Variety is the spice of life for special Richmond family

Funding from children's charity helps patient mom-of-three with trio of special needs kids

Sharon Chan does not have her challenges to seek.

As a mother of three, special needs kids, Chan said  fresh obstacles dawn every morning, compelling her to delve daily into her seemingly bottomless well of patience.

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Chan’s eldest son, Orlando, 10, has ADHD, and could be talking constantly in her ear, as she deals with a wild tantrum being thrown by daughter Luna, 8, who’s non-verbal, autistic and has an anxiety disorder.

And then there’s six-year-old Herman, who’s also autistic and, until recently, wasn’t able to speak properly and had serious trouble communicating.

“Oh, every day is different,” laughed stay-at-home mom Chan, who lives in a townhouse with her husband, on Williams Road, near Shell Road.

“If their routine changes, it can be very upsetting.

“Even if we go to a place where we normally park in the same spot and for some reason we can’t, Luna will throw a tantrum for hours. If she sees a bird, it can upset her for hours, as well.

“My older son talks all the time, so he’s in your other ear while all these other things are kicking off. It can be very entertaining in this house, that’s for sure.”

Sharon Chan, with her non-verbal, autistic daughter, Luna, 8, who, until recently, had trouble eating and was rapidly losing weight. Variety - The Children’s Charity stepped in with funding to help Luna get therapy. - Alan Campbell/Richmond News

In a single-income household, Chan’s saving grace has, for the last few years, been funding from Variety — The Children’s Charity, which has helped her two youngest kids immensely in their development.

All three of Chan’s children attend the nearby Woodward elementary — Orlando is in Grade 5, Luna, Grade 3 and Herman, Grade 1 - where Luna and Herman each have full-time education assistants.

But it’s away from the classroom that Variety has stepped up to fill the gap in government funding to make sure Luna and Herman have every chance possible during their childhood development.

“Luna had challenges with eating and her weight dropped dramatically a couple of years ago,” said Chan.

“There is no way she would tolerate using a tube to feed her so, with the help of Variety, she was able to attend feeding therapy in Vancouver.

“They cost $130 per hour and we were going there every day for an hour and a half for four months, so you can imagine how much that would cost. It’s certainly beyond the reach, financially, for us, with only one income. Any government funding is just not nearly enough.

“It has made a big difference, however, and now she eats much better.”

And Herman, said Chan, more recently got vital therapy for his speech, thanks to funding from Variety, which will host its annual, Show of Hearts Telethon fundraiser on Feb. 12.

“His speech is improving so much and he can actually hold a conversation now. He’s much happier now and is actually initiating conversations; it has made a huge difference.

“He is such a nice boy but, because he has a very difficult time to have a conversation with his peers, he often becomes the target of bullying.

Herman Chan, 6, plays away with his Thomas the Tank Engine toys. Funding from Variety - The Children's Charity for speech therapy, has boosted Herman's confidence and ability to initiate and hold conversations with his peers. - Alan Campbell/Richmond News

“Now he is able to see the (therapist) weekly and is starting to learn to speak. Our (government) autism funding dropped dramatically when he turned six (from $22,000 to $6,000). We are not able to pay privately for speech therapy because we are living on a single-income.

“Parenting three children with special needs is hard, but (Variety) has given us a light in the dark.”

As for her eldest, Orlando, “he gets his help from me,” laughed Chan.

“I spend a lot of time helping him with his homework.”

Asked how she manages to cope on a daily basis with the demands of caring for three special needs kids, Chan said she gets “used to it.”

“I do whatever it takes to keep the kids happy. I do have to be very patient and it’s not easy, but there are often very rewarding moments, as well.

“It can be very special when your daughter learns to do something simple, such as brushing her teeth.”

Chan said she’s thankful that all her children sleep pretty well, as it gives her a chance to catch up on housework and prepare for the next school day.

But does she have any hopes for her kids’ collective futures?

“When they get older, I hope they can live independently and be happy,” she said.

“I’m trying my best to give them that chance.”


Show of Hearts Telethon raises vital funds

The Show of Hearts Telethon has been running for almost the entire 50-year existence of Variety and proceeds from the annual broadcast event on Global BC have helped fund organizations such as BC Children’s’ Hospital, Canuck Place and neonatal intensive care units in hospitals all around B.C., while also directly helping children with special needs.

The 2017 telethon will take place on Sunday, Feb. 12. Donations can be made online at, toll-free by phone at 310.KIDS, or by texting “KIDS” to 45678 to make an automatic $20 contribution.

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