How one garden helped Micaela's love of music grow

Whether she’s grooving along to her favourite Latin songs, these days she has Mamacita by Jason Derulo on repeat, or perfectly performing a 12-measure solo for her school’s spring concert, there’s no denying that for 16-year-old Micaela music is everything.

“If it involves music, I’m doing it. Music and art are my thing,” she says. 

It’s a love for music and the arts that Micaela fostered during her six years attending the Spiral Garden summer camp at Holland Bloorview—and, coupled with her passion to give back, is the reason she’s returning years later as a camp volunteer

“Growing up my parents always tried to find something for me to get into, that I could physically be able to do,” she says. “So I always enjoy coming back here.”

Summer is in full bloom

The Spiral Garden—an integrated outdoor art and garden day camp open to children with and without disabilities, ages 5 to 21—has been a huge part of Holland Bloorview since 1984. And for many children like Micaela it’s often provided an escape from day-to-day therapy routines and a means to express themselves through the arts.  

In particular, Micaela enjoyed participating in the camp’s music lessons where she learned to count out beats, painting sessions, and cooking classes.

It’s also a place that’s always made her feel like she belongs.  

Micaela, who has spastic diplegic cerebral palsy (CP), has faced bouts of passive aggressive bullying from kids who just don’t understand her. And while she chooses to ignore them, she does appreciate inclusive programs like Spiral Garden which nurture early acceptance at a very young age. For Micaela, she was able to expand her friend group to people outside of school. 

“We all have feelings, we all have things we like to do and things we don’t. We all have one thing and more than one thing that we’re good at. I think for kids who don’t have a disability, it lets them learn about other kids with disabilities,” she says.

“Sometime in your life you’re going to end up meeting someone with some type of disability, so I feel like from a young age you should learn to accept people. At the end of the day they can’t change that they have a disability, so it’s better to just not be judgmental.” 

But don’t forget the most important thing

This summer, Micaela is excited to be a one-on-one support volunteer, hoping that because of her CP, she has a better understanding of how to approach her role. 

“I can understand that child’s challenges and how they feel,” she says. “I feel when you have a disability, people really push to help and sometimes you don’t want help. If that kid wants help let them ask for it.” 

And although Micaela won’t be pursuing music professionally, she’s eying a potential business-focused route, she does acknowledge that the Spiral Garden has allowed her to test out more options for her future. 

“Originally I came to give back and to see what opportunities are out there in terms of careers,” she says. “I feel like giving back to a community was something really important to me.”

What else is important to her and what she hopes all campers will remember? 

“Just have fun. Just forget what anybody says and have fun because that’s the most important thing.”