L’ANSE AU CLAIR, NL — Karrie Thomas is the perfect example of how one can beat the odds and rise to incredible heights when it seems things are too impossible to scale.
“She was a shining light in her school reminding us all that life is full of blessings - and obstacles too,” said Maisie Groves, a former teacher of Karrie’s at Labrador Straits Academy. “However, these are only sent to challenge us, to show us what we are capable of when we believe we are deserving and able.
“Throughout her life, this student was not defined by a disability that would otherwise promote limitations. Instead, with a spirit of determination she continually sent a clear message that ‘Yes, I can’ as she sprinkled a little bit of sunshine wherever she went.”
Since birth, Karrie, who is from L’Anse au Clair, was confronted with immense challenges whereby she endured physical and cognitive challenges. Much of her early developmental years were consumed with medical issues involving hospitalization, resulting in a heart surgery and two kidney operations amongst several other procedures. From birth to high school graduation, Karrie was followed by the Rainbow Team at Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital. Whereas her development was not typical of children her age, she availed of speech pathology, physical therapy, behaviour management interventions and individualized educational programming.
Even though these obstacles may have seemed insurmountable to many, Karrie’s resilience and strong will enabled her to rise to many challenges despite innumerable setbacks. Her parents both believed that this determination and her strength within were attributes that served her well and would also impact her later in life.
Karrie had a dream of going to college after leaving high school. Not being the typical high school graduate, she was not readily accepted to any post-secondary institutions. However, this in no way deterred her mother Wanda, who with single-minded determination set things in motion. She would leave no stone unturned to find a college for her daughter. This was done with the full support of Karrie’s father Keith, and brother, Kristopher, who always have Karrie’s best interests at heart.
Wanda approached Academy Canada. They were deeply touched by Karrie’s unique story and did not hesitate to accept her as one of their students. The administrative and curriculum teams at the Harding Road campus of Academy Canada collaborated with her mom to design a modified program that would suit Karrie’s needs and interests.
Not only that, they so generously waived her college tuition.
Karrie enrolled in the Animal Grooming Professional Program as a groomer’s assistant. Her mother took a year’s sabbatical from her profession and moved to St. John’s with Karrie so that she could complete her training. Wanda went to classes with her every single day for the duration of her course. The fact that Academy Canada would go to this length to accommodate Karrie like this was a clear indication that this was the right school for her.
This program was, indeed, perfect for her since she had always loved animals, especially dogs, and was happiest when she was around them. She brought the best out in them and they brought the best out in her. At vocational school, she was affectionately referred to as “the dog whisperer” since she had a unique way of calming the most unruly pet and putting it at ease.
At Karrie’s post-secondary graduation, instructor, Nicole Noseworthy, stated, “She made us realize we should not set limitations on ourselves and see the joy and inspiration that surrounds us daily despite our circumstances… [Karrie] made us all into better people…She has changed how many of us view life and how we approach the challenges thrown in our paths on a daily basis.”
The day Karrie walked across the stage to receive her graduation certificate was a day that will be joyfully etched in her parents’ memory forever.
Presently, Karrie is working for a dog groomer in L’Anse au Loup, Delphine Ryland, who is also a graduate of Academy Canada’s Animal Grooming Professional Program. She enjoys going to work each day with a huge smile on her face. As has been often quoted by so many who have had the joy of knowing Karrie, she still continues to “sprinkle sunshine wherever she goes.”