Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Organization Spotlight: The Sam Sullivan Disability Foundation

Sam Sullivan Disability FoundationAt DP World Vancouver, we’re passionate about social responsibility. Knowledge is key to helping local businesses give back to the community; whether it’s by making donations, volunteering, or even by operating charities and fundraising events. Our Community Kinship programme highlights the efforts of organizations that are contributing to the greater good in Vancouver and its surrounding communities—and the Sam Sullivan Disability Foundation is doing more than its fair share!

What is the Sam Sullivan Disability Foundation?

Sam Sullivan, former Vancouver mayor and a tetraplegic since the age of 19, wanted to encourage and promote the capabilities of others with physical disabilities. So, he helped form the Sam Sullivan Disability Foundation in the late 1980s. Several charitable groups were born of his vision, each in its own way making recreational physical activities possible for those with physical handicaps. The foundation now supports each of these six organizations.

The foundation understands that people with significant physical disabilities often need to build or rebuild confidence before pursuing employment or participating in other social engagements. Activities such as hiking, sailing, music making and gardening often help boost confidence and build enthusiasm. The comradery fostered by these activities brings a much-needed sense of belonging to members of the community who’ve experienced isolation as a result of their disability.

Learn More About the Affiliated Societies

The Disabled Sailing Association provides more than 1,000 life-changing sailing experiences each year, having catalyzed the formation of 20 similar programs through North America and has 155 of its fully accessible 16-foot sailboats in use throughout the world (and now has its own boat donation site).

The BC Mobility Opportunities Society makes it possible for people with disabilities to access the great outdoors, from Metro Vancouver parks to adventures in far-flung destinations including Mt. Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp; there are currently 117 of its access-all-areas TrailRiders in use in programs worldwide.

The Vancouver Adapted Music Society puts musical self-expression within reach, supporting and promoting musicians, staging concerts and operating its own CD-quality studio. As Western Canada’s only fully-accessible recording studio, VAMS supports people with significant physical disabilities, from beginners to highly accomplished artists, to pursue music for enjoyment, personal development and for some, professional results.

The Disabled Independent Gardeners Association makes gardening accessible, enabling participants to grow fresh, healthy produce at home or in four community gardens across Vancouver.

The Tetra Society recruits technically skilled volunteers who have collectively made more than 5,000 “gizmos” for people with disabilities throughout North America.

The ConnecTra Society enables individuals to become more involved in their community by taking advantage of employment, training and social opportunities.


Each of the foundation’s programmes are run by volunteers. Volunteers facilitate the gardening and music programmes, employment training, and the sailing and hiking activities. At the start of each sailing and hiking season there are training sessions which educate individuals about a variety of skills; from safe lifting, to equipment operation—all to help transfer an individual safely from their wheelchair to the sailboat, or the TrailRider.

The foundation acts as a catalyst. There’s a huge good that exists in the community, and it can sometimes be challenging for those with disabilities to connect to it. Through its various programmes, the foundation makes it easier to bring people who want to do something positive, together—whether they’re volunteers or members of the disabled community.

How Your Business Can Help the Sam Sullivan Disability Foundation

The Sam Sullivan Disability Foundation exists with the support of grants, a small amount of government funding and the generous donations of private individuals and companies. But there are other ways businesses can help as well, for instance:

  • Donating time and expertise to facilitate community activities such as gardening, hiking, sailing and recording music
  • Building awareness about the foundation, its purpose and the many ways it helps people

Determine which of the foundation’s models are best aligned with your business model and get in touch! Get to know the Sam Sullivan Disability Foundation and the people it brings together by following them on Facebook or Twitter. You can also visit the foundation’s website for more information about how you and your business and get involved.