Sixteen businesses in Stratford, Ont., are more accessible thanks to a project led by 14-year-old Nathaniel as a part of the Servant Leader Award for Calvinist Cadets.
Nathaniel has just completed his final year of Calvinist Cadets with Stratford Christian Reformed Church, where his dad, Jonathan DeWeerd, served as co-head leader. Cadets is the boys’ club ministry offered in many Christian Reformed churches. Participants in the ministry are encouraged to complete tasks to earn badges and awards.
Nathaniel and his dad got the idea to create accessibility ramps for Stratford businesses last summer when they were walking downtown. Nathaniel noticed some existing ramps and asked his dad about their importance.
DeWeerd said, “It’s hard to wrap your head around how some of these buildings had no way for (some) people to get in.”
DeWeerd is the chief building official at the City of Stratford and knew that the Accessibility Advisory Committee in Stratford would be open to partnering with his son to create more ramps for the city.
The two approached the committee in the late fall and were connected to the businesses that needed ramps. The committee also coordinated getting the ramps to those businesses. Bickell’s Flooring donated paint for the ramps, and Akins-Brewer Lumber donated the lumber.
With the supplies and plans, Nathaniel led six cadets in creating the sixteen ramps to be positioned in doorways to get over sills or gaps. Using the wood shop at Stratford CRC and working during the club's regular meeting time, it took about three to four weeks to build them, and Nathaniel spent time outside of Cadets to ensure that they were ready in time for the city’s Accessibility Week (May 28-June 3).
DeWeerd said they’ve done other building projects in the community before, including making picnic tables for a school auction, but this is the first time the Stratford Cadets have done something specifically for the city.
Nathaniel shared about how part of his inspiration came from creating a more accessible city for people like his papa, his mom’s father, who had a stroke a year ago and has lost his vision. DeWeerd said he’s proud of his son for “stepping up and starting this journey of leadership.”
Nathaniel said he wants to help people because Jesus helped people, and he hopes “that this inspires someone to do something for their community as well.” Nathaniel plans to be a junior counsellor for Cadets at Stratford CRC next year.