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Ajax mother opening business to fill disability service gap

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WATCH: An Ajax woman is hoping to help those with developmental disabilities in the community. She's using her personal and professional experience to launch My Happy Place Inc.. With an already scarce market, and a growing need for programs like this one, there's already a wait list. Aaron Streck with more.

An Ajax woman is in the process of opening a business in Durham Region to help families and those in the community with developmental disabilities.

Elizabeth Wallis is a mother of two children with developmental disabilities herself. She’s been a social worker for 15 years but as the kids have gotten older, there have been more challenges.

“Once he reaches the age of 12 there’s nowhere for him to go after school and how am I going to go to work and provide for my family?” said Wallis.

So Wallis decided to create a business that melds her personal and professional perspectives.

The sign is not up yet and renovations are underway at the downtown centre in Ajax.

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“I’m very aware that services for individuals with developmental disabilities are pretty scarce so I decided to fill a bit of the service gap by opening up a centre I would love to see for my own family,” said Wallis.

Wallis says My Happy Place Inc. will provide day programs for adults, as well as after-school and weekend programs for kids. A wait-list is already growing.

“For my family, needing a break from the kids and also giving them something fun to do where they’re going to be safe and have a good time and have their needs met is just so important,” said Wallis.

Shona Dandar is one of those parents on the wait-list.

All three of her children have autism and she says the number of appointments and school 12 months of the year make it hard to get things done when towing all of them around.

“We are on all the time,” said Dandar.

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“We’re going to have somewhere we can take them on a Saturday or a Sunday for four hours and we’re going to do a little bit of catch up, maybe take a bit of a break.”

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Tony Stravato is in the same boat.

He says caring for his twin boys is a full-time job and it’s hard to find a place or someone to look after them that he trusts.

“Simple things like cutting the lawn and home repairs, it’s very hard to get done, so a centre like this will definitely provide us that,” said Stravato, parent and disabilities advocate.

My Happy Place Inc. has been Wallis’s vision for months but she says the COVID-19 pandemic slowed things down. Now that things are rolling again, she expects to have the centre open in early September.

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