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Community there for family in need

The Editor, Our family moved to Richmond four years ago with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. We knew the Canadian System could help us care for our disabled daughter, Kayla, who has cerebral palsy.

The Editor,

Our family moved to Richmond four years ago with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. We knew the Canadian System could help us care for our disabled daughter, Kayla, who has cerebral palsy. Little did we know at the time how well Canada/ Richmond would take such good care of all of us.

At the time Kayla was 14, Collin was 8, and Emmalyn had just turned 5. We moved here from Tampa, Fl. and experienced the difference in community immediately. While registering the children at Westwind elementary, we noticed no fences around the school and playground. The receptionist said the children could go play while we registered. My son and daughter were scared to play without me with them.

See, the difference is, in Florida, all schools have fences around the playgrounds and property. Children cannot leave the school ground without an authorized person showing two forms of identification to check them out. Nor would my children play at a playground without me at their side. I knew right then that this was a different community.

We then met our community nurse Glenys Pullman, who we have nicknamed pit bull in the most flattering fashion. Pullman was a miracle worker. Kayla had all of her medical services, household medical deliveries, therapists, and pediatrician within three months of moving here. In the States, that would have taken me half the year to do, and I would have been the one organizing it. Our community nurse here did it all.

Kayla became severely ill in the hospital in November of 2008 after just recently receiving MSP. We noticed a difference in Childrens Hospital Vancouver as well. There were no unnecessary tests, IVs, CT scans, flat screen TVs in every room, PlayStations, and fancy artwork throughout the hospital, but the care was exceptional.

The first visitor she had was Pullman. After being at school only two months, Westwind parents and our beloved neighbours were delivering food to my home. The support we felt was immense and touching. That first year, Kayla was treated at childrens for three life-threatening conditions, and each time we had offers to help with our other children from people we had only recently met at Westwind.

Friendships were built, bonds were made, and we learned to enjoy all of opportunities Richmond has to offer. When checking with the community centres about special programs for Kayla, we were informed they do not have special programs in general. She could sign up for any program and they would get help for her to take part, if possible.

Mc Math secondary has been a blessing for our daughter. With the help of assistive technology, she has been able to communicate through a computer. She can also use eye gaze software (like a mouse) and is able to participate in regular classes. She has loved drama and photo!

Whats different about this in Richmond vs. Tampa is the school district provides many more EAs per student than in Florida. Kaylas EAs have gone above and beyond their normal scope of duties to ensure that Kayla has gotten the most participation possible. These EAs have become very close friends that we will cherish for life. They have volunteered to take Kayla to outside school functions, such as her first formal dance, a concert in which tickets were donated to Kayla by friends of the family, and the 2012 Vancouver Sun Run. The experiences they have provided her with have enhanced her life. While living in Steveston area, we were able to meet Zac Efron with the help of the City of Richmond group that was scheduled for a meet and greet. Just recently, our entire family was treated to a Disney Alaska Cruise from Make-a-Wish BC/Yukon. Kayla has truly gotten to live while living in Richmond.

McMath and student council fundraised the last three days of school so Kayla can take the assistive technology with her to Florida. Aer-Elite also had their year-end show and donated over $1,200 toward the $1,900 needed to purchase the equipment. Its like calling in the cavalry just by saying I need help.

Moving back to Tampa is a scary thing for us. My son will be going into the last year of middle school, and my youngest daughter is more Canadian than American because she started school here. However, I know that while here in Richmond, they have learned Westwind elementarys motto of S.P.I.R.T (safe, positive, inclusive, respectful, team player). And that gives me comfort.

When attending middle school, my son will remember the foundation of S.P.I.R.T. He will see bad behaviour, attitudes, actions, and much more that he is not used to, and he will know in his heart that it is not acceptable because he has had four years of learning how to be inclusive, respectful, positive, safe and a team player. They have learned much from Westwind and also from Richmond sports.

We have participated in baseball all four years, football for two years, softball for three years, and my daughters have danced with Aer-Elite Dance with Morri-Lynn Buchanan for four years. All of these organizations have helped mold my children into becoming team players and have encouraged confidence. Aer-Elite Dance has included Kayla in many dances and this year we have taken her to competitions and won many awards.

The difference again with this dance group from others in the U.S. is they have included special needs children into the studio with no hesitation to let them shine. Kayla was thrilled to be able to go on stage and perform like her sister does. She touched many hearts in doing so, and Aer-Elite is the only dance company I know of that would risk the winning to allow someone to have their time in the spotlight. This Dance Company and community have become family.

Many cultures believe that it takes a village to raise a child. Our Village has been Richmond, and we want to say thank you! Thank you to the coaches who volunteer their time to teach our children to love a sport. Thank you to the schools that meld our children into responsible, respectful leaders. Thank you to the community for teaching our children to be inclusive and keeping them safe. Thank you Vancouver for showing us how to celebrate the athletes that represent your country during the Olympics and year-round. Thank you to the friends who have become family and taught us what its really like to have pride in your country or team. Although we are still Tampa Bay Lightning fans, we have learned to respect the Canucks as well. Thank you to the province for taking such good medical care of our children. I cannot end this without some personal praise:

RCBA Coaches: John, Dave, Wayne,

BGSA Coaches: Darren, Ken

RGCH: Coaches: Dave and Rick

RMFL: Coaches: Bob, Rob, and Nathan

Westwind Elementary: Mr. Hurst, teachers, staff and PAC

McMath Secondary: Staff, teachers, EAs!!! You rock!

Vancouver Childrens Hospital

Sunny Hill Hospital

Richmond Hospital Pediatrics

Gleynnis Pullman

SET BC- Betsy Neily

Make-A-Wish BC / Yukon

Aer-Elite Dance : Morri-Lynn and entire dance family!

Thank you all for being the village, we could not have asked for a better one. We will miss you all, but will welcome you to visit Tampa anytime (especially in March when its been cold and rainy here for too long).

We are honoured to have been a part of this community. We will be having a day in the park to say goodbye to all of you on Sunday, July 8. We will camp out at Steveston Park, BBQ, play and bid farewell from 2 to at least 8 p.m. Please come by to say goodbye if you can.

Kristen Hill