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‘Invisible Tree’ for invisible disabilities celebrates being different at Trees of CNC

CNC’s Gathering Place has transformed into a winter wonderland for Trees of CNC, but there is one tree in the festive display that stands out for its powerful message.

The Job Education Training (JET) program chose to forgo the traditional evergreen and create their “Invisible Tree” to raise awareness for those living with invisible disabilities.

“The tree was tricky,” said JET’s program coordinator, Jason Dauvin. “Luckily, we had many hands, because there were many, many pieces to figure out. We had done a form of it in the past, but not to the same extent. The spiral was one of the additions that was very hard, because we have students in our class that are very precise with measurements and wanted it to be perfect. It was a lot of measuring, time, teamwork, and collaboration. The students are really the stars of the show on this one.”

The stunning spiraled display features 80 red and gold ornaments suspended with fishing line to create the invisible effect, completed by an illuminated star at the top of the tree. The base of the display features a statue with ribbons cascading out of its head. Each ribbon represents the invisible barriers people may face including depression, autism, hearing loss, and learning disabilities.

“Programs across CNC have many people with invisible disabilities or barriers, and it’s growing,” said Dauvin. “The last few years have been really tough. It’s really brought to light how much these barriers affect people and how important it is to have supports in place.”

The JET program has helped students increase their employable skills for over 35 years through building relationships, classroom preparation, work placements in the community, and computer lab time. “It’s all about connection and finding where your fit is,” said Dauvin.

Brayden Smith followed in his brother’s footsteps, joining the JET program this year to learn new coping strategies for his anxiety and depression.

“Doing this tree…it really hits me hard when I look at it. It says to the world that it’s okay to have invisible disabilities, and that’s a really important message,” said Smith. “The JET program has already taught me not to be anxious in the workplace, and how to deal with it when I do feel that way. There are always peers and coworkers you can talk to when you’re feeling down, or sometimes it’s best to just walk away.”

The Trees of CNC display is on now through December 16 in the Gathering Place. Visitors are encouraged to bring donations to the CNCSU food bank and place them in the bin beside their favourite tree.

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