Talia Goldberg has been making waves during her time at Western.
The fourth-year Physiology student heads up the Adult Blind Swim Program, a subcommittee under Making Waves London, a not-for-profit student initiative providing affordable and accessible one-on-one recreational swimming to children with special needs.
Last week, Goldberg was named to the Mayor of London Honouree List for 2014. She joins Kenneth Wright, founder of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry’s Dental Outreach Community Services (DOCS), as one of two Western individuals to be so honoured.
“I got a letter in the mail and I was sort of confused at first. So I had to look into it,” Goldberg laughed about the honour. “I was so surprised, but, at the same time, very grateful and appreciative of the recognition.”
Founded in 2002 by a pair of Western students as London Blind Swim, the program initially catered to children with visual impairments. However, it quickly evolved to include children with all types of special needs. In 2010, the program changed its name to Making Waves London.
More than 150 children are part of the London program, which runs every Sunday at the Western Student Recreation Centre. Western student volunteers hold valid lifeguarding certification and work one-on-one with the children and adults.
“I really like it. It’s just once a week, and there are so many other volunteers helping out,” said the 21-year-old Goldberg. “I’m working on my thesis right now. So, I definitely have a lot of work, but I really enjoy this program and I don’t find it time consuming. It’s personally fulfilling and well worth it.”
Goldberg resuscitated the program two years ago after the Adult Blind Swim Program took a yearlong hiatus. That effort did not go unnoticed. One person who recognizes Goldberg’s contributions is Len Fluhrer, a participant in the Adult Blind Swim Program, who nominated Goldberg for the award.
“If you saw her resume, it just goes on and on with all the accomplishments she had. I can’t even remember there were so many,” said Fluhrer, who recently stepped down as a member of the City of London’s Accessibility Advisory Committee. “Her, and the organization, put this back together for us. The work she and others have done has been amazing. Talia was just a spectacular candidate and we’re really proud and honoured to have been able to nominate her for the award.”
In addition to the swim program, Goldberg has volunteered for such organizations as the London Abused Woman’s Centre Childcare, Children’s Hospital, St. John’s Rehabilitation Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children.
“The award tends to go to older folk who have been around for a while,” Fluhrer continued, “so it shows you her accomplishments were so far above the rest. We’re very proud of her.”
Goldberg, a member of the dean’s honour list, will graduate this year. Admittedly, she will miss her involvement with the program, but anticipates it will continue on long after she leaves.
“I have been able to create friendships with the participants and the other volunteers,” she said. “While we’re creating awareness for the program, it’s also about making connections with others. It feels like it’s not really work; it’s more enjoyable than anything.”