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Building Social Capital: Two Lives Changed, Community That Is Changing

(This is the unedited text from the original Metro Ottawa newspaper article of November 1, 2013. Click here to see the article including photo as it appeared in the print edition).


When Alexis Dusonchet began to volunteer his time, he didn’t expect that he would soon gain a new workout buddy.

An avid physical fitness buff, Dusonchet hits the gym almost every day. Once a week he works out with Cooper Gage, a man with an intellectual disability who is determined to improve his fitness level. The two met through LiveWorkPlay, a charity that helps people with intellectual disabilities live, work and play as valuable contributors to the community.

“When Cooper and I first met, he could see that I was a bit of a gym rat and he asked if I could help him get in shape,” Dusonchet said. “It was right up my alley and we’ve been at it ever since.”

Nearly two years later, the results are plain to see.

“I can really feel and see the difference,” Gage said. “Alexis has helped me with technique, diet, and motivation. I’m in much better shape than I was and I look forward to exercising. Working out has also helped me in other areas of my life.”

Gage, in his mid-30s, works part time in a bank mailroom and lives on his own.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with Cooper because it’s obviously had such a big impact on both of us,” Dusonchet said. “There’s no better feeling than empowering others to live their lives to the fullest extent possible, a privilege that not all of us enjoy. His upbeat nature and positive attitude inspire me to no end.”

Dusonchet had volunteered for various organizations in Montreal before moving to Ottawa several years ago. To establish himself in a new city, he focused mostly on career — working at the Office of the Auditor General and then the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Once he decided to get back into volunteering four years ago, Dusonchet was drawn to LiveWorkPlay’s creative, friendly energy and its vision of a community where everyone belongs. Earlier this year, he joined the organization’s board of directors.

“At LiveWorkPlay, we believe that the community holds the answers to welcoming persons with intellectual disabilities,” Dusonchet said. “As an organization, we’re committed to achieving measurable outcomes. And honouring this commitment has enabled our members to lead fuller, richer lives.”