From Switzerland -- with love

I had some special visitors yesterday! Tekeal Riley (left), a BLOOM reader in Bern, Switzerland, was visiting her family in Toronto and stopped by Holland Bloorview. You'll remember this beautiful piece Tekeal wrote for us: Growing up.

Tekeal visited with her mother, her grandmother (second from right), who just turned 100, and Livia, her six-year-old daughter. Livia has Down syndrome and by extraordinary coincidence Tekeal had met my cousin Jennifer -- who also lives in Bern -- at a support group for parents of children with special needs a couple of years ago.

Livia loves to dance and she soon had us in a circle, following the movements to one of her school dances -- which she pulled up in a video on Tekeal's phone. The highlight was when Livia asked me to do a dance just with her, and led me through the steps, including some "swing your partner" moves.

She speaks in High German (is that right Tekeal?) and I was thrilled when Tekeal interpreted and told me Livia had asked if I could be her babysitter (high praise!).

As we chatted, Tekeal's mom mentioned that she and Tekeal's grandmother had attended a performance of RARE in the summer -- the Toronto Fringe Festival play in which nine adult actors with Down syndrome tell their stories. RARE is produced by Madeleine Greey, a dear friend of mine, whose daughter Krystal is one of the actors. Krystal was a BLOOM role model several years ago. Tekeal's mother Bernie raved about RARE and we soon realized that the "beautiful woman with blonde hair" she'd spoken with afterwards was Madeleine.

I reminded Bernie that RARE is doing a BLOOM speaker night for us Jan. 9.

I e-mailed Madeleine last night to tell her about the connection.

"You've made my day!" she wrote.

Sometimes the world of special needs is very small and very cozy.