Starbright Supports Families When They Need A Miracle

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Starbright Children’s Development Centre has a long history of positively impacting the lives of children under the age of six with developmental challenges. The impact of the Centre is brought to life through stories of the families it has served. Located in Kelowna, British Columbia, Starbright has been operating and creating such stories for almost 60 years.

Jackie is a parent like many others who came to Starbright when she and her son, Colter, were in desperate need of support.

Jackie and Colter’s Story

“I gave birth to my son Colter 30 years ago at Kelowna General Hospital. At the time I was a young and naïve 21-year-old. My husband and I had only been married a year. We looked forward to the arrival of our first child and never anticipated he would have significant medical needs,” said Jackie.

“The primary concern immediately after birth was Colter’s significant issue with feeding, and he remained in the hospital for six weeks. It was during this time Colter was diagnosed with Craniosynostosis, which is a condition in which the skull fuses together before the brain is ready. It’s a serious condition that would require surgeries over several years. The feeding issue was particularly challenging and stressful for a new mom as Colter needed to gain weight to prepare for the first of his many surgeries.

“This is where Starbright comes into play. Upon discharge from the hospital, Colter was referred by his pediatrician to the Centre’s Infant Development Program. Carol, an IDP Consultant who worked at Starbright then, was helpful right away as she was calm and incredibly supportive. Looking back now, I realize her first visit was for me, whereas her second was for Colter and me. She assessed Colter and provided a plan to encourage his development. Carol was an absolute lifeline to me many times in those early years of his life.

starbright children's development centre
Colter as a child received support and therapies from Starbright. © Photo Courtesy of Jackie Blonarowitz
An adult Colter is flanked by his mother Jackie (right) and by Shona, a former Starbright speech language pathologist (Left) © Photo Courtesy of Jackie Blonarowitz.

A Team Approach

“Colter’s first surgery was done in Vancouver at the age of four months. After the surgery, I could see he had lost certain abilities and his hearing, sight, and mobility were all affected. Colter’s head was misshapen, and he was unable to hold it up. He eventually needed to wear a helmet for protection. Colter required a team approach from Starbright, so Carol made the appropriate referrals to Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, and Supported Child Development.

“Colter basically touched all of Starbright’s services. His needs were that great. I was so grateful the Centre could manage his needs with a team approach. To have all the services provided by one agency under one roof made it a much easier system to navigate. Even as he reached preschool age, he continued to require individualized programming, so Starbright provided support tailored to his needs.

“Lana, an Inclusive Childcare Consultant who was then with Starbright, organized the plan to get Colter settled into preschool. This included arranging for a staff member to work within the preschool setting, as Colter required additional support. Regular team meetings were held to evaluate and update the individualized plan.

“I am so appreciative of Starbright respecting that I was the primary care provider and taking the time to teach me how to encourage Colter’s development at home. Shona, who was a long-time Speech Language Pathologist at Starbright, provided weekly individualized sessions to encourage Colter’s speech and language development. Shona provided ongoing tools and home programming activities for me to follow. Another Carol, a Physical Therapist who is still on staff at Starbright, also worked closely with Colter.

“It’s very hard to hear as a parent that your child has special needs and is delayed. Colter’s team at Starbright did this in a very professional and caring manner. They were the experts, and I learned to really trust them.

Life-Changing Support

“At times, we visited Starbright daily, and we got to know the staff very well. Everyone, including Sue at the front desk, was always so welcoming. Colter loved the people and was so happy to see them. For me, they became my community as I felt they understood my situation and that their support was unconditional.

“When Colter hit school age, my biggest concern for him going forward was no longer having the support from Starbright. Although the transition to Kindergarten was challenging, I was prepared as I learned important skills from Starbright to advocate for my son’s needs.

“Colter is now an adult. He’s supported in the community and has made many friends. He’s currently employed at two jobs with individual support. He’s a bubbly and outgoing person who people clearly enjoy seeing. Most importantly, he is happy. I’m so proud of the young man he has become.

“I can’t say enough about Starbright and what the Centre meant to Colter and me. Your life is forever changed when your child’s life is not typical. My life was basically turned upside down. I really don’t know where I would be without the professional support, the care, and the compassion they showed my son.”

Comprehensive Services Available

Starbright is proud of its history of helping families with learning and finding ways to support their child’s developmental progress.

The Centre has been providing therapies and programming for babies, toddlers, and preschool children experiencing developmental difficulties since 1966. The charitable non-profit centre has become a vital part of the local community, seeing approximately 1,000 children a year. It receives the majority of its funding from the provincial government.

Starbright focuses on the parents and family of the child with developmental delays by design. Starbright families become part of the therapy and programming sessions so they learn strategies they can reinforce at home to further support their child.

“We do find the parents and our staff motivate and inspire each other. The parents become wonderful advocates for the work we do and stories like Jackie’s are rewarding for us. Our ability to provide multiple services to a child under one roof can be so helpful to a child’s progress. This shows what Starbright is able to bring to the local community,” said Rhonda Nelson, Starbright’s Executive Director.

There continue to be families and children in the Central Okanagan who need the support and assistance of the Centre and its caring and professional staff—people just like Jackie and Colter.

Learn more at starbrightokanagan.ca

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Starbright Children’s Development Centre is a charitable non-profit organization providing therapy and program services to a variety of families with children age 0 to school age eligibility throughout the central Okanagan. With generous assistance from the community, the province and many sponsors we have continued to provide quality services for families since 1966.

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