The wheelchair ramp at the Comox Valley Child Development Association is in dire need of repair. Submitted by CVCDA

Accessibility the focus of Comox Valley Child Development Association Telethon

The Comox Valley Child Development Association Telethon will look markedly different this year without an audience in the Sid Williams Theatre.

Organizers are pre-recording most of the acts but will still have some live performers, mainly dancers, at the Nov. 1 event.

This year is the 45th telethon, which raises money for the organization that supports children, youth and adults with diverse abilities — along with their families.

“One of the significant benefits of the CVCDA is that we are multi-disciplinary,” executive director Cindy Xavier said. “You don’t have to ask for a referral to a different specialist or to a therapy team. That’s all done here.

“A lot of work that we do is preventative, making sure that children are set up to have the best opportunity they can when they enter school,” Xavier added. “In our world now, we know how important if there are going to be some challenges for the child in the future, the most important thing is to identify those challenges early on. So that early intervention is really critical…Those ages zero to three where language is forming.”

More than ever, she said research is pointing to the importance of those formative years in terms of development for children to become adults who can live their best lives.

“They (early years) last a lifetime,” said Diane Daigle, president of the CVCDA board of directors. “It’s filling the framework for how you are in the world.”

The association has close to 90 staff members who deliver a diverse range of programs, which are carried out inside the building and throughout the community. It offers 16 programs, with two more to be added. One is the infant mental health program.

“They’re growing millions of neurons a second when they’re infants, so it’s really important they have that support,” Daigle said. “And then we’re looking at the baby talk program, which is a caregiver and baby group up to six months…We want the best start. If you can support the moms and dads or caregivers with the young babes, that’s your best chance for the best start for the baby.”

Money raised at the telethon helps the CVCDA to sustain and deliver its services. This year, the focus is accessibility.

“We’re making some physical changes to our building to accommodate children and families who use our services that need mobility, accessibility,” Xavier said. “We’re working on a plan to replace our back ramp. It’s a very old structure. Every year it’s becoming more and more unsafe, so it’s time to address that.”

Another issue is the parking lot, which needs paving to wheel people in and out of the building at 237 3rd St. in Courtenay.

The CVCDA is multi-funded through different agencies and governments; however, the needs always exceed the funding received.

“We’re seeing in the Comox Valley an influx of families who are in their formative, family-building years,” Xavier said. “That means more young children that need support, need to have eyes on their development and how that’s proceeding. The requests for our services have increased exponentially…We want to continue doing the best work that we can for children and families. In order to do that, we need the support of the community.”

Adding the challenges to overcome COVID has been no small task. Xavier was only on board two months before the pandemic hit, forcing remote services for families. But she praises the teams of staff members who are passionate about what they do.

“They stepped up during this time, and didn’t question the value of continuing to work with families, even though it was not in ways they had worked with them before. It’s been a real progression. Having this many staff members to navigate that, it’s a huge challenge, but would be a much bigger challenge without the teams of dedicated staff we have.”

The telethon raised about $94,000 last year and nearly $118,000 in 2018.

Online bidding for silent auction items started Oct. 7 and continues until the end of the telethon, 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1. Tickets for the 50/50 online raffle are available until 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1. The draw will be held at 7:45 p.m. Those who spend $10 or more on 50/50 tickets will be entered into a prize draw for a Thrifty Foods package.

To help get the word out, tag the event at #CVCDATelethon and #SupporttheCVCDA

Anyone wishing to make a donation is asked to call the CVCDA at (250) 338-4288.

The event will be available for home viewing.

For more information, visit cvcda.ca

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