CALGARY- It’s a safe place where people of all ages on the autism spectrum can hang out and have a good time – even if, at the moment, it’s a little cramped.
“When we started we had seven families and we’re up to over 600 now,” explains Dean Svoboda, the founder and executive director of the Autism-Asperger’s Friendship Society.
For nearly 10 years, the society has provided social programs for members, everything from pub nights and card games for adults to youth board game nights, cooking clubs and camping trips.
“We started because we found that a lot of youth and kids with autism grow up in the world of therapy and care and don’t get a chance to really step outside, take risks and have fun,” Svoboda explains
Nancy Morin’s son Matthew is 10-years- old and has been taking part in the society’s programs for the past two years. She says the experiences here have given him a lot of confidence.
“It’s very hard (for him) to integrate sometimes with neurotypical kids, they look at him and think he’s strange,” Morin explains, “But here, everybody is the same. It’s awesome!”
For the last eight years, the society has leased space in the Currie Barracks but with only a short term lease available, the group is looking for a more spacious, permanent home. Recently, the foundation has begun raising money to build a club house.
“We want a space that can provide more programming to fill in a lot of the gaps in service out there for families including 24 hour respite care,” says Svoboda.
Last month, the foundation kicked off fundraising efforts with a Gala but they still have a long ways to go before they hit their goal.
For more information or to make a donation you can visit their website.