In honour of all dads everywhere, we’re sharing Brandon Vansickle’s inspiring story about how his neighbours, turned Dads, turned Special Olympics coaches changed his life.
“I want to wish my Dads a Happy Father’s Day and thank you for taking me into your lives, starting a business with me, taking me to work and to sports Monday through Friday and Saturday and Sunday.”
Peterborough’s Brandon Vansickle didn’t have a place to call home until he was about 19-years-old.
Growing up in foster care and group homes, he was constantly on the move. He’d settle into one foster home in Peterborough and make friends, then get moved to another one an hour away in Lindsay, losing touch with the connections he’d made. Most of his free time was spent watching TV.
“It was fairly difficult,” Vansickle, now 26-years-old, said.
When he turned 18, the support from Children’s Aid Society ended and he was left to find his own apartment. Fortunately, he advocated for himself and his social worker helped him find assisted living in Peterborough.
He settled in and joined Special Olympics, signing up for soccer, softball, swimming, floor hockey and 10-pin bowling. Not only did it get him off the couch, but it also reconnected him with old friends and helped him make new ones.
Things were going well, until his caregiver died in 2012.
Devastated, he visited his neighbours, Andrew Snead and Rob Krueger.
Andrew and Rob, who’ve been together 15 years, never planned to have kids. However, after getting to know Brandon as neighbours, they went on a waiting list to be respite workers, to provide assistance and support to individuals with disabilities and their families.
When Brandon arrived on their doorstep that day seven years ago, Andrew and Rob – without hesitation – changed their life plans.
“Rob and I said, ‘Well, you can live with us,’” Andrew recalled.
Brandon’s social worker came over and they signed the appropriate paperwork.
Brandon moved in, but couldn’t shake the fear it wasn’t permanent and he’d have to move yet again.
For the first two years under Rob and Andrew’s roof, Brandon would check to make sure his belongings were still in his room whenever he’d come home from work or school.
“He seriously thought that stuff was going in garbage bags,” said Rob.
Brandon soon realized Rob and Andrew were the family he always longed for. He got more comfortable and began calling them his “Dads.”
“We’ve grown more as a family each day,” said Andrew.
Naturally, Andrew and Rob got involved with Brandon’s Special Olympics programs.
“Next thing you know, we started up a 10-pin bowling league, I’m taking coaching certification and all of a sudden I’m a head coach,” Andrew said with a laugh. “He drew us into this huge community in Peterborough – we feel like we have a second family.”
Andrew has since sent several athletes to Special Olympics World Games, including Brandon who just brought home a bronze medal in soccer from Abu Dhabi.
They also started up BAR None DJ Services. The trio DJ events, including a monthly Special Olympics dance, which raises $4,000 each year.
Today, Andrew and Rob couldn’t imagine their lives without Brandon – without the joys of fatherhood.
“Over the past seven years, we’ve watched Brandon grow from an overwhelmed, anxious kid in foster care, to a confident and sociable young man,” Andrew said proudly.
“Brandon’s made fatherhood easy,” added Rob. “He does just as much, if not more, for us.”