Carla Riley-Sloan lost vision in one eye and sustained brain damage when she was broadsided by a vehicle in 2004.
Although she can’t drive, suffers from memory loss and balance issues, she hasn’t let the challenges she faces daily stop her from volunteering in the community.
Riley-Sloan, who rarely goes anywhere without her service St. Bernard dog, Benjamin, was recently awarded for nearly a decade of volunteerism with the United Way.
While honoured, she was surprised to receive the framed certificate, saying “I volunteer because it’s the proper thing to do.”
The Red Deer woman explained she wanted to give to some of the groups that have assisted her over the years, including the CNIB, Canadian Mental Health Association, Central Alberta Brain Injury Society and Catholic Social Services.
“I received a lot of help through some of the organizations the United Way supports, and I want to give back.”
On June 17, 2004, Carla Schneider was making her last delivery of the day for an automotive paint supplier. While turning left, her pickup truck was T-boned by a vehicle that was speeding through a red light on 67th Street.
She doesn’t remember the crash. “All I know is that I went to bed ‘normal’ one night and woke up in hospital three weeks later — and all of a sudden, I wasn’t ‘normal’ anymore.”
Riley-Sloan suffered spinal trauma and — by the time she was extricated from her vehicle by the Jaws of Life — she’d inhaled vaporized automotive paint, resulting in toluene poisoning and scarring to her lungs.
She can now has difficulty focusing on printed words, and must jot things down because of memory issues. But with initial assistance from STARS and then several United Way agencies, Riley-Sloan was able to re-build her life.
While she gets by on a disability pension because “it takes me too long to learn new things,”she volunteers with filing at a local business to maintain her mental skills. And Riley-Sloan voluntarily speaks on behalf of the United Way to help sponsors understand that their contributions matter.
“She works for us tirelessly… She always accepts when we ask her to do something. She’s just amazing,” said Christine Curtis, community impact co-ordinator for the United Way.
Riley-Sloan hopes to inspire more Central Albertans to volunteer: “If my story can help someone else decide to volunteer, then it’s so worth it.”