When Trevor Knight talks about his favourite part of volunteering at the YMCA, he opens his jacket revealing his volunteer shirt and name tag while puffing out his chest like a superhero.
“The people are Trevor’s favourite thing,” says Kathy McCarroll conveying what she and her son discussed before our interview.
“He’s exposed to so many nice and friendly people,” says McCarroll. Turning to speak into her son’s ear, she says, “And, being accepted. Everybody respects you.” Knight gives an enthusiastic nod.
Knight is hearing impaired and nonverbal, but he could deliver a master class in body language.
While McCarroll tells me about Knight’s favourite things over his more than 23 years volunteering at the Y, Knight unzips his Special Olympics jacket to point to his volunteer shirt and name tag.
When the pandemic lockdowns started, Trevor kept his name tag and volunteer shirt folded on his dresser so they would be ready when he could come back
The last couple of years have been a challenge for Knight and his family. His father died just weeks before the pandemic hit Canada, then the lockdowns started, and the YMCA in Barrie, where Trevor had been working shutdown.
“He lost his dad. He lost his job. He lost his sports,” says McCarroll. “He lost everything that meant anything to him.”
When the opportunity to return to the YMCA in Midland came up, “Trevor was so happy to be able to come back.” Knight gives his patented thumbs up as his mother tells me this.
Knight started volunteering at the Y in Midland as part of a job placement program through St. Theresa’s Catholic High School. After graduation, he transferred to the Y in Barrie. With the Y in Barrie closed and looking to relocate, Knight has come back to the Y where his volunteer career started.
All of Knight’s work has been with the maintenance department in some form, explains McCarroll.
“Doing laundry at the Y in Barrie was one of his favourite jobs because he’s very social," she explains. "He would love to stand at the front desk folding towels so he could talk to everybody.”
Knight’s work at the Y in Midland continues in the maintenance department with some help from a personal support worker and job coach named Angela Kirton.
“The Y is getting a two for one,” Kirton jokes. “Trevor volunteers here, and now I volunteer here as well.
"I’m a terrible job coach in that I just can’t sit and do nothing. We do a variety of things. We sweep the stairs – the stairs have never looked better. We do whatever they need.”
Then, after Knight’s volunteering time is over, he and Kirton go for a swim.
Not only is Knight a volunteer at the Y, he’s also a member. He uses the facilities to help him train as a Special Olympics athlete.
Over the last few years, Knight has participated in a number of Special Olympics, where he has won four medals. He has competed in floor hockey, cross-country and downhill skiing, five-pin bowling and bocce ball in national games. His favourite spot is floor hockey, and he plays with the Huronia Civitan Hawks.
When Knight’s not participating in a sport, he’s getting exercise, keeping fit, and being social.
So social, in fact, he’s someone that everybody knows and talks about, says Tasha McPhee who worked in Barrie alongside Knight for many years as the manager of volunteer and employment development for YMCA Simcoe/Muskoka.
“We’re very proud of Trevor, and we’re very happy to have him be part of our volunteer team,” says McPhee. “It means a lot to us that he’s reconnected and come back.
“And, we got to see his Halloween costume, and that was a very big highlight for all us.”
This year, Knight dressed up as none other than the life of the party, Beetlejuice.
“A big part of his life is the acceptance,” says McCarroll. “He doesn’t just come in — he’s part of what happens with the staff and the community.”
If you’re interested in volunteering at the YMCA in Midland, and maybe getting a chance to work alongside a Special Olympics athlete, please click here.