With the rate of autism diagnoses growing rapidly, a local agency is feverishly working to provide the necessary space and resources to assist.
Helen Armstrong, North Okanagan Neurological Association executive director, says autism is the fastest growing diagnosis in North America.
“I would say 10 years ago there was two (autism diagnosis) and now there is 70,” said Armstrong.
Now serving more than 700 children with special needs, NONA desperately needs more space to address the growing need.
Therefore a new $1.6 million facility, called the Clubhouse, is being constructed next to the existing centre, to create a campus-like setting. It will replace the existing space for children with autism – a cramped, aging bungalow about two kilometres from its main centre.
“We need to move our kids,” said Armstrong, eager to get out of the 2,500 square foot space and into the new three-storey, 10,000 square foot facility.
But NONA needs the community’s help to build the new clubhouse and is reaching out for support and donations to meet the demand. The Clubhouse campaign has raised nearly $600,000 so far.
Kalamalka Rotary responded to the need Monday with a $50,000 cheque from its annual Dream Auction.
“It’s a very wide-reaching service you provide,” Brian Reid, Kal Rotary president, told NONA staff, volunteers and board members.
Rotary’s donation will fund construction of the kitchen, which will be referred to as The Kal Rotary Kitchen. The learning kitchen will be the heart of the building, said Armstrong.
There will also be 10 therapy rooms (more than double the current number), which are up for sponsorship, a larger gym area, activity room and the added benefit of sharing space with the main centre.
Reid is equally impressed with the initiative NONA has taken to be self-sufficient with the building.
“There will be a rental floor which will help provide income to NONA on an ongoing basis,” he said.
Since there are no government dollars to help out with this capital project, NONA is relying on the community to help build the project and meet the needs of children across the North Okanagan.
“NONA doesn’t receive funding for building and equipment, so we are relying on the business community, individuals, grants, events and our raffle to raise money to build this vital facility for children and teens in the North Okanagan,” said Ian Laidlaw, community fundraising campaign chair.
NONA board chair Janice Foster hopes to be providing services from the new clubhouse early in 2017.
“A huge thank you to all of our donors, without you this project would not be possible.”
Construction is expected to take approximately eight months, according to Silver Rock Land Corporation.
The contractor has also been doing its part to obtain materials and time where it can to help out the project.
“We’ve been working with local trades and suppliers who help out where they can,” said Brent Ree, Silver Rock owner.