Have you seen Otis, the cute, cuddly little teddy bear mascot of the OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre lately?
If you’ve been on social media or the centre’s website you can’t have missed him.
Otis is turning up in the most unusual and not-so-unusual locations, including a veterinarian’s office where his heart was found to be in the right place; staring at his image in a mirror after an entangling experience with dental floss at a orthodontist’s office and most recently Thursday at a Wildstone Construction Group worksite on Carmi Road.
He’s also been spotted in photo ops at the Penticton Fire Department, the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen offices, spas, breweries and radio stations.
According to the Manisha Willms, OSNS executive director, the idea of the #smilewithotis campaign was to raise awareness for the centre and Saturday’s 38th annual Shaw Share a Smile Telethon and Online Auction, as part of a community-wide social media contest.
Hosted this year by former Penticton Secondary School principal, current school board member and all-round “entertaining guy,” Bill Bidlake, the telethon runs from noon to 5 p.m.
It will be broadcast live on Shaw channel 11 and live streaming on the centre website, www.osns.org.
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According to Willms the auction, which is now underway, is getting incredible response and there are few of the 125 items that don’t already have bids.
They include everything from show tickets, round trip airfares, pro hockey items, helicopter adventures, ski lift tickets, a seven-day Harley Davidson motorcycle rental and much, much more.
“We’re hoping to raise $100,000 during the telethon, which is critical to the centre’s operation and our ability to continue helping the needs of a growing number of children throughout the South Okanagan and Similkameen,” said Willms. “There are a few changes, the telethon is being held on Saturday (instead of Sunday) this year because we hope on that day when people are out and about it might be a bit easier to drop in and make a donation.
“As well, to make more room, the large gym will be the main entertainment area where we will have our large acts, like the school choirs.”
She added having Bidlake, someone with a background in education, would also help get the message out about the importance of the work done by its staff.
“With Bill we want to make sure that as we’re informing people about what OSNS does. We want to make sure they understand the longterm implications of early intervention,” said Willms. “And that is partly about helping kids with school success, helping youth and helping them early so that they’re successful in all aspects of their lives.”
The centre’s expanded menu now includes a daycare for all children.
“OSNS also provides a lot of programming for kids who are developing the way we expect, in a typical manner, so we provide quality programming so that they are meeting their potential as well,” she said.
According to Willms the need for the centre’s work with children who require developmental assistance in emotional and physical areas, is ever increasing.
Annually, clinicians see over 1,300 kids both at the centre and through the outreach programs where staff go to those who need help.
“I think given that we have larger numbers of kids who are being diagnosed with struggles, we do have more awareness. Paediatric care always resonates with people as something they should think about,” said Willms. “OSNS is expanding programs and providing more support for families when they’re concerned about just the emotional well being of their children and their children’s behaviour.
“I think that people who donate, people who get interested in causes, are more savvy these days and they’re more interested in the why of what we do. We’ve got a great why in that we provide great intervention for children when they’re little so that as they grow up, they’re not going to struggle with motor or communication skills or mental health difficulties.”
Donations can be made online at www.osns.org donate or by stopping by the centre between noon and 5 p.m. Saturday, located at #103-550 Carmi Ave.