Child development centre in Kelowna appeals for public help

A not-for-profit Kelowna children’s development centre is expanding and hoping for public support

It’s been helping Okanagan children for more than five decades, but the Starbright Children’s Development Centre in Kelowna is now needing some help of its own.

Starbright, a not-for-profit organization, has outgrown its current facility in the 1,500-hundred block of Bernard Avenue and has been struggling with lack of space.

“Each year, more and more children require our services,”  Starbright executive director Rhonda Nelson told Global News. “Our building is so taxed, we don’t have enough therapy space and no space for growth.”

The need for more space has forced the charity to make a bold move and purchase a neighboring building to accommodate all of its programs and eventually grow them.

“It’s huge, it’s huge for us,” Nelson said. “We would not be able respond to a request to host another program. We would not be able to increase the programs that we got without additional space.”

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The second building is a former church that will require renovations before Starbright can move in.

Starbright will eventually use its current facility and the one it just acquired.

The building was purchased for around $940,000.

“It’s a little nerve wracking to enter into an expansion,” Nelson said.

That’s because the major project is not covered by any government funding.

While Starbright has a contract with the province to fund programs and staff wages, when it comes to the purchase and renovations, Starbright is on its own. And it is

It’s now appealing to the community for help with any monetary donations.

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“We would welcome any donations to help us,” Nelson said. “Giving early intervention, because that is what we do, can have such significant effects when that child is a baby, a toddler, and a pre-schooler. And for people to see that as important, to know that we save so many more dollars down the road by investing early on, that would be a remarkable thing.”

Starbright offers numerous programs, including an autism program, infant development, speech and occupational therapy.

READ MORE: Kelowna firefighters donate $2,500 to children’s centre to help kids with mobility issues walk

It helps around 1,300 children every year.

Sam Michiel’s five-year-old son, Lucas, has been in the autism program for three years.

She said the benefits have been been life-changing

“He couldn’t walk, he couldn’t talk,” Michiel said. “And within this three-year span now, they have helped him crawl up to walking with a walker. . .and now he’s talking too. He still needs help with his speech but he is talking and communicating with us.”

Michiel is all in favour of Starbright expanding and hopes the community jumps on board to help.

“If they want to expand to help other families because there is such a long waiting list, why wouldn’t we do it, why wouldn’t we help these poor little kids? Without Starbright where would they be?” Michiel said.

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If you would like more information about Starbright or you would like to donate, you can click here.