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Centre for Child Development celebrates 70 years of providing care for youth with disabilities

North Delta Reporter - 10/13/2023

The Centre for Child Development is celebrating 70 years of helping special needs children in the Lower Mainland.

The organization had humble beginnings, Gerard Bremault, the chief executive officer, said.

It started as a grass-roots group made up of parents in living rooms. The centre saw a need for children with cerebral palsy who needed transportation to GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver. From there, the Centre for Child Development was born.

The centre was incorporated as a non-profit in 1954, but its inception actually happened a year prior.

Its first official office was inside of a portable at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

At the time, parents did not know where the children with disabilities were. They reached out to the local health unit for help. They were put in contact with a travelling salesman who was a member of the community business service club, the Knights of Pythias.

"This travelling salesman goes around and helps identify the kids with the health unit," Bremault said. As the children were identified, they could connect to the services that the Centre for Child Development has.

Without those parents and the travelling salesman, we wouldn't be in the position we are today, Bremault said.

"Fast forward to the present, and this year we were up to (helping) 5,700 kids across that same South Fraser region."

The centre provides patient-focused, wrap-around services for children with disabilities in the South Fraser region. The facility's mission statement, as stated on its website is, "helping children with special needs reach their potential." It does this in a number of different ways. Depending on the child's needs, the centre has access to physical and occupational therapists, nutritionists, a speech therapist and many other specialists.

Many of the children have complex needs and often require more than one type of therapy.

Thanks to modern technology, the Center can help children with disabilities in remote parts of the province where those services are not readily available.

"We're doing occupational therapy and physiotherapy and speech-language pathology virtually," Bremault said.

Based in Surrey, the centre serves 5,700 children each year through more than 30,000 sessions at more than 350 locations – including inside schools – in Surrey, White Rock, Delta, and Langley. Bremault, that number will continue to rise.

"The latest data that we have is that there are approximately 100,000 children with disabilities across the province that could use our services," Bremault said. "There's 38,000, estimated in the south Fraser region, that is our primary home, and so the job ahead is challenging is the job."

On Saturday (Oct. 14), the Centre is hosting the "Gala of Hope" at the Coast Langley Hotel & Convention Centre(20393 Fraser Hwy) to raise funds for some of its programs that do not receive government funding.

"There are many services that we extended to the community that are above and beyond that (government funding), that make a huge difference," Bremault said. "Things like our casting and splinting program, our feeding and nutrition program, our pool and hydrotherapy service."

Judith Reaugh, the vice president of communications and governance, said these additional programs are highly specialized.

The casts are specialized and made onsite. They will help stabilize a child's arm or leg to support better functioning, Reaugh said.

The cost of having a cast made commercially is around $700, Reaugh said. As the child grows, they will need a new cast or splint. "Throughout the life of a child, that could cost them $10, 000, but that's something that we provide for free for these kids."

The gala has an online silent auction that is currently open to the public and will close on Saturday (Oct. 14) at 9 p.m.

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