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Don Vulders

Don Vulders contributes to the community in many ways despite his mental health issues. He had a baseline anxiety disorder since childhood and has some symptoms of bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia. That has not stopped Don from assuming a leadership role with Phoenix Survivors Perth County. For over twenty years, Phoenix has provided peer support to people coping with mental illness.

Don says: “It is nice to be able to talk to people who also have been sick but are not doctors. Sometimes we talk about medications and side effects. We help each other in all kinds of ways.”

Don has been involved with CMHA for many years. He was a volunteer and leader of a mood disorders group. He was given the organization’s Award of Excellence for his outstanding volunteer contributions.

Living on income provided by the Ontario Disability Support Program is one more challenge Don has embraced. By most standards his income is modest but Don has learned to manage. “I have to live within my means and only have so much money a month and I have to accept that. It is simple,” says Don.

He lives in one of CMHA’s supported rental units and a rent subsidy makes living within his means a little more affordable.

In his spare time Don likes to make ‘Funkey Monkeys’ which he makes from socks and other interesting bits and pieces. These stuffed toys have taken on a variety of quirky profiles and personalities. Don has made almost 100 of these. “Making things helps with my anxiety and occupies my mind,” Don explains.

“I get a kick out of people’s reactions to the monkeys.”

Don, who is modest and low-key, has been an inspiration to many others with mental illness. Through him they see that challenges can also turn into contributions.

Don's ‘Funkey Monkeys’