Due to their son

Group in Comox Valley fosters ‘acceptance, patience, unconditional love’

Dr. Paul Helpard recalls the date like it was yesterday — Aug. 10, 1996 — the birth of his first child, Benjamin.

Dr. Paul Helpard recalls the date like it was yesterday — Aug. 10, 1996 — the birth of his first child, Benjamin.

Naturally, the Valley orthodontist was profoundly happy and held high hopes for his newborn, relishing the thought of sharing life’s milestones with his boy. But Helpard and his wife Christine were about to embark on a much different journey than expected.

Within six months, the couple realized Benjamin was developmentally delayed. At four years of age, their son was diagnosed with a metabolic disorder.

Officially, Benjamin was labelled developmentally disabled — a term that Halpern would come to resent.

He and Christine prefer ‘differently abled.’

“His differences have had a profound effect on us and on many others,” Helpard said at a Friday launch of a fundraising campaign for L’Arche Comox Valley. The non-profit charity is raising money to construct a house/activity centre in Courtenay for developmentally disabled adults.

Helpard, who is co-chairing the campaign, recalled a story about a friend who once remarked how a room changes when Benjamin enters it — which Paul and Christine call the ‘Benjamin effect’.”

Their son has taught them things they didn’t know about patience, acceptance and unconditional love.

At one time, the couple had been told Benjamin might not walk or speak. But he has managed to do both, albeit slowly.

“We were impatient,” Paul said. “We eventually realized that we had witnessed miracles. We now cherish slowness.”

The couple notes their son is not unique.

“Others like him — those that L’Arche serves — are all the same,” Helpard said. “If you open your heart to this group, you will gain a better understanding of acceptance, patience and unconditional love.”

L’Arche Comox Valley is one of 29 such communities in Canada. It is also part of a worldwide network of 136 communities in 40 countries.

L’Arche translated means The Ark. Canadian humanitarian Jean Vanier — the son of former governor general Georges Vanier — founded the L’Arche movement 50 years ago. The concept is to include people with developmental disabilities into the daily life of communities.

The local campaign is dubbed I Belong. The goal is to raise $800,000, of which $300,000 has been raised. Contributions are tax-deductible.

In-kind gifts are also welcomed. A list of needed materials and equipment is available upon request.

To donate, visit www.larchecomoxvalley.org.



Just Posted

Highland Secondary student wins Horatio Alger scholarship

Jenna Leggett grew up on Read Island where there was no electricity and no roads to her home

Next Science Pub explores sex, evolution and nature’s strangest dating scenes

The Cumberland Community Forest Society (CCFS) is presenting the next event in… Continue reading

Sprinkler system bursts at Florence Filberg Centre

Witnesses say water was pouring down from the building’s deck

Best of World Community Film Fest screens Tuesday

The votes are in from the recent World Community Film Festival and… Continue reading

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. athlete takes home gold in freestyle aerials at Canada Games

Brayden Kuroda won the event with a combined score of 121.65.

Cabinet likely to extend deadline to reconsider Trans Mountain pipeline

New round of consultations with Indigenous communities is coming

B.C. government provides $75,000 towards salmon study

Study looks at abundance and health of Pacific salmon in Gulf of Alaska

Murdered and missing honoured at Stolen Sisters Memorial March in B.C.

‘We come together to make change within the systems in our society’

UBC researchers develop inexpensive tool to test drinking water

The tricoder can test for biological contamination in real-time

Disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner released from prison

He was convicted of having illicit online contact with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl in 2017

B.C. communities push back against climate change damages campaign

Activists copying California case that was tossed out of court

Most Read