Giving back to my community

*Brenton is a person who uses alternative and augmentative communication (AAC). This story was written using AAC.

My story is about volunteering and giving back to what was given to me.

My name is Brenton Ponza and I am 25 years old. I am very involved in my community and I live with cerebral palsy (CP). It has been very challenging for me to accept my disability, but I am now happy with who I am. My CP does not stop me from being part of my community. In 2024 I was recognised for my volunteering and awarded the 2024 City of Boroondara Citizen of the Year.

I participate in the Melbourne Marathon and last year I became a blue spartan, doing my 15th mini marathon. I fundraise for the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre (CPEC), which I have been a part of since I was 2 years old. I also participate in a Creative Arts and Gardening program.

I am involved in research and want to help the lives of individuals with disability. Through my role as a CP Achieve Advisor, I ensure that the voices of those who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) are heard and valued in research settings. Our group efforts enabled a research paper titled, Can You Hear Us, to be published in an international journal. I am a co-author of that paper.

Brenton is smiling while wearing an RSPCA Volunteer uniform. He is standing next to a shelf filled with pet beds.

I volunteer at the Burwood RSPCA, Collingwood Animal Farm, and Boroondara Sports Complex (BSC) as a gymnastics coach, where I give feedback to mainstream and special needs groups. I started volunteering when I was a child as part of the Go Zone gymnastics at BSC. My coach encouraged me to apply for the volunteer position and I got it.

I give feedback to gymnasts using my Tobii electronic communication device. It has been amazing. People from Gymnastics Victoria and BSC have supported me so much to be successful at what I do. I love it!

Volunteering makes me feel excited – this is my job. I am part of my community where I give back to what was given to me. I live in the area and know so many people that attend the complex. I feel very passionate about my volunteering job, and it helps me feel good about myself and valued.

I volunteer because I like to help people. All my life I have had people helping me because I have CP. Now it is my chance to help others to achieve the best they can. Just do it, give it a go! Volunteering is so rewarding; it is the best thing I have ever done.