On December 1, 2019 we opened the front door to Branching Out Support Services and said: "Come on in!" and we are so thankful we did.

These last 4 years have been a true adventure with our community. There have been some very unexpected situations (you know, just a little global pandemic) that have caused barriers and challenges. It's ok to admit that we have made some mistakes on our journey, but every misstep has been a catalyst to learn something new about business, about community, about service and about life. It is true there has been some heartbreak too - the world can be tough for people with differences, and every day we face the reality of this. However, we stand firm in our advocacy for inclusion and belonging for every human in our community.

Beyond the challenges there have been so many moments of triumph, fun and connection. Every day the adults from the Architect program are creating opportunities for themselves. Our flagship program is 100% participant designed and implemented with support from professionals Carley and Tabi. I have never witnessed a more empowered group. We have multiple community support professionals engaging 1:1 with people to work on their goals and dreams in the community. Teaching, education and advocacy has ramped up considerably with Kim and Sara teaching Neurodiversity Workshops at places like: The Town of Orangeville, Dufferin County, The Region of Peel and other private and corporate groups. This kind of advocacy and education informs huge populations of people about neurodiversity beyond Dufferin County - and we are so blessed to be able to carry this torch into the world.

In January 2024 we will be launching a new service to make mental health support more accessible and inclusive for neuro divergent people and their families. We know that specific and tailored services make a huge difference for neuro divergent people, especially if they are non-speaking. Stay tuned for more info and how you can access this new resource early in 2024.

Now, as always, time for gratitude.  I can tell you this story:

On days when things about BOSS are particularly hard there are often tears, self doubt and fear. Running a business in the current environment is the hardest thing I have ever done - and sometimes it hurts. Most days, when I can, I go for a walk after I finish my work day. I use the word "day" loosely because you know I am often at my computer long after the sun disappears from the sky. On the days when things have been especially filled with challenge I walk longer and as I do make a list in my head of all the people who I KNOW support BOSS, and everything that BOSS stands for.

I start with me. Then I go on to James, Sara, Tabi, Carly, Sarah, Jeff, Matthew, Jennee, Brenda, Michael, my mom and dad, Kathy at the library, Liz, Mike, June, Emily, Alex, Barb, Taylor, Natasha, Amanda, Anthony, Dan, Jenn, Sue, Brooke, Judith, Dave, Elaine, Matt, Linda, Steph, Merideth, Trish, Colleen, Kayla, my neighbour, the wonderful volunteers we have, the amazing students we have had in the past........the list goes on and on and on. It's not hard to think of names, they come to my head one after another like a flood of love and support: Faith loves and supports BOSS, Mandy loves and supports BOSS, Jo loves and supports BOSS...I say it for every name and as I walk I cry. Because it doesn't matter how hard, frustrating, scary or otherwise I thought BOSS was that day - at the end of the day there is a multitude that loves and supports BOSS; and that has nothing to do with me. Nothing at all.

YOU are why we are here.

Thank you to each person who is part of "our list" who love and support BOSS in a million different ways on a million different days.  Deep gratitude for your energy, support, encouragement, money, time, ideas - and for your hope. Thank you for your hope.

As we enter what one of our beloved participants calls SEASON FIVE OF BOSS I look forward most hopefully to another year of service in Dufferin County and another year of showing up so we can all belong.
-Kimberly Van Ryn