Parkdale comes together to support Jordan Isaac, a singing, dancing, drumming, beatboxing, bicycling beacon of joy

Twenty-year-old Jordan Isaac has become something of a local celebrity in Parkdale, thanks to the drum solos, gospel serenades and beatbox shows he performs at his window, delighting passersby. “Total strangers would recognize Jordan on the street, walk up to us and say, ‘That’s the boy at the window!’” his sister Abigail Whitney says. “This just shows how what we love to do can make a positive difference in someone else’s life.” During the pandemic, he went to Elm Grove Living Centre every day for eight months, where he drummed outdoors for the residents and frontline workers. “Without knowing it, Jordan loves on everyone in different ways,” his sister Woodney Pierre says. “It always reflects in his actions, and it touches people.” Bigwigs have been taking notice: he recently received two commendations from his MP, Arif Virani, for his leadership and community service. Isaac, who has Down Syndrome, is also a vibrant presence in the city’s athletics scene: he’s run track at the Special Olympics and represented his school in the 100-metre intellectual category at the Ontario Federation of School of Athletics Associations (OFSAA) championships, and even ran a 5K with Kevin Hart, who cheered him on. Isaac is especially beloved in the cycling community. “I have a lot of fun riding on my bike,” he says. He sports a helmet he painted seven different wild shades and rides a brightly coloured bicycle he built and customized out of recycled parts with the support of the non-profit Charlie’s Freewheels. “Their youth program empowered and continued to build Jordan’s confidence as he would ride his bike,” Whitney says. “For Jordan, biking is synonymous to building a relationship and developing a friendship.”Fellow cycling enthusiast Jamal Burger, founder of underserved-youth empowerment non-profit the Kickback, met Isaac at a community run and, along with Kickback team member Desiree Bailey, ManDem Cycling Club’s Christopher McGarrell, artist Bryan Espiritu and Isaac’s sister Stella Isaac, dreamed up Cycle Jordan, a five-kilometre bike ride to raise money for the young man’s speech therapy. “Cycle Jordan was a simple idea to encourage everyone to love the little things in life, which can open doors you’d never imagine,” Burger says. “Costs for Isaac’s support are super high, and we believe it’s important to raise awareness around the costs. We always felt the kids who need the most, get the least.”According to Stella, her brother’s speech therapy is no longer funded because of his age. “Any session can cost over $100,” she says, “and weekly sessions are needed for consistency and growth.”“Jordan is an exceptional man,” Bailey says, “and the fundraiser was created to support him reaching his optimal developmental potential.” It is especially important to aid people like Isaac, Bailey adds, because “there are BIPOC folks with disabilities and the intersectionality of their identity and societal structure places them in a position of both oppressive systems of racism and ableism.”In the weeks leading up to 2020’s inaugural ride, Isaac had a strict training regimen of singing, dancing, juggling and, yes, some biking. More than 100 people came out for the ride, which raised $5,495 for his speech therapy.The therapy has been a real boon for her brother, according to Stella. “His speech is clearer and he’s more confident,” she says. “He’s using sentences and new vocabulary words he did not use before. I’ve also noticed that Jordan expresses his needs more clearly: ‘I want to go on a bike ride,’ ‘I want to get ice cream with Desiree.’” This year, the organizers wanted to help even more folks, so they upped their goal to $15,000 and started fundraising for Saïdou Diabaye of Parkdale and Djaliatou Kante of Scarborough, both of whom also have Down Syndrome. Isaac, determined to top last year’s performance, mastered a new dance routine to Drake’s “What’s Next” and perfected his cartwheel. The Aug. 21 ride raised $16,360. Bailey says her brother’s positive vibes are extra-necessary these days. “This world, and, specifically, the past few years, have been very isolating,” she says. “But Isaac reminds us of the significance of human connection … how a smile, a wave or a reminder that ‘you’re awesome’ can go a long way.” For Isaac, it’s all very easy: “I like making people happy.”

Parkdale comes together to support Jordan Isaac, a singing, dancing, drumming, beatboxing, bicycling beacon of joy

Twenty-year-old Jordan Isaac has become something of a local celebrity in Parkdale, thanks to the drum solos, gospel serenades and beatbox shows he performs at his window, delighting passersby. “Total strangers would recognize Jordan on the street, walk up to us and say, ‘That’s the boy at the window!’” his sister Abigail Whitney says. “This just shows how what we love to do can make a positive difference in someone else’s life.”

During the pandemic, he went to Elm Grove Living Centre every day for eight months, where he drummed outdoors for the residents and frontline workers. “Without knowing it, Jordan loves on everyone in different ways,” his sister Woodney Pierre says. “It always reflects in his actions, and it touches people.” Bigwigs have been taking notice: he recently received two commendations from his MP, Arif Virani, for his leadership and community service.

Isaac, who has Down Syndrome, is also a vibrant presence in the city’s athletics scene: he’s run track at the Special Olympics and represented his school in the 100-metre intellectual category at the Ontario Federation of School of Athletics Associations (OFSAA) championships, and even ran a 5K with Kevin Hart, who cheered him on.

Isaac is especially beloved in the cycling community. “I have a lot of fun riding on my bike,” he says. He sports a helmet he painted seven different wild shades and rides a brightly coloured bicycle he built and customized out of recycled parts with the support of the non-profit Charlie’s Freewheels. “Their youth program empowered and continued to build Jordan’s confidence as he would ride his bike,” Whitney says. “For Jordan, biking is synonymous to building a relationship and developing a friendship.”

Fellow cycling enthusiast Jamal Burger, founder of underserved-youth empowerment non-profit the Kickback, met Isaac at a community run and, along with Kickback team member Desiree Bailey, ManDem Cycling Club’s Christopher McGarrell, artist Bryan Espiritu and Isaac’s sister Stella Isaac, dreamed up Cycle Jordan, a five-kilometre bike ride to raise money for the young man’s speech therapy. “Cycle Jordan was a simple idea to encourage everyone to love the little things in life, which can open doors you’d never imagine,” Burger says. “Costs for Isaac’s support are super high, and we believe it’s important to raise awareness around the costs. We always felt the kids who need the most, get the least.”

According to Stella, her brother’s speech therapy is no longer funded because of his age. “Any session can cost over $100,” she says, “and weekly sessions are needed for consistency and growth.”

“Jordan is an exceptional man,” Bailey says, “and the fundraiser was created to support him reaching his optimal developmental potential.” It is especially important to aid people like Isaac, Bailey adds, because “there are BIPOC folks with disabilities and the intersectionality of their identity and societal structure places them in a position of both oppressive systems of racism and ableism.”

In the weeks leading up to 2020’s inaugural ride, Isaac had a strict training regimen of singing, dancing, juggling and, yes, some biking. More than 100 people came out for the ride, which raised $5,495 for his speech therapy.

The therapy has been a real boon for her brother, according to Stella. “His speech is clearer and he’s more confident,” she says. “He’s using sentences and new vocabulary words he did not use before. I’ve also noticed that Jordan expresses his needs more clearly: ‘I want to go on a bike ride,’ ‘I want to get ice cream with Desiree.’”

This year, the organizers wanted to help even more folks, so they upped their goal to $15,000 and started fundraising for Saïdou Diabaye of Parkdale and Djaliatou Kante of Scarborough, both of whom also have Down Syndrome. Isaac, determined to top last year’s performance, mastered a new dance routine to Drake’s “What’s Next” and perfected his cartwheel. The Aug. 21 ride raised $16,360.

Bailey says her brother’s positive vibes are extra-necessary these days. “This world, and, specifically, the past few years, have been very isolating,” she says. “But Isaac reminds us of the significance of human connection … how a smile, a wave or a reminder that ‘you’re awesome’ can go a long way.”

For Isaac, it’s all very easy: “I like making people happy.”