Telethon dials up support for kids

Share-a-Smile Telethon will air Sunday on Shaw Cable from noon to 9 p.m.

  • Oct. 27, 2011 6:00 p.m.
Ginnie Weston of the Child Development Centre helps Rachel Bird get the hair out of her eyes at the facility playground recently. The centre’s annual fundraising telethon takes place Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.

Ginnie Weston of the Child Development Centre helps Rachel Bird get the hair out of her eyes at the facility playground recently. The centre’s annual fundraising telethon takes place Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.

There’s always a need, and the OSNS Child Development Centre is hoping the community will ring in its support.

Centre staff are in the final stages of planning for the 32nd annual Shaw Share-a-Smile Telethon set for Sunday, a critical component to the non-profit’s fundraising stable that sees vital programs offered to children throughout the South Okanagan.

“The reason we can be so successful is not only our history and our reputation, but the philanthropic attitude of the community, the people who live here,” executive director Judy Sentes said.

“It’s an investment in our children. The earlier you can visit the special needs that a child has, be that a lifelong disability or developmental delay, the earlier you get in there with help, the better your chances for a good outcome.”

OSNS helps children requiring assessment and intervention with developmental delays and lifelong disabilities, in the form of occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech language therapy and child psychology, in addition to targeted programs for autism, family support and integrated preschool, called Kinderplace.

More than 350 children receive help, and Sentes said the centre’s families are located in a large region including Penticton, Summerland, Oliver, Osoyoos, Princeton and even as far as Tulameen. This adds additional challenges to their resources.

“To Princeton, if you consider one way is an hour and a half, round trip is three hours,” she said. “It’s difficult for an employer to give a family time off, because it virtually takes the entire day by the time you drive in, the child has the appropriate therapy and you drive home.

“Also, some of our children with special needs respond better in a home environment or their preschool or day care, that which is familiar to them.”

Time is also of the essence. Sentes explains the centre is contracted by the Ministry of Children and Family Development to work with children from birth to school age, when the Ministry of Education takes over assessment and therapies through the school system. But she also cites research conducted in the United States that shows if there is no intervention by the age of three years, some consider the child’s problems “geriatric.”

“The value of early intervention is clear. It can make a difference in a child’s life,” she said.

Unfortunately, it all comes down to dollars and cents. OSNS has a contract with the Families Ministry to provide $1.1 million in services, but the centre’s budget is $1.4 million for the 20 staff on hand and low-overhead costs.

“It’s all predicated on money,” she said, adding they rely on donors who recognize the centre’s value. “We all know everybody’s short. We have options: we can scale back our operations or we can rely on the philanthropic attitude of our community.”

The telethon will run from noon to 9 p.m., aired on Shaw cable channel 11, and residents can donate by dropping by the centre at 103-550 Carmi Ave. or calling the telethon lines at 250-492-0295. Out-of-town donors can call toll-free at 1-866-492-0295. Hourly draws will be held for a variety of items, including two tickets to the centre’s Classic Christmas Charity Ball worth $250.

Those looking to donate earlier than Sunday have two ways of helping: OSNS Child Development Centre staff are hosting a Fun Day at centre court of Cherry Lane shopping centre on Friday. There will be games for children, favours and information, and residents can drop by to meet staff or make a donation. Also, anyone who fuels up at the Shell on Government Street until Saturday will fill more than their own tank, as the service station owners will make a donation for each litre of fuel sold on those days.

The last two years $60,000 has been generated from the telethon. Sentes remains cautiously optimistic that they’ll reach that figure again.

“It’s always difficult to make predictions. Whatever we make is more than we had yesterday,” she said.