Carli was born on March 18, 1982 in Saint John, New Brunswick, as the only child of Denise and Gary Ward. She lived in Saint John for two years before moving to Moncton with her parents. When Carli reached the ripe old age of four, her parents divorced, but she still was able to see both of them on a regular basis.
Carli had a quiet childhood. She was quite shy and was 80% deaf until they put tubes in her ears. She developed an interest in reading in Grade 5 when a friend introduced her to a book written by Eric Wilson. On weekends, when she would visit her father, she poked around on his computer and developed an interest in computers and was able to learn a lot from both him and on her own. She also picked up an early interest in photography from her father, who was a professional photographer in addition to his day job working at Purolator.
When Carli was 13, her mother found it difficult to keep a steady job on account of “not being able to speak French well enough”. Economically forced to vacate their homeland on account of government-imposed Frenchification, they migrated west, landing in Calgary, Alberta, where her aunt, Linda Hargie, was living. Carli later recounted a funny story during her experience there:
“We went to an amusement park just outside Calgary called Calaway Park. It was a very clear day and the mountains looked so close, they could have been just across the field. So, silly me, I took off jogging across the field thinking I'd go climb the mountains. They were obviously much further away. I was with a group and one of the adults of the group noticed that I was heading off and came after me.”
While in Alberta, almost by accident, Carli had a chance to be a volunteer on the student council during one school year. When choosing her optional courses, there was one called “Leadership”, so, out of curiosity, she checked it off, and that check put her on the student council. Though she didn't learn much from the leadership course, she did have fun.
In addition, Carli's interest in baseball grew while attending Calgary Cannons' games with her mother, Denise.
Carli and Denise had been in Alberta for two years when Denise was involved in a car accident. She suffered a cracked collarbone and some bruising, and needed support from her sister and Carli's aunt Linda, who had since moved from Alberta to Manitoba. Carli and Denise then moved east, where the newly-extended family lived together in humble surroundings west of Camp Morton, Manitoba. Denise recovered and was able to return to work, but, since there were few prospects of employment in Camp Morton or nearby Gimli, she had to move to Winnipeg. Carli had already enrolled for Grade 11 at Gimli High School, so she stayed behind with Linda and her husband. Carli took a Grey Goose bus into Winnipeg on weekends to visit her mother, but, despite the separation, that school year was among the most enjoyable of her life. One of her teachers in Gimli, Peter Bjornson, who would later be elected as the MLA for Gimli, said, “she had a tough time, but had a good heart”.
It was also during this time when she was diagnosed with a mild case of Asperger's Syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder of the mild end of the autism spectrum. She had been previously misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and given Ritalin over a number of years. They did more tests and, this time, correctly diagnosed her condition as Asperger's Syndrome.
|For more information on Asperger's Syndrome, check this article, written by Stephen Bauer, MD, MPH.|
After finishing Grade 11, Carli moved to Winnipeg to rejoin her mother. On account of her Asperger's, she enrolled for a year at Montcalm School at the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Center, then completed Grade 12 at Gordon Bell High School.
Carli's first job after graduation was delivering flyers for Mr. Bones Pizza. She had always been an active person and liked the outdoors, so it was a job she took to quite well. Unfortunately, Carli found that the working world quite different and didn't enjoy the same success that she did in school. Like others with Asperger's, she was unable to stay focused on an assigned task and her attention would often stray in different directions. As a result, aside from a job setting up tables at the Winnipeg Convention Center, she found herself on social assistance. Carli did enjoy a volunteer position at the Manitoba Museum, working two afternoon shifts each week as a wayfinder. This was a job she was showed a lot of enthusiasm for, and she got to know her way around the museum and all the secret passageways that the public didn't have access to.
Through their mutual attendance at Wednesday evening Bible study at the Henderson Highway Seventh-day Adventist Church, Carli met Hartmut Sager, and this meeting proved to be a match made in heaven for her. What started with a note that Carli had passed through to Hartmut grew into a father-daughter relationship that would last the rest of her life. They first worked together on the Church's Web site, then Hartmut began to provide Carli with some math and computer science training. Hartmut was doing some online bookkeeping work and needed help, so Carli started working part time for him in June 2004. Carli enjoyed the bookkeeping work immensely, and, for the first time, with Hartmut's mentoring and coaching, she was working towards some degree of self-sufficiency. This bookkeeping work lasted for just over two years until the fall of 2006.
|The story of Carli and Hartmut's first interaction has a humorous twist. During Bible study, Hartmut quoted one of his many thousands of taglines he had accumulated over the years. Carli passed a note through to Hartmut asking him if she could get a copy of his collection, setting the stage for a relationship that grew very close in the months and years to come. Fittingly, those taglines have been incorporated into this site. The random tagline that appears at the bottom of each page is drawn from that collection.|
During this time, just like she had done since leaving Moncton, Carli continued to move around a lot. She lived in the Sara Riel Inc. group home on Kenny Street, a rooming house at 284 Balmoral Street, an apartment on the 15th floor at 185 Smith Street, along with an apartment in Colony Square. Carli moved into her own apartment on the third floor at 285 Midwinter Avenue, then in September 2003, she moved back with her mother, who had since moved into an apartment block at 380 Assiniboine Avenue. Less than a year later, Carli was back on her own. On August 12, 2004, she moved into her own suite in the Spring Grove apartment block on Brazier Street.