Ontario Construction News staff writer
The bright colours of campaign posters, smiling children and heart-warming stories of accomplishments set the stage for the Niagara Children’s Centre’s most ambitious fundraising campaign.
On April 28, Niagara Children’s Centre officially kicked off their 19th annual Help Kids Shine campaign at the Four Points by Sheraton in Thorold by announcing a $250,000 fundraising goal.
The event was a welcome return to an in-person format and attended by political dignitaries, campaign sponsors, as well as board members, staff and volunteers from the Children’s Centre.
The event also introduced 16 families who use, or have used, the Centre for services and support as campaign Ambassadors. The Ane family was selected from the group to speak during the launch, sharing their personal journey to a room of more than 120 guests in attendance.
“My son Daniel was initially referred to the Centre for speech therapy when he was two years old because he was not hitting his milestones like many other children his age,” said Sarah Ane, mother of Daniel.
Just before Daniel turned three, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder with an accompanying language impairment by the Centre’s Developmental Pediatrician. The months following diagnosis turned into years as Daniel continues to receive treatment.
“On a weekly basis we would visit the Centre for programs and services that helped to support Daniel in his growth and development as a child and me as a parent,” said Ane. “During this time, the Centre turned from a place we went, to becoming a second home to us.”
Today, at almost eight years old, Sarah describes Daniel as a thoughtful young boy who cares deeply about others. He lives in Niagara Falls and enjoys participating in sports, playing video games, hanging out in his tree house and riding his bike with friends.
“I cannot imagine where Daniel would be today without the valuable services he has received,” she said. “Every time we walk through the door of the Centre, Daniel was greeted by a staff team who believe in his unlimited potential.”
Throughout the month of May, the Ane family, along with 15 other ambassador families, will share their stories online and through radio interviews to educate the Niagara community about the therapy and support services the Centre provides.
Each year, more than 5,800 children and youth in Niagara with physical, developmental and communicative delays are supported by the range of services offered at the Centre. Those services are made possible, in part, by the Centre’s annual Help Kids Shine fundraising campaign that encourages community donations throughout the month of May to support to programs and services for families.
“Demand continues to grow and we are expecting to see an increase in referrals in the coming year, as more children are identified following the pandemic,” said Oksana Fisher, CEO, Niagara Children’s Centre. “Help Kids Shine provides us with the financial support needed to help more children and their families in Niagara. Funds raised also help support additional programs that are not covered by provincial government funding, such as recreation therapy, behavioural consultation services, family-to-family support programs and aquatics.”
Fisher attributes a great deal of campaign success to the Centre’s dedicated sponsors and ongoing partnership with Bell Media stations Newstalk 610 CKTB, 97.7 HTZ FM and Move 105.7.
Tom McConnell, host of The Tom McConnell show on NewsTalk 610 CKTB and chair of Help Kids Shine cabinet, spoke on behalf of Bell Media at the launch event and talked about the longstanding partnership with Niagara Children’s Centre.
“Working with thousands of children every year, we feel their impact on families is unparalleled in the Region,” said McConnell. “As an amplifier, we can’t think of a better organization to help promote.”
To help the Centre achieve this year’s milestone, O’Hara Trucking & Excavating has signed on as the monthly donor matching sponsor, pledging up to $25,000 to monthly donations made during the campaign.
“Monthly donations provide a strong, sustainable source of funding that allows us to plan ahead,” said Fisher. “Every dollar pledged by our community to support our children and families is doubled.”
Supporting the Centre holds special meaning for the St. Catharines construction company. In 1984, Dan and Sharon O’Hara’s daughter Katie was born with hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the cavities within the brain.
“The Niagara Children’s Centre helped us so much,” said Sharon O’Hara. “They guided us through all the resources for funding and provided Katie with therapy from physio to speech. I really got to know the staff and the other families and it was a welcoming community.”
The Niagara community is encouraged to follow the Centre’s social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and tune in for upcoming radio interviews with broadcast partner Bell Media properties such as 610 CKTB to learn more about how they can support the Centre.
Visit HelpKidsShine.ca for more information.