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One of the best part about our club is that we’re in a position to give back to those around us. From the Red Deer Food Bank to the Family Services of Central Alberta, not only have we made meaningful relationships with charities and non profits, but we’ve been able to work together and change lives in the process. Most recently, we were able to contribute to Aspire Special Needs Resource Centre. In order to show you how the organization assists children with special needs, we’ve asked Melissa Vine, Aspire’s Fund Development Coordinator, a few questions.

Tell us a bit about your role at Aspire.

As Fund Development Coordinator, my role is oversee the fundraising and “friendraising” events we do throughout year. Our largest one, Evening of Decadent Dessert, ensures that we have the funds to serve families who have children with special needs in the Red Deer and Central Alberta community.

What are some of the Services that Aspire Offers? 

We offer individualized services tailored to the needs of the children we work with (we can visit a family at their home or they can come to us). More specifically, we have trained psychologists, speech-language pathologists, behavioural specialists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists who work with children based on a family’s needs. We also have the Transdisciplinary Assessment and Consultation (TAC) Program, which is a six week program where a child, and parent or guardian, come in with questions, and through observation, strategies are recommended, with a complete diagnostic report, if relevant. Children have their parent or guardian present at all times, who participate as they are interacting with the therapists. During the course of the program, the parent/guardian will learn different tools and strategies to make sure they can continue to support them after the program is complete.

Do you have any memorable stories worth sharing?

The following is an excerpt from a piece written by a family who greatly benefitted from Aspire’s services

Daniel was born a perfectly beautiful, healthy baby boy. We were completely enamoured with him, as were all who he encountered. His smile, cheerful disposition, and affectionate ways would steal your heart. He was so bright, was reaching his milestones, and was illustrating why the expression “bouncing baby boy” exists!

Just before two years old, we noticed Daniel was a little behind in speech. He also wasn’t travelling up and down stairs as expected for his age. He was on par in most ways, and people kept repeating not to worry, he would catch up. He didn’t, and we did speech therapy at three years old, where he was diagnosed as having a moderate to severe expressive and receptive speech delay. No other delays were suspected at the time. He was enrolled in the RDPS Bright Beginnings Pre K program. He was starting to use more words, and even combinations. He was doing much better with stairs, he was climbing into and out of the vehicle and his car seat on his own. Everything looked full speed ahead for his development, we were thrilled and relieved.

Daniel had his first seizure just before he started Pre K.  The seizures continued every twenty minutes for two hours while we waited in Emergency. We stayed for observation the following day, and the pediatrician suspected more than a speech delay was going on with Daniel.

Daniel, one of the many children who benefit from Aspire’s services

His mobility got increasingly worse in a short time frame, but tests still did not explain what was happening to our sweet boy. Then he stopped walking. He suddenly stopped talking as well. I took him and his baby brother out of province to stay with my parents. I needed to be with family for support. When we returned, he went for another hospital stay, more prolonged EEG, and this time they ordered a skin biopsy. Within three weeks we had our diagnosis, Daniel has something called Batten Disease, the late infantile CLN2 variant of the disease specifically.

Batten Disease is a horrible diagnosis, a parent’s worst nightmare. It’s a rare, neurodegenerative disease that is always fatal. There is no cure and no treatment available at present. Daniel has lost his mobility, his vision, his vocabulary, much of his comprehension, and suffers through a movement disorder, occasional seizures, as well as having increased difficulty eating and drinking.

The best thing for Daniel is a program such as EASE at Aspire. We were so happy when we received a phone call to tell us there was a space available for him there! He is accepted by his peers and participates in all activities, I’m amazed at the inventive ways they come up with to include him. The therapies that he needs are all on site, he is in very capable hands. I have learned so much from the staff at Aspire, their insights and knowledge are invaluable. I consider us so lucky to have such a caring, compassionate, ingenious team spending time with Daniel every day and helping us on our journey. I don’t know what we would do without them.

What’s Your Favourite Part About Living in Red Deer?

I think the community is extremely supportive. In terms of service clubs, I love how involved everyone is.

What’s Something About Aspire That People Might not Know About?

Aspire is the only organization in Alberta that has a service like the TAC program. It’s a trans disciplinary program, meaning that every therapist works together and interacts with each other to develop a diagnosis for the child. Instead of several visits to independent therapists, the TAC program allows for multiple experts to come together and asses a child’s needs based on multiple perspectives.

We also have our EASE preschool program which keeps our building busy *laughs*. With this program, the 56 children who attend September to June will either have 1-on-1 or 1-on-2 support to guide learning and development depending on their identified severe delay and will have access to our onsite team of therapists. In those early ages, it’s important to give children the support systems they need to set them up for learning success.

Tell Us More About Evening of Decadent Desserts.

Our Evening of Decadent Desserts is on April 29th will be taking place at the Pidherney Centre in Red Deer. Tickets are $100 per person or $750 for a table of 8. This year’s theme, as the name suggests, will feature local bakers who will be crafting creative cakes that will be auctioned off. This year’s cakes are one of a kind masterpieces—we’ve got everything from teddy bears and purses to even a hanging upside down cake! (For more information on the event and to get your tickets, visit this page).  All funds raised go to support programs, specialized equipment purchases, and the scholarship program for families in need.

How Can Someone Get Involved With Aspire’s Events?

Many of our events rely on volunteers in order to go off without a hitch. One of our next events, the 4th Annual Walk for Aspire, is on May 28th at Parkland School Playground and is an event where children and families will have the opportunity to raise money through pledges. After the walk, the children will have access to snacks, face painting, a bouncy castle, and a whole lot more. Registration for the walk is $10 and we encourage everyone to attend! (Learn more about the 4th Annual Walk for Aspire here and visit this page to register as a volunteer with Aspire!)

Thanks Melissa! To learn more about Aspire and their services, please visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. And if you’re not already doing so, make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with everything going with our club!