Marg Beintema is gone, but thanks to her fellow committee members at Make Children Better Now (MCBN), she will not be forgotten.
The organization handed out two bursaries on June 24 to a graduate of each of the 2021 and 2022 Options Program at St. Clair College.
The bursaries, in Beintema’s honour, went to Jaylyn MacMillan (Class of 2021) and Teanna Lajeunesse (Class of 2022).
Mike Neuts, chair of MCBN, said Beintema passed away last fall after a brief battle with cancer, and was a long-time worker, volunteer and eventually member of the board of directors for MCBN.
“We lost Marg Beintema to cancer last October; she went very quick,” Neuts said. “She really believed in Make Children Better Now.”
The criteria for the Beintema bursary is a graduating student from the Options Program who best exhibits hard work, leadership and willingness to overcome adversity and hatred.
“A student who is resilient. It’s a term we heard a few times tonight, but you all really are resilient people,” Neuts told the assembled students. “The award goes out to those who change the atmosphere around them for the better.”
The ceremony took place June 23 at Studio One in Chatham.
With Beintema’s husband Louis in attendance, Neuts surprised the two students with $500 bursary awards.
In choosing where and how to honour Beintema, Neuts said it was an easy board decision.
“A month after she passed, we (the board) had a meeting and chose the Options Program because of Charlie. He was the Beintema’s oldest son, and he was the young man who stood on the corner of Wilson and St. Clair and waved at everyone driving by,” he said.
MCBN gives out similar bursaries to a UCC and Chatham-Kent Secondary School grad each year as well.
The Options Program is an educational opportunity for students with an intellectual disability who are eligible to graduate from high school and who have participated in a co-op placement or have independent work experience. The program is designed to build a bridge between school, the community and the workplace.
It’s housed in St. Clair College, but both local school boards are involved in it.
“As a man said to me, there is ability in disability and it’s what we’re supposed to do as a non-profit for children,” Neuts said.
Options teacher Greta Saklak said the program has been around for almost two decades.
“The Options Program was started in 2003 for students who are higher-functioning and who could go out and get jobs and there wasn’t any place for them to get these job skills, so from that the program was born, basically to provide independent living skills and vocational skills so they can go out and be successful,” she said.
The program involves co-op placement two days a week.
“The rest of the week, the students are in class with me and we do basic living skills; we do budgeting, we do computers, we do first aid, health and safety, work skills – anything that is going to make them independent in the future,” Saklak said.