People can give residents at Breton Ability Centre more chances to socialize outdoors this Christmas.
Harman Singh, CEO of the centre, said they are seeking donations to build a covered barbecue area and a children’s playground.
“We need to take a little bit of a different spin on Christmas because obviously shopping like we did in years past is really not the best way to stop the spread of the virus. We’re encouraging people to spread the joy and look at supporting local charities, and this is a great charity to look at and we’re hoping people would consider us as the recipient of their generosity and goodwill,” she said.
The barbecue area — or grillzebo — is expected to cost about $6,000 while the specialized playground, which will be part of their new $1.3 million four-bedroom home for children with autism and intellectual disabilities, is expected to cost about $10,000.
Singh said the COVID-19 pandemic not only limited their ability to stage more traditional fundraisers to raise the money, it also forced them to temporarily close three social enterprises — a bottle collection depot, print shop and gift store — that all contributed their profits directly into the centre’s charitable foundation.
She said both projects will enrich the lives of their clients by allowing them to socialize outdoors and get some exercise.
“There is evidence to support that the movement needs of children with autism and other special needs is crucial in their growth and development. A lot of times lack of movement and lack of physical activity can contribute to behavioural challenges. It’s extremely important for kids — neurotypical kids, as well — to exercise and physical activity is so important and it’s no different for kids on with autism spectrum disorder or who have special needs,” she said, adding that the grillzebo was an idea one of their licensed practical nurses suggested.
“The whole premise is that sometimes being stuck inside of the house, indoors, is not healthy. People need to get fresh air, people need to have opportunities to socialize and even move a little bit. The concept is a covered barbecue area so even if this weather is bad, they can still go out, enjoy a barbecue and socialize. We have very talented staff who can play music, so maybe they will strum a few tunes and just have a great gathering space to have a typical Cape Breton outdoor party.”
Both projects will be 100 per cent donor funded so the centre is counting on the continued generosity of the community.
“The community has been fabulous. We are so blessed to be living in Cape Breton because people are very generous, and I always say no donation is small — every donation makes a huge difference in the lives of the people we support,” she said, adding that the centre serves 97 clients at its large home on Kings Road and six community homes throughout Cape Breton Regional Municipality, as well as people who take part in their youth day program and use their learning and employment centre.
“We do have a large population that we support and reach out to.”
Donations can be made online at bretonability.ca/fundraising, and a charitable tax receipt will be issued upon receiving the donation.