David Johnston has many talents when it comes to playing sports. An athlete in several disciplines, Johnston, starting in 1988, competed in alpine skiing, five-pin bowling, snowshoeing, and many more; however, he says five-pin bowling and powerlifting are his “special sports.” “I got involved with Special Olympics when I was in school and I was put down all my life,” Johnston says about his start. “So, I found out about Special Olympics and how they accepted people and how we get the opportunity to compete.”
“Even though David has been a Special Olympics athlete for more than 35 years, he remains very committed to all of his sports and constantly pushes himself to achieve new heights,” Megan Pollock, Marketing and Communications Director of Special Olympics British Columbia, says. “David earned the opportunity to compete at the Special Olympics Canada Games level in two different sports, alpine skiing and 5-pin bowling, 23 years apart.”
Along with being an athlete, Johnston also has a passion for sharing athlete stories and taking part in Special Olympics Athlete Leadership opportunities. He is currently taking part in a six-month Athlete Storytelling Training Series, where seven athletes across the Special Olympics North America Region learn storytelling skills such as writing a lead, conducting an interview, how to draft a social post and how to pitch a story to an editor. “I felt really happy, excited, amazed at the great opportunity to take this course,” he says about the training. “I liked learning all the different ways you can get the message out on different kinds of media platforms.”
When he is not participating in Special Olympics activities, Johnston is busy at work at Community Living BC (CLBC). It is an agency that funds and provides support services to adults living with developmental disabilities as well as those diagnosed with Autism or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Created in 2005, individuals and their families joined together with the government to create and support the community.
“I have been there for five years and how this job came about was I did some research on the website and saw they posted a job,” Johnston says. “So, I applied, and I was one of five individuals who applied across BC, and I got hired for the north region.”
When Johnston is at work, he assists on special projects to help people and their experiences and enhance their lives. He will do inclusion and employment surveys. “One of the projects I’m working on now is called ‘options to participate and belong in the community just like everyone else',” he says. “I want to tell people out there that there are other options that they can access.”
While in college, Johnston had to alter his plans due to what made sense and what did not in terms of being able to complete the courses. He struggled to find the right fit. “I thought outside the box and had to really look inside myself because I was really struggling with what was happening," Johnston says. "I found this job and I saw it was something where I can work on projects with people with disabilities.”
“What we’ve heard people say in seeing the diversity of staff CLBC hires, is that it is inspiring and helps people think about more and different career paths for themselves,” Zainum Bahadshah, Johnston's supervisor says. “I hope our diverse hiring practices also send the message that diverse lived experiences are highly valued by CLBC.”
Johnston works eight hours a day: managing his projects and meeting with team members. One of the many things that Johnston likes is that his role allows him to travel, visiting Vancouver and other spots around British Columbia. “I’m not always in Dawson Creek at my desk,” he says.
Johnston took his own life experiences and turned them into a passion for helping others with similar upbringings, proving once again how valuable people with intellectual disabilities are in our workplaces and communities.