Pacekids, a non-profit organization for children with special needs was founded in Calgary, in 1994.
Offering a variety of educational and therapeutic programming, the organization focuses on growing the strengths and abilities of the children and their families.
Pacekids sees many kids start with them from ages as young as six months as part of their their infant and family support programs.
Shannon Edwards, Communications and Events Coordinator at Pacekids says, “A lot of them follow through their programing until they are about 10 or 12 through a few different programs that we have, so it is interesting and rewarding to watch the kiddos make progress from six months of age, no diagnosis.”
The Early Childhood Services (ECS) is Pacekids’ largest and only in-centre program. Providing one-to-one support for their morning kids, and one-to-two or three aid for their afternoon kids, focusing on speech, language and behaviour.
The organization also provides four in-home programs that work with families, showing them strategies to succeed outside of school, at home and in the community.
“Having the support and services that you need is pretty life changing for a lot of families,” Shannon says.
Many of the children receive their diagnosis after joining Pacekids. Shannon calls the process of getting the diagnosis an “emotional roller-coaster,” but says that Pacekids has many different programs and services to assist families.
“We have a lot of kids who have moved on to typical schools and graduate from typical programs or move on to be part of the Canadian Special Olympics team and Paralympics team, those successes are kind of like another level of success for us to appreciate and celebrate,” she says.
Shannon admits one of the favourite parts of her job is getting to tell the stories of the kids and share their successes, as well as promoting the events that have helped Pacekids succeed.
Events such as the Race for Pace, a superhero themed walk and run held annually at the end of August. Kids and their families can join in the one kilometer parade and enjoy activities like a bouncy castle and face painting afterwards, while sponsors and community members can participate in a five or ten kilometer run.
“The community for special needs families is pretty tight knit because everyone is going through similar challenges and experiencing similar things,” Shannon says. “It’s a great opportunity for all of our families, there’s a lot of galas and fundraisers that our families can’t come to so it’s a really cool community empowering event.”
Since 1994, Pacekids has gone from servicing six kids to 325, expanding into two buildings. The organization has been a tenant of Strategic Group for nearly two years, occupying Strategic Group’s 808 building in the north east.
Pacekids is currently in the process of constructing a fifth classroom in the north east location to provide more space for their incoming kids and Shannon says, “we are hoping to in the next couple years move to a different south facility that’s a little bit bigger, kind of like our north facility, so we have the opportunity to grow our ECS program.”
With a 140 staff and a plan to service 350 kids next year, expanding is necessary for the organization.
Shannon says, “It is the vision of our Director to reach as many families as we can possibly service.”