Murray Couling is passionate about a number of things, but no two things light up his excitement more than the Saskatchewan Roughriders football team and Emergency Services activities. This fall, Murray had a chance to be involved in and show his support to both! In Murray’s words, “It was so great.”
At 41, Murray is one of the first employers to have become involved in the self-directed, independent Manitoba living model, “In the Company of Friends” (ICOF). Since the mid 1990s, Murray has designed his own supports and routines with the help of his Support Network, which is a mixture of family and friends who are there voluntarily to ensure he lives a good life in community.
As with all of our lives, Murray’s life has had its share of ups and downs. Finding meaningful activities to do during his days and evenings, finding the right staff to support him in the way he wants to be supported, ensuring his voice is always heard, even when he has difficulty expressing himself, are all challenges that have surfaced.
However, some things have remained consistent such as the love and support he gets from his Network and his family, and with that the struggles have been overcome. So that these days, Murray will tell you things are going ‘really good’.
Fortunately for Murray, his brother Chris shares his passion for football, so ensuring Murray had a chance to travel to Regina to take in a recent football game was a priority for him.
Murray’s love and appreciation for his brother has also lead to Murray’s passion for the work that our Emergency Services people do. Murray is always looking for ways that he can be involved and support organizations that take care of us, and he says one of his dreams would be to work in a fire hall, especially the new one in Brandon, doing whatever he could to help out. Hopefully one day that dream will be fulfilled.
In September, Brandon City Bike Policeman Dave Scott told Murray about the Law Enforcement Torch Run to raise funds for Manitoba Special Olympics. The Torch Run is an international event in its 31st year of raising funds globally for Special Olympics. Murray was ecstatic! He and his team made sure he was signed up to participate.
Murray began spreading the word about the event to all who he knew, and helped to raise awareness throughout his community. He began training at home so that when the day came, he’d be able to participate in the entire 3.5 km torch run. On September 20th, he did just that, carrying the torch for much of the run! It was definitely a thrill not only for Murray but for his family and friends who came out to cheer him on.
Video coverage of the event can be viewed here: Brandon Torch Run Murray Couling_x264
Giving back is important to Murray, so besides participating in events like the Run, Murray has joined the Souris Beautification Committee in his home town of Souris doing manual jobs helping Souris get back to its beautiful former state after the effects of 2011 flooding left the town battered.
Murray has also been actively involved in Special Olympics himself for many years, participating in bowling, golf, floor hockey, snowshoeing and track and field where Murray ‘won big’ in shot put. Golf is a favorite, where he’s well known for his skills!
Murray enjoys working and is a strong self-advocate, attending Coffee with the Brandon Mayor events to discuss opportunities for people with disabilities to work for the City of Brandon. He also helps to share the highlights of the city he loves so dearly through the video work he does with his friend John, filming events for the local television station.
All in all, Murray’s life is full of people and activities he loves! The ICOF model has supported him to live life his way, and that means a lot to Murray!
ICOF (In the Company of Friends) is an option that is available to anyone living with a developmental disability and who is eligible for provincial support in the Province of Manitoba.
Murray has chosen to live his life in Brandon, but he could live anywhere in the province in this model. At this time, there are 62 people throughout the province of Manitoba who have chosen this model. Some are living in our cities, some in smaller towns, and some at their home in the country, because that is their choice and idea of a good life!
For more information about ICOF visit the website www.icof-life.ca and learn more about how good life can be In the Company of Friends!