Dawn Damiany is an early childhood educator in Peterborough who loves the outdoors, camping and exploring. Last year, while tobogganing downhill, she hit her head on a tree. The accident resulted in an incomplete spinal cord injury. Her new reality looked and felt very different from her old life. Finding new ways to enjoy the things she did before her injury, like expressing her creativity through art, has been a salve for the soul
For much of her life, Dawn has been making art. Initially, she started with beadwork and making necklaces when her husband stumbled upon a local artist making pendants from melted glass. “They were offering classes on how to do this kind of art. That was fifteen years ago,” shares Dawn and she began to make fused glass lanterns and pendants. She is grateful for her husband’s support, encouraging her to pursue her passion.
Dawn loves to cut glass up and combine various pieces to see what she can create. “I try to make realistic flowers,” she says. Since her accident, Dawn has been unable to access her art studio, which is in her basement. “I have mobility issues now, so I can’t get down there, but my eight-year-old son is a huge motivator for me and he is so excited to get me back into my artwork,” says Dawn. “He brings up some beads for me and says I can make bracelets while he goes to school.” Dawn takes pride in her two boys, eight and twelve, who inherited the artistic gene and are very much into drawing dragons. “They’re my motivation right now,” she says.
“My hope is to make all kinds of art and to be able to show that I can do something meaningful and fulfilling – and that I can do what I was able to do before my injury…”
Although art has been a healing force in Dawn’s life, it is challenging post-injury and she admits that finding motivation is a struggle some days. She hopes to get back into her glasswork but will need to find a space where she can access it properly. “It’s not as easy with a wheelchair, of course, but hopefully I can do glass work again in the garage soon,” she says.
For Dawn, art is a force that connects her to her authentic self. “My hope is to make all kinds of art and to be able to show that I can do something meaningful and fulfilling – and that I can do what I was able to do before my injury,” she shares.
She is interested in participating in craft shows and collaborating with others in the disability community in Ontario. “I did a craft show at the school at Christmas and then tried to do another one at a women’s conference, but two days before the show, I was told the elevator wouldn’t be working, so I couldn’t be there physically,” she says. Instead, her mom and eight year old son went on her behalf, telling her story while her son engaged with eager customers.
When it comes to adjusting to a spinal cord injury, Dawn advises others not to compare their journeys to anybody else’s. “One day, I just decided I needed to work on myself and not make comparisons. You have to try working on your hobbies and you might be surprised, but it is still out there. You just might need to find a different way to do it,” she says. She also shares that asking for help is a crucial part of the journey. “Don’t try to do it all on your own. As an ECE and mom, I was always the one helping people and now I was the one who needed help. That’s okay.”
Dawn hopes to tackle driving in her next adventure. She finds great comfort in a support group she has found of women with disabilities and also benefits from peer support about sports – she looks forward to getting back to kayaking soon.