Cheers to 10 years. The never-ending journey is key!
by Steven Atme
On February 12, I celebrated the 10th anniversary of my “Special People Have Dreams” speaking tour. It’s hard to believe that I was an 18-year-old kid when I first thought, “I’m going to speak for everyone with disabilities and their families in front of a thousand people at St. Joseph’s Oratory and play original compositions on an organ.” No, I couldn’t believe it then, and now here we are, 10 years later.
I’m in complete awe that it has come this far. When I share my speech, I am overwhelmed with joy seeing each individual smile, listening to their stories and seeing abilities and dreams come true. That is the greatest reward.
To celebrate this milestone, I started planning a huge speaking tour for 2022. While planning it, the craziest thing happened: I received the Simon Chang Difference Maker Award for Fall 2021/Winter 2022! I was honoured.
I met Simon Chang on a videoconference call in September and then, when the pandemic allowed some time later, in person at his studio on Chabanel St., along with my parents. It was amazing. We exchanged a lot of whimsical energy and endless conversation. Simon mentioned that in his past, others discouraged him from being himself and becoming a fashion designer. We understood one another. The Simon Chang team was most interested in having me share my message with school staff in the Greater Montreal and surrounding areas. That was when we decided to collaborate, along with the support of Inspirations, to organize the 10th anniversary speaking tour.
In my 10 speaking engagements within the English Montreal School Board and the Lester B. Pearson School Board, I reminded staff that everyone has a dream and to never give up on students, to keep searching for ways to reach them and help them discover what inspires them.
I also spoke to students at other schools, which I arranged as part of my tour. Some sessions were in-person, some were virtual. Either way, we continuously kept our spirits high and made the magic happen. For example, when I spoke to students at Willingdon Elementary School in December 2021, two children asked me, “Are you an angel?” I replied, “That depends. What are you looking for?” They responded, “Can you grant us a wish?” I said, “Ask me anything. Give me your wish, and I’ll make it happen.” Their wish was to feel included, spread good deeds to others and to be shining stars.
Throughout the past decade, I have realized that “Special People Have Dreams” is for everyone. It is for people who need a fresh start from obstacles faced in their personal lives, such as mental health, race and background. Together, we can create solutions that become resolutions, leading to fulfilling goals, hopes and dreams. A brighter, healthier beginning. During this celebratory year and forever more, let us make all special people’s wishes come true, helping them start their journeys and create never-ending stories. The never-ending journey is key!
Steven Atme is a pianist and composer, gives private piano lessons and is a public speaker, enlightening on his experience growing up and living with autism. Contact Steven at email@example.com.