With great thanks to the Neighbourhood Small Grants North Okanagan and the Community Foundation North Okanagan, parents of children with disabilities had the opportunity to meet and connect in two casual and unstructured environments this summer.

Our first meetup was an afternoon at Browns Social House, where parents were invited via email and social media to RSVP and attend a casual lunch. 11 parents were in attendance at this meeting, with one father and 10 mothers representing children with a diverse range of abilities, including Downs Syndrome, Trisomy differences, Autism, ADHD, Rhett Syndrome and more.

Parents were each given a $20 Browns gift card to use to order their own meals or beverages while enjoying connecting with parents of children in our community that often wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to connect. Topics of discussion included the challenges of summer break with limited supports in the home, the difficulties in finding supportive and inclusive summer camps for children with disabilities, as well as casual conversation that would be typical of any group meeting for the first time.

Our second meetup was an evening meetup in September, a few weeks after school had started. This time there were two dads and eight moms in attendance. This evening offered a great opportunity to discuss how the kids had transitioned back to school like, the supports that are available in the various schools in our community, as well as the upcoming IEP (individualized Education Plan) that all children with disabilities are involved with at the outset at each school year. The parents were informed that meals up to the value of $20 would be covered for the evening (not including alcoholic beverages.) Once again there was a diverse group of parents representing an even more diverse group of children, each with their own individual needs.

Both of these events offered parents a unique opportunity to form connections with parents and caregivers that they otherwise may not meet in their regular day to day activities. These events offered an invaluable opportunity for this group of advocates to meet, be included and to share their unique perspectives on the challenges and joys of parenting children with special needs.

As a parent of a seven-year-old daughter with a brain abnormality, the opportunity to build rapport with parents in similar situations is invaluable and I am so grateful to have been able to extend the opportunity to families in our community to come enjoy a meal without fear of judgement.

I’m grateful for the support of CFNO and the Neighbourhood Small Grants North Okanagan for giving me the opportunity to organize and facilitate these meetups.

Please see attached for a sign that was placed on the tables at the meals, helping to ensure that recognition was given both in visual format as well as verbally several time at each event.

Project Leader: Bree Cawley

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