken down a lot of barriers and really made us aware of what he can do,” said Candy.
He said that in their eyes Gauthier is the true hero.
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