Riding Troubled Waters

Riding Troubled Waters

Judith and Gordon Macmichael have seven grown children. Among them are sons who face disabilities, but they have turned those challenges into blessings for their family members and others. Matthew has Down Syndrome and another son, Jared, has Central Processing Disorder. These challenges do not stop them from being workers in their community, faithful in church service and temple attendance, and successful athletes who competed this July in the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games held in Vancouver, BC at the University of British Columbia sports facilities.

The Macmichael family, formerly from Nova Scotia, now lives in Sault St. Marie, Ontario. Many family members have participated in athletics. Sister Macmichael played volleyball and basketball in high school, and now plays tennis. During high school and college years, Brother Macmichael competed in swimming, specializing in the backstroke, and now enjoys canoeing, cycling and kayaking. It was only natural that Brother Macmichael would coach his sons to learn swimming skills. Matthew began swimming when he was 12 years old, 30 years ago and continues to remain active because he loves to compete. Twenty years ago, Jared began swimming at 19 years of age. Like Matt, he also loves competition. Jared has also taught swimming for tiny tots at the YMCA for 23 years.

The brothers have competed in Special Olympics competitions for years. In 2011, Jared won one bronze and two silver medals the World Special Olympics Summer Games in Athens, Greece. This year, Matt and Jared placed in their provincial competitions and qualified to compete in the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games. Matthew competed in four events and received three medals: the bronze medal in the 400 freestyle, the silver in the 50 back, and the gold medal in the 200 freestyle. In the 50 metre butterfly, Jared finished in first position and would have received gold, but he was disqualified because of a double touch. Though disappointed, he understands the rules and accepted the ruling. In the 100 metre individual medley, Matt improved his time from 1:53 to 1:48, a personal best.
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Matt credits his father for his success. “Dad spent hours swimming and coaching me to get ready for this meet. I did really well because of him. I’m very proud of what I did.”
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Jared also praises his father’s coaching for improving his strokes. After competing in five events, he was awarded a bronze medal for the butterfly stroke in the 4 x 50 metre medley relay.

In addition to their dominance in the water, Matt and Jared excel in life pursuits. At Sault College, Matt received vocational training and Jared took classes to become a kitchen helper. They each live in their own apartments, about two kilometres from their parents. Their town is small so they are able to walk to work and to their swimming facility. Sometimes they take the bus together to a hockey game or other special event and Sister Macmichael provides transportation as needed.

Matt has worked in the Sault College Library for 16 years where he organizes books and performs other tasks for the staff. He says, “I love working so much! The staff keep me busy. I love the experience of working.”

Following his kitchen assistant studies, Jared had trouble finding a job. When his job coach suggested he try working in a produce section of a grocery store, Jared said that he loves to cook and had taken some chef training. That interest and his other certification made produce a good fit. For the last 13 years, Jared has worked in a local grocery store in their produce department, loves his job and is appreciated by his employer.

The Macmichael brothers enjoy family time as well as church activity in their local ward. They love family gatherings, games and sports. Matt and Jared appreciate how their parents turn their swimming competitions into fun family vacations. The brothers attend YSA activities and serve at the sacrament table in church. Jared also distributes programs to the members before meetings. He served in their ward’s Young Men presidency for a year and a half. Matthew and his father home teach 16 families. Jared and his companion have five families on their route, four of whom are less active.

Matthew and Jared are faithful temple patrons. When they serve in the Toronto Temple, they devote the entire day. Regarding temple attendance, Jared explains,” It’s good; something that a member of the church should do frequently. It helps me learn more. The Spirit is there when I’m inside the temple.” Matthew says, “I really like to do it. The temple is one of the best things to do in my life. I appreciate working in the temple. There’s not a better day. I love it there. I feel comfortable there and I really think about things when I go.”
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This coming October, the Macmichaels will move to Toronto as Brother and Sister Macmichael have been called to be the Toronto Temple President and Matron beginning November 1. Matthew and Jared will accompany their parents, providing these two faithful sons with new experiences and competitions to conquer, and more frequent opportunities for temple service.