I Can Do It! Mentorship Becomes a Lifelong Friendship

I Can Do It! (ICDI) is a customizable and inclusive health promotion model aimed at transforming the lives of individuals with a disability. The Office on Women’s Health and the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition have partnered to ensure that women and girls with a disability have opportunities to be physically active and practice healthy eating behaviors through ICDI.

I became involved with ICDI several years ago as a Mentor and Support Team Member. As a Mentor, I helped individuals with a disability (Mentees) set weekly goals and participate in physical activity or healthy eating opportunities. Throughout my mentorship, I not only fostered social support — I also developed lasting friendships.

Haley and ToriFall 2009 was not only my first semester in college, but it was also when I signed up to volunteer for a program that used the ICDI model. That’s where I met the one and only Tori, my first ICDI Mentee! Little did I know that the decision to sign up as an ICDI Mentor would literally change the rest of my life.

As an ICDI Mentee and Mentor, Tori and I began participating in aquatics and dance classes, but the fun had only just begun. Over the next 4 years, I grew more involved in ICDI and with Tori’s family. I watched Tori on the weekends, helped with birthday parties, and even joined for family vacations.

I accepted a job in the area after graduation, so even though I was no longer an ICDI Mentor, Tori and I continued to be friends. We went to Zumba 3 times a week, walked after school, and tried to think of a healthy food for each letter of the alphabet.

Tori and I are now 600 miles away, but that distance hasn’t changed a thing. Within the first year of my move, Tori came up with her family to visit me, and I flew down to visit her. On the day before I left, she wrote me a letter describing my visit:

 “… and I can’t believe that you are such a family in our lives … it was the best day and night, it was the best day of my life.”

After 9 years of friendship, my relationship with Tori is still very difficult to put into words. Not only is she like a sister to me, she is my best friend.

To learn more about the ICDI model and how you help create physical activity and healthy eating opportunities for girls and women with a disability in your community, visit www.fitness.gov/ICDI.

The statements and opinions in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health.