Carolynn Morrison’s son Lee was diagnosed with autism when he was just three years old.  Carolynn went out to look for services she says did not exist. The family researched and tried to learn all the skills they needed to deal with his disability. By age 14 Lee was 6 foot four and weighed 190 pounds. “Each aggressive episode became increasingly more difficult to manage,” says Carolynn, “And one terrible day I sustained some significant injuries. We realized that we were trying to control a situation that was truly beyond our control.” That’s when they found Sandy Keshen and Reena. 

“Our introduction to Reena came through our daughter who was in nursing and did a community placement at Reena. Sandy (Keshen) saw her and mentioned how comfortable she was with this population. Meredith shared that she had a brother with autism and that her parents were having issues trying to deal.”  Carolynn says Sandy Keshen and Sandy Stemp gave their family hope by showing them how to navigate the system to get help for their son. “They invited me to come to a brief meeting where they outlined what we would need to do and then sent me out to do the work. Once we had secured the funding for Lee to come to Reena, we met with the two Sandy’s again and they told us that a very generous family had stepped forward to donate the funds they needed for a new home for individuals with Autism.”  

They toured the Martin and Heather Goose family home while it was under renovation and saw that everything was being done to make sure the home was safe and secure. “We met the Goose family and had the opportunity to thank them and to explain to them what their kindness meant to our family. We were truly grateful,” says Morrison. 

After several years of involvement on numerous committees and as a member of the Reena Board, Carolynn Morrison became Reena Board Chair from 2004-2006. In her first report as Chair, Carolynn spoke from personal experience about the need to help families learn how best to approach government, education boards and community-based agencies to access funding and programs for their family members with developmental disabilities. To help families focus their efforts and address these issues, Reena invited parents and siblings of outreach program clients to attend a series of information evenings. Several knowledgeable speakers from within and outside government clarified the procedures and helped families strategize ways to best accomplish these tasks. The response to this event was extremely positive, and the result was the creation of the Reena Family Involvement committee.   

Throughout her time working with Reena, Carolynn has continuously advocated on behalf of individuals with diverse abilities. Carolynn would often travel to Ottawa with Sandy Keshen to meet with government officials and talk about the dire need for housing, bringing her unique perspective as both Lee’s mother and as Reena Board chair. A compelling speaker who helps tie her personal story to Reena and the sector, Carolynn Morrison gets results. “Carolynn once made a Policy Advisor of Housing cry through her story and it tipped the scales,” says Gary Gladstone, Reena Stakeholder Relations. “It not only demonstrated the need…but helped the housing initiative.” 

 Carolynn ’s commitment and participation as a lay leader continues to be boundless.  She is co-chair of Reena@50, the event filled, yearlong celebration of Reena’s 50th anniversary, and is also serving as Chair of Reena Fun Day.