In Angelica’s make-believe world, a simple touch of the sparkling magic wand in her right hand causes all the bad things to disappear.
However, for the six-and-a-half-year-old, the harsh reality of day-to-day living can sometimes be almost too much.
Growing up with autism has been and continues to be incredibly difficult, but Angelica is fortunate to receive the care and support from the trained staff of the OSNS Child Development Centre.
“That’s the wonderfulness of this,” said Judy Sentes, the centre’s executive director. “Angelica has come so far so far — she still has a challenge in front of her and always will — but she’s now in the school system. We’re still supporting her ,but you know without those programs and the specific autism program it may not have been possible for her to even go to school.”
Sentes vividly recalled the difficulties the young girl and her family were having when she first came to the centre a couple of years ago.
“Before she was trapped in a world people couldn’t get into, and while there is no magic pill at least we can give her some tools,” said the executive director.
It is through the pledges and donations from last weekend’s 32nd Shaw Share-a-Smile Telethon those programs will continue to be available to Angelica and other special needs children throughout the South Okanagan and Similkameen.
According to Sentes, the final figure from the nine-hour show and two other major contributions is expected to top the $63,000 mark.
“Given the continuing challenge of everyone’s dollar these days we are thrilled, absolutely thrilled we were able to maintain what we achieved last year and maybe even a little bit more when all is said and done,” said Sentes. “I have said this before, per capita this child development centre raises more money in the province than anybody else. I think it speaks loudly of this community because without that support these things would not exist.”
As he has for roughly the last three decades, CHBC television personality Mike Roberts hosted the telethon.
“I’m happy to do this because the work that the Child Development Centre does is just so important to help children get over impediments to them having a nice happy life,” he said. “I mean if you can teach a child to talk who can’t, if you can teach a behaviour that’s an improvement, that child will be happier and that family will be happier and society will be better off. This place is doing that job.”
He added one of the most important things about the centre is families do not have to send their children away for their care which makes them part of the treatment process at both ends.
This money along with that from the centre’s other major fundraisers — the Evergreen Ball and the Harley Davidson raffle — goes towards the facility’s $300,000 deficit.
The provincial government contributes just over $1 million of the $1.4 million budget and the centre is responsible for the remainder.
“That’s a lot to ask for (from the community) in addition to all the other wonderful charities,” said the executive director. “Costs are going up, just the cost of gas alone and the monthly fee we have to pay for IT, and even 10 years ago we didn’t have that.
“The costs are forever increasing on us and if you’re going to keep up with technology and indeed we must, we have to absorb those.”
And while the work at the facility is not always apparent to the general public unless it happens to touch their lives, she feels the fact the money, and a large part of it, is used to directly help people in the area it serves is a motivator.
As in the past, the many volunteers, including the estimated 60 panelists who answered the phones and chased after friends and family for contributions, received high praise from the head of the organization.
In total 250 people gave of their time and efforts to make the telethon a success.
Donations can still be made by calling 250-492-0295, stopping in at the centre or by going to www.osns.org.