Patricia Rousseau knows first-hand how important funds raised from the annual Children’s Telethon are to Comox Valley children with special needs and their families.
Her four-year-old son Benoit is autistic and the Comox Valley Child Development Association’s services — made largely possible thanks to funds raised from the telethon each year — have helped not only Benoit, but the entire Rousseau family.
“He doesn’t want to leave. He doesn’t want to go home,” laughs Patricia as she talks about Benoit’s experience with the Autism Program at CVCDA. “And the change that we’ve seen as he goes through each of these steps has been just like — it just makes you happy to see your child progressing.
“He’s really happy here, and that’s the big part as a parent, you want your kid to be happy and successful.”
Benoit is this year’s child ambassador for the telethon, which is in its 37th year and will be broadcast live on Shaw TV from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, (don’t forget the clocks ‘fall back’ Sunday), from the Old Church Theatre.
Although CVCDA president Pam Crowe pointed out the association receives some government funding to pay for some costs like staffing, many expenses — such as the building space at 237 Third St. in Courtenay that houses the programs — must be paid through community fundraising.
“Without the building, we can’t run our programs and we can’t provide space for parents, so it’s an integral part of what we need every year,” says Crowe. “And now, the amount that we hope to raise from our telethon is factored into our budget because we need that to be able to provide services.”
The parent support group, which Patricia is very involved in, is an example of a program that receives no funding but uses the space paid for by fundraising.
The program has “given us a base to find other parents to talk to, to communicate with, to feel like we’re not alone,” she says, adding parents of children with special needs can sometimes feel isolated or alone in their experiences.
“Sometimes you’re like — nobody understands your situation and then you go to the parent group and they’re like ‘Oh, well here, we’ve had that, or we’ve had a similar piece.’ So, you’re not alone — there are other people out there — but how do you meet them and how do you reach them? This centre is the way you do it.”
CVCDA executive director Lorraine Aitken notes families are often astonished upon hearing the number of services offered by CVCDA when she gives tours of the centre.
CVCDA offers a number of programs for children with special needs such as speech and language pathology, an infant development program and supported child development.
It also offers programs for children, youth and adults with special needs like a community integration program, among other things.
According to Aitken, CVCDA provided services to 798 Comox Valley children last year.
“That’s a tremendous number of children,” she says. “Statistics tell us that between 10 and 15 per cent of all children will have some kind of developmental need during their childhood, and some of those needs are life-long and some of those needs are more short-term, but we are the sole service provider for those kinds of developmental needs in the community.”
The telethon is volunteer-based, allowing for about 96 cents from every dollar donated to go directly to the cause, according to Crowe.
The telethon will feature a silent art auction and plenty of entertainment while the community watching at home is encouraged to call in to donate at 250-334-9200.
People are also encouraged to come to the Old Church Theatre at 755 Harmston Ave. in Courtenay to watch in person.
At 7:30 p.m. the winner of the big raffle basket will be announced, as well as the winner of two Grey Cup tickets and return airfare for two to any WestJet destination.
Those watching from home can find the Children’s Telethon on Shaw TV or online at www.cvcda.ca.