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Richmond benefit for children with disabilities

Thirteen-year-old Reid Scally gets ready for school and gives his mother a big hug and tells her how much he loves her. Unusual? In some respects, Reid is not your typical teenager but in many ways, he is.

Thirteen-year-old Reid Scally gets ready for school and gives his mother a big hug and tells her how much he loves her.

Unusual? In some respects, Reid is not your typical teenager but in many ways, he is.

Besides public displays of affection for his mom and being epileptic, the Steveston teen has a condition called global developmental disability, whereby Reid is significantly delayed in intellectual and social skills.

His mom, Janet Carson, said Reid struggles with math and reading.

Reids brain didnt fully develop in utero so he is behind his peers in all areas of development, she added.

However, Reid is very athletically capable and has taken part in three Special Olympics.

Reid is a sports fanatic, enjoying swimming, soccer and his all-time favourite, hockey. In fact, Reid has more signed Canucks jerseys and hockey sticks than most young hockey fans.

Carson credits Richmond Society for Community Living (RSCL) for the joy she sees in her son.

Reid has been going to Youth Connections (an after-school and holiday program) for about a year and a half now and he loves it, said Carson.

Reid attends Youth Connections after-school program four days a week during the school year and daily during the summer.

When Reid was younger, he attended an integrated YMCA program out of Byng elementary.

As Reid got older, the program didnt work as well for him anymore, said Carson.

Our support worker suggested Youth Connections, and there is no question in my mind that this is where he should be.

Although Carson said she and her husband debated whether to place Reid in a segregated program, they have no regrets, only positive things to say about RSCL.

Reid is much more engaged with others of a similar age and he is forming relationships with the kids that he sees on the weekends, Carson said. He is also doing things he really enjoys.

As a parent, what is critically important is that Reid is safe and in the company of highly trained and wonderful people who enrich his life in so many ways.

RSCL sets priorities for all of the participants in Youth Connections and take the time to find out what interests them.

They are setting Reid up to succeed in life, Carson said.

They took the time to find out what interest him and built his monthly schedule according to what he likes to do, she added. They have incorporated cooking, dog walking.

Because Reid expressed the desire to get his drivers licence one day, they take him go-karting whether he can or not, at least he gets to go go-karting.

Meanwhile, Denise Abegg, Reids Youth Connections recreational counselor, is at the home when the News met up with the family on Wednesday morning. Abegg helps Reid get ready for school and takes him there.

She is a passionate advocate for the playground and what it will mean for all of the young people who attend the program.

It will allow them to be happy and relaxed in a recreational therapy learning environment although, we dont go as far as saying it's a specific recreational therapy program, said Abegg. However, it will be a real multi-sensory and interact play space.

We are also inviting the community at large to share our world with them.

Not all people with disabilities are as fortunate as Reid.

More than 2,800 British Columbians with developmental disabilities are waiting for services, according to provincial government figures. Of those, 2,100 are receiving some help but not enough, and the balance, 750, is without any assistance whatsoever. That translates to a deficit of more than $45 million in funding that is lacking from the Community Living B.C. (CLBC), the government agency responsible for providing funding and services to the developmentally disabled.

In respect to all the articles in the media regarding CLBC, it is accurate to say that we are in a crisis mode, said Janice Barr, executive director for RSCL. This is affecting families with a child with disability across their lifespan.

RSCL has had no increases in government funding in two years; yet, requests for their services and programs keep rising. In 2010, RSCL served 1,100 people with disabilities.

We currently have 114 families on a waitlist for our supported child development program alone, and we serve 369 families right now, added Barr.

Now more than ever before, the nonprofit organization depends on funds raised through its fundraising efforts. Barr said RSCL, which is the largest provider of services for people with disabilities in Richmond, needs to raise approximately $200,000 every year to keep its programs running and to provide for capital improvements, such as the Youth connections playground.

We receive around $4.5 million from CLBC, but our yearly costs are close to $10 million a year, Barr said. We also do not receive any government funding for capital equipment or for improvements.

RSCL also receives funds from user fees, private donors and other nonprofit foundations.

Barr also acknowledged Carsons frustration with inadequate care over spring break and Pro-D days.

It is problematic but schools are closed more days and have an expanded spring break which adds pressure on us, said Barr. We have not been able to meet that demand there are funding shortfalls all across the board.

Meanwhile, Barr hopes to raise more than $20,000 during its gala soiree, The Benefit of Possibilities A Community Affair on Wednesday, Nov. 9, to close the gap on the $100,000 needed to build its inclusive, fully accessible playground.

The newly designed outdoor space will be fully accessible and safe for children, tweens and teens to enjoy both recreational and creative experiences, said Lisa Cowell, RSCL manager of fund and community development.

The Benefit of Possibilities A Community Affair happens on Wednesday, Nov. 9 from 6:30 to 10 p.m. in the Grand ballroom at the Executive Airport Plaza Hotel. This is RSCL signature event, with all proceeds going to the Youth Connections playground. Tickets are $75, which includes dinner, live entertainment with Tickle Me Pickle, and a silent and live auction. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 604-279-8412 or visit