Thanks to a generous donation from the John Gordon Autism Foundation of Vancouver the Cariboo Chilcotin Child Development Centre will build an autism centre in Williams Lake.
The centre will be built by the next intake of Thompson Rivers University Residential Construction Program students through a partnership with the Williams Lake Construction Association, School District 27 and the CDC.
“We have a second tier off the back lane of our centre where we’d like to create a house-like space that is custom designed to do the work that we already do with kids with autism,” CDC executive director Nancy Gale said Thursday.
Design for the facility would include a large living room, family room and a large commercial country kitchen.
“Families could come to work with our staff and their autistic children,” Gale explained.
Dr. Ray Sanders, executive director of TRU Williams Lake campus, said the university is happy to include CDC in its partnership group for the RCP program.
“The WLCA, SD 27, and TRU are excited to be able to offer this hands-on experience for future carpenters,” Sanders said. “Partnering is the key to being successful in all of our endeavours,” Sanders said, adding the students will build the autism centre from the ground up.”
The centre will serve as the large project portion of the course and provide students with some of the best experience possible before entering into the carpentry trade.
The RCP program is one of the most hands-on programs offered at TRU. Students spend 70 per cent of their time working on construction projects.
Through a family connection, Cathie Durfeld from Community Living BC in Williams Lake, approached the John Gordon Autism Foundation for funding.
“They told me they wanted to put some money outside of Vancouver,” Durfeld said.
Immediately Durfeld and Gale put their heads together, decided to “think big,” and asked for capital funding.
“They loved the idea,” Gale said. “The board supported the idea unanimously and on Nov. 18 I received a hand-written cheque for $96,000.”
That amount will represent 60 per cent of the total project cost, she added.
Presently two CDC staff members are trained to work with autistic children. Originally there were 11 children in the program, but after the staff members were trained, the number grew to 30.
Gale anticipates that the centre will become a hub for the north, while Durfeld added the foundation’s money is supporting a project that will go a long way in helping meet the needs of autistic people in Williams Lake.