Guardian Angel helps young man soar to new heights

Jim Day
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In 1999, Donalda Docherty met a teenager so shy the boy would not make eye contact with her. He would not even lift his head.

Over the next 12 years, under Docherty's nurturing wing and through her determined resolve, Aaron Anderson has blossomed.

She first met the then teen born with Down syndrome at a hockey rink. She was co-manager of the North River Bantam AAA hockey team.

Aaron's teacher at the time, Trevor MacNeil, saw a good opportunity to get the teenager involved in other activities outside the school by finding him a role with the team MacNeil was coaching.

Aaron became assistant trainer taking care of the players' sticks, filling water bottles and cheering heartily from the bench.

"Aaron just gradually became more comfortable,'' said Docherty, 51, of Cornwall.

"He just grew and grew and grew and these players and he became great friends.''

So too did Docherty and Aaron become good buddies.

Not only has Docherty remained a good friend to Aaron for the past dozen years, she has been a persistent advocate set on opening each and every possible door for the now 27-year-old man living with his parents Eleanor and Fred Anderson in Hunter River.

Docherty got Aaron involved as a volunteer in the Canada Winter Games held in P.E.I. in 1999.

She has over the years found him different employment, most recently doing light duties at the liquor store in North River where she works.

When the Boston Bruins drafted Cornwall's Adam McQuaid, she promised to take Aaron to a game to see a player that he used to pass sticks and water bottles to in North River play in the NHL.

True to her word, she took Aaron in the spring to watch Boston eliminate Philadelphia in the second round of the playoffs.

The trip went off without a hitch, she recalls fondly.

"He is at the highest functioning level as you can imagine,'' she said.

"He was just a joy to travel with. He has a terrific personality. He is just a great person.''

In a return trip to Boston, Docherty and her pal Aaron joined the masses during the Stanley Cup parade.

"It was exciting in Boston to see him there with a million and a half people...he was thrilled. He had a sign (reading) ‘Adam, you're my hero.'''

Docherty also made sure to include Aaron in the big cup celebration in Cornwall by giving him a role to play during that special event featuring hometown hero Adam McQuaid hoisting the Holy Grail of hockey in a parade.

She has always given Aaron tasks that she was certain he could perform and would gain confidence in executing.

"She has done everything in her power to give him multiple, multiple opportunities,'' said Eleanor Anderson.

"She sets him up for success - there is no doubt about it.''

Docherty has provided just the right amount of gentle push and caring nudge to help Anderson emerge from his shell.

Eleanor credits Docherty with increasing her son's confidence a great deal over the years. Docherty has also helped Aaron develop his social skills and broaden his independence.

"Donalda gives of her time, her energy and her commitment to enable a young man to experience life and all it's opportunities,'' she said.

"Donalda has certainly been a Guardian Angel for Aaron, there is no doubt about it.''

Helping others must be in Docherty's DNA.

She volunteers at the soup kitchen in Charlottetown.

She is on the board of directors for Communities 13th Inc. that oversees the APM Centre in Cornwall, home of North River Minor Hockey.

But her relationship with Aaron holds a special place among all the good work she does.

Aaron is no project for Docherty. He is a person she cares deeply for, someone she is committed to helping grow and flourish.

"I view him as a dear, dear friend...I just feel close to him - very close to him,'' she said.

"It's exciting to see his potential grow.''

Docherty's ultimate goal is to see Aaron one day become involved with an NHL team. That might sound like pie in the sky to some, but when a determined force like Docherty is pushing the agenda, the ambitious goal may not be such a long shot.

"Anything is possible,'' she said.

"There are connections. We're all connected.''


Organizations: NHL, Boston Bruins, APM Centre

Geographic location: Cornwall, North River, Boston Hunter River Canada P.E.I. Philadelphia Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • judy
    December 21, 2011 - 20:19

    Congrats Donalda, you are a true Gaurdian Angel to Aaron , and i am sure you are an angel to his Family, for believing in aaron ..Way to go Donalda, keep up the great work, Aaron is one lucky guy to have a friend like Donalda, GREAT STORY, Xmas is about Angels also ...

  • Jennifer
    December 21, 2011 - 10:35

    What a beautiful story! Very inspirational story about a woman who wants to make her community a better place for everyone. We need more like her!

  • Shelley Ward
    December 21, 2011 - 09:05

    Great article. I know Donalda personally and there is nothing that Donalda would not do for anyone. She is one of the most caring persons you would want to meet. Always going beyond the call of duty and always thinking of others before herself. Donalda is a strong activist with the PEI UPSE, looking out for the social justice and equality for all. Congratulations Donalda you deserve this recognition.

    • Ed Gallant
      December 21, 2011 - 18:53

      Great job, Donalda and Aaron. Kudos to you both. And to you,Shelley Ward, a bunch of black dead roses, for your blatant use of a public forum to try and promote your union. Shame on you

  • Dave Sigsworth
    December 21, 2011 - 08:10

    Great job Donelda and Aaron! A heart-felt story to lift everyone's spirit this Christmas.

  • amac
    December 21, 2011 - 07:55

    This is a amazing story!!! Donalda Docherty we need more people like you... very kind lady!! Keep up the good work!! :)

  • Fellow Cornwall Resident
    December 21, 2011 - 07:01

    I would just like to say what a great story this is to read! Society needs more caring and supportive individuals like this lady. What are great example that you are to the community Donelda! I do not know you personally, but, you sound like a truly amazing lady. Keep up the good work!!

  • Des
    December 20, 2011 - 23:20

    This article made me cry, happy tears of course! Donalda, you truly are a guardian angel for what you have done with this young man. Everyone deserves to have someone believe in them and to help them be the best version of themself they can possibly be and it seems you are Aaron's someone. I hope that you continue to share this special bond and that he does someday get to help out with an nhl team. To Aaron, reach for the stars.. if you miss, at least you're among the clouds