Toronto teen ‘triple threat’ inspires as world-class athlete, dancer and actress

As she crossed the finish line in the 200 meters at the Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile, in November, Toronto teenager Sheriauna Haase remembers how she felt.

“In my head I was trying to play it cool but there’s no reason to. I just won a bronze medal and it was just crazy.

Make that two bronze medals. She won one in the 100m and one in the 200m – an impressive performance for the teenager who only started training a year ago.

And it’s not just about running, Haase is a triple threat: a world-class athlete, dancer and actress. She is also an ambassador for Holland Bloorview Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital.

She hopes to be an inspiration to others by showing them that anything is possible.

Born with a congenital limb reduction, Haase navigated the complexities of her early years, facing childhood bullying as one of the obstacles in her path.

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“Curiosity became negative in a way,” Haase said, as others stared or made hurtful comments. “But then when I went to public school… it got really bad and I thought, ‘Oh, well, this must not be good for me.'”

A young Sheriauna.

Courtesy of Sherylee Honeyghan

Despite initial difficulties, Haase found comfort and strength in the unwavering support of his family, especially his mother. “(My family) would always lift me up and always tell me that I’m beautiful and there’s nothing wrong with me.”

The support of her family helped her regain her confidence.

“I love my arm,” Haase said, smiling. “It’s so cute and small.”

His family ties and support are strong. His mother’s intuition began before Haase was even born.

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When Haase’s mother Sherylee Honeyghan was pregnant with her daughter, she underwent a standard 20-week checkup. It was a Friday.

“And (during) the weekend, I thought, ‘What would I do if I had a child born without a left hand?'” Honeyghan recalled. “Don’t ask me how it came to my mind, but I kind of tried to push it away – ‘these are negative thoughts, everything will be fine’ – and then on Monday I got a call .”

When Honeyghan arrived at the doctor’s office, they told her the scan showed Sheriauna didn’t have the development of her left hand.

At first there was shock and devastation, especially in a world that can be cruel. But Honeyghan refused to let her daughter’s story be dictated by what society might deem acceptable. As long as her daughter was happy and healthy, that was what mattered.

Sherylee (left) and Sheriauna (right).

Courtesy of Sherylee Honeyghan

“When she was born…I was so grateful that she was healthy,” said Honeyghan, who remembers how she then began to think about next steps. “Like, where do we go from here?” And how can we support her and make sure she has all the best things she can have?

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Challenges become possibilities

Honeyghan said it was important for her daughter to know from a young age that she may have been born differently, but she was still capable of doing anything she wanted.

“It was about me understanding how to support her through these challenges,” Honeyghan said. “It’s who you are. This is how you were born. And you have to accept it and understand that you have abilities.

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Honeyghan even turned these challenges into opportunities by writing a book about her daughter called We are beautiful, a testament to the family’s commitment to spreading a message of inclusiveness. The book not only highlights Haase’s unique beauty, but also serves as a tool to educate families, parents, children, educators, and students about accepting differences.

Books in the “I Am Sheriauna” series, written by Sherylee.

Global News

As Haase grew and became more confident in herself and her abilities, the bond between her parents, especially her mother, became the cornerstone of Haase’s resilience. Honeyghan played a central role in shaping Haase’s perception, instilling confidence in him and reinforcing the idea that uniqueness is a source of strength.

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Sheriauna holding the book written by her mother.

Courtesy of Sherylee Honeyghan

The duo often engages in joint activities that go beyond the surface: styling Haase’s hair.

Hair, for many black women, holds cultural and personal significance and can often be a great bonding moment between mother and daughter. And while Haase has found changes in the way she goes about her daily life, her hair remains one of the few things she needs help with.

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Sherylee helps her daughter, Sheriauna, with her edges.

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“I know for a lot of other black women, our hair is sort of a part of our identity. “It’s so important to me because I like to do so many different things with my hair and I always wanted to be beautiful like everyone else,” Haase said, explaining that for many black women, hair needs a little more tenderness, love and care due to its texture.

Sherylee helps her daughter, Sheriauna, with her hair.

Global News

In this intimate process, Honeyghan became not only a hairstylist but a confidante, creating a space for laughter and shared moments. “It’s a moment of complicity. We usually watch TV shows or just talk about each other’s days and the things we like. Like I love laughing with my mom,” Haase said.

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“She sees how happy I am, and then I see she’s happy that I’m happy. That makes it really special.

The heartbeat of his journey

Dance has been a constant in Sheriauna’s life since the age of two, adding another layer to her multifaceted identity. Her passion for dance, coupled with a burgeoning interest in acting, took her to new heights, including playing roles on popular television shows. Circuit breakers And The next step.

For Haase, dance is more than a form of expression; it is the rhythmic heartbeat of his journey, intertwining perfectly with the chapters of his life. From the age of two, Haase found herself immersed in the world of dance, discovering the joy of movement and the power of self-expression.

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Her passion for dance became the cornerstone of her identity, a celebration of her uniqueness that rippled through every graceful step.

Sheriauna posing for a dance photo.

“I’m so grateful that dance has been a part of my life for so long,” Haase said. “And also acting is also something that I’ve always wanted to do…so I’m very, very grateful for that.”

Quick to learn and quick to perform

But Haase isn’t just a talented dancer and actress, she’s also a medal-winning track and field star.

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Haase’s transition from dance floor to runway is a testament to Bob Westman’s adaptive coaching style. Westman is the Senior Paralympic Coach (East) for Athletics Canada.

Westman has been coaching Olympic and Paralympic athletes for more than a decade, and he is impressed by Sheriauna’s focus, drive and maturity.

“As a coach, I had to be very careful that everything I taught her was done right the first time, because she was going to do it right no matter what she was taught,” Westman recalled. “His development from week to week, month to month was just incredible, incredibly rapid.”

Coach Bob Westman (left) and Sheriauna (right) posing with her bronze medal.

Courtesy of Bob Westman

In fact, Haase began training for the Parapan American Games in September. Two months later, she won these two bronze medals.

The unison of Sheriauna’s passions – theater, dance and athletics – creates a unique tapestry that captivates everyone she meets. Westman envisions a future in which Sheriauna becomes a household name, not only for her athletic prowess, but also for her charisma and love of life.

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“When you meet her, you know she has a charisma that hits her mark and a love for life that you just want to be around all the time,” Westman says. “It doesn’t matter which path she chooses; she’s just going to be amazing at it.

World Para Athletics Championships, Paris 2023. July 10, 2023. Sheriauna Haase 100m (T47) warms up.

Yonathan Kellerman Photography

Haase’s story extends beyond the track: it’s a tale of courage, ambition and the pursuit of dreams. Her coach envisions a future in which she becomes a world champion, and while Haase embraces those aspirations, she remains an inspiration to those she meets.

“Just keep watching because you’re going to see a lot of her,” Westman said. “It’s a very bright light.”

Honeyghan echoes her daughter’s coach’s sentiments. Sheriauna’s dedication to her craft is evident not only on the track but in every facet of her life.

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“Dedications. It’s the high end,” Honeyghan said.

Sherylee (left) and Sheriauna (right)

Sherylee (left) and Sheriauna (right).

Courtesy of Sherylee Honeyghan

“Her dedication to dance, acting, singing and athletics – she sacrifices a lot. His maturity is reaching new heights. She acts like she’s a 20 year veteran.

Sheriauna’s tenacity extends beyond the track as she balances academics, dance and athletics. With her eyes on the future, she shares her aspirations: “I hope that people will identify with me even if they don’t have a disability. I want to help people and I want them to see and advocate for them in every aspect of my life.

In Haase we find not only an athlete but a symbol of resilience, a teenager who breaks barriers and an embodiment of the belief that being different is not a limitation but a source of strength.

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Sheriauna Haase at the Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile, where she won two bronze medals.

Canadian Paralympic Committee

Her journey is a testament to the power of self-love, family support and the unwavering spirit that propels her to new heights. As she continues to leave her mark on the world, Haase invites everyone to join her in celebrating the uniqueness, diversity and limitless potential of each of us.

“I want people to feel empowered.”

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