At four years old, Cade Huitema has a difficult, yet inspiring story to tell.
“Around his first birthday he started to regress and he was later diagnosed with Krabbe Disease,” Cade’s mother Melissa Huitema said.
The rare genetic neurological disease impacts about one in 100,000 births. Most children die before their second birthday.
But by three years old, Cade defied doctors’ expectations. His parents looked to preschool.
“GRIT [Getting Ready for Inclusion Today] is an integrated inclusion program that provides services for children with special needs,” Annette Eckel said. She’s the fundraising coordinator for the program Cade is now part of.
He visits weekly and his teacher spends time with him at home.
“One day his teacher came and discovered that he was actually trying to communicate with us by moving his finger,” Huitema said.
His teacher realized Cade could not only understand conversation, but was eager to communicate.
“You can ask him a question and he knows exactly what’s going on. He will reply with kind of a yes, no gaze at this point. So he will look left for ‘no’ and right for ‘yes’,” Huitema said.
GRIT is just one of the programs supported by Pledge Day, an annual radiothon hosted by News Talk 770.
For over 40 years the event has raised money to help kids in need throughout the Calgary area.
Last year over $300,000 was donated to the Calgary Children’s Foundation, which supports grassroots charities that can’t often host their own massive fundraisers.
GRIT is one example.
EvenStart is another. The preschool program is set up for children experiencing trauma, crisis, poverty and neglect in their early years. It provides education and therapy to about 200 Calgary kids in a classroom setting.
“They have quite often speech and language delays and a lot of emotional and behavioral struggles,” educational support coordinator Lea Blust said.
“This provides a sense of consistency, the ability to develop these really positive relationships with adults – to be cared for and nurtured, and at the same time to be challenged.”
Pledge Day starts at 6 a.m. Friday and continues until 6:30 p.m.
Donations can be made in person at Corus Centre on 17th Avenue all day Friday, or online.
© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.