Claire Crossley returned to London some two years ago after suffering a back injury, but with plenty of heart, and a lot of community support, she’s lifted herself up to the point where she is excited about the future.

Claire is originally from Toronto, but moved to the Forest City in 1993, staying for about a dozen years.

She worked at the old South Street hospital, including a decade in the ICU, and she is quick to admit it was “a wonderful opportunity” for a young, single mom. Claire’s hospital colleagues, she recalls, both supported her and embraced her potential, which made her return to Toronto bittersweet, but still exciting.

A new job at Cancer Care Ontario, in Toronto, and acceptance into a PhD program, eventually led to other opportunities as well.

Eventually, however, she grew somewhat frustrated with the health care sector and her life headed in a new direction and she eventually started a non-profit organization that worked with single moms to build businesses and career pathways.

Claire had been a teen mom and a high school dropout so she believed her experiences were worth sharing.

Then one day in 2011, a friend and former CFL player came to her with an idea for a non-profit to help support student athletes.

Claire Crossley - photo credit Sean Meyer.

Claire Crossley - photo credit Sean Meyer.

Although she’s no longer directly involved, the Academy of Learning, Strength and Conditioning continues to help kids — those who had fallen through cracks in society, but are also excellent athletes — with their physical development while also teaching life skills and resume building techniques.

Then, one day, a spinal injury would change the direction of her life.

The injury led her to losing her business and her home, and so she returned to London to live with her daughter and grandchildren.

While she faced serious challenges, things started to turn for Claire some six months ago.

She met “a bunch of community minded people,” who want to see good things happen in London, and who were doing their best to engage with the community.

Claire would soon become part of that engagement, which helped lift her up and bring back her passion for getting involved.

“I’m really happy to be back. When people ask what I do for a living, I call myself a community consultant. When somebody says I have this great idea, but don’t know what to do with it, I love that,” she said. “I’m seeing the community through different eyes now. When I was here the first time, I was focused on being a mom, on building my career. I wasn’t involved in the community back then. So, in a way, London is brand new to me.”

Today, Claire is exploring London more than she ever did.

She walks 20 kms a day, explaining that exercise has become her medicine.

Claire admits she’s experiencing London in a different and “pretty exciting” way.

The first time she lived in London, she was focused on getting on the province’s Sunshine List.

Now, she eagerly embraces a different perspective.

“I call myself a reformed academic. Now, instead of reading about all the wonderful things happening in the world, I want to be a part of them,” she said. “My whole day is full of volunteer community work, writing and walking. My ambition is the same, the feeling I can accomplish anything. I know that’s the case, but I just have different goals today.”