A Thank-You to Our Community in a Most Uncommon Year

Collage of a therapist using green screen technology in a jungle, the first client is welcomed back onsite by a therapist in PPE and a therapist provides physiotherapy to a young girl in a mask 

December 2020 | By: Linda Kenny 

If you Google “big events in 2020” your search will return a very long and rather surprising list of everything that transpired around the globe this past year. It was such an uncommon year, that Oxford Dictionary had to amend their “Word of the Year” release to an entire report because there was no single word that could define this past year. For a year that left us speechless at times, it is ironic that it takes an entire report to define 2020.

Our world as we knew it at KidsAbility changed in March as many things around us paused. As we deployed our staff to their new home offices, work began to redefine our services under the many new guidelines, restrictions and protocols in place to keep everyone safe. We put face-to-face appointments on hold and suddenly, the wraparound supports, services and resources that families had experienced at KidsAbility were gone. I am so proud and grateful to say thankfully, not for long.

Our team connected with families—each from the safety of their own homes—in the days and weeks to follow to find ways in which we could continue to be there when they needed us the most. What transpired was nothing short of remarkable for an organization like KidsAbility for whom face-to-face services were the norm and for our families who were used to coming through our doors. It was a very stressful time for everyone in our community and no more was that truer than for families of children with disabilities and for our youth. Necessity was the mother of invention. Together, we created new, individualized plans for each family, child and youth that leveraged technology in exciting ways that we never had before.

Technology allowed us to break down barriers so we could reach people where they were at. Through the magic of green screens, therapists turned their home offices into trips to outer space to work on sounds. Children learned how to pick carrots from a farmer’s field working on fine motor skills. Virtual playdates became a way for children with autism to connect through the social groups that had been a part of their daily lives. Assessments, therapy, counselling, resources, supports, coaching, education and more—all through technology. Moving forward, KidsAbility will always be a hybrid organization offering in-person and virtual services to help children, youth and families achieve great things.

At the end of May, after two very long months, we welcomed our first client back into KidsAbility for a face-to-face visit. Although virtual therapy proved to be wildly successful for many of our children, for others, it wasn’t a good fit. This day was emotional and was possible because we fortified our already stringent health and safety protocols with new measures, distancing, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), procedures, and so much more. It meant that we could begin to offer appointments on a priority basis and begin the slow, measured and gradual approach to opening our doors once again. For now, until the foreseeable future, virtual appointments will continue to be the primary way in which our teams will continue to work with children and families on goals important to them. As we remain able to do so, we will continue to provide face-to-face services for children for whom virtual is not an option. As always, we continue to trial and evaluate new solutions, programs, services and technologies adjusting as we go.

Pivoting on a dime from a face-to-face-client-serving organization to one that was 100% virtual overnight was no easy feat for anyone: families, children, youth and staff alike. Yet, we did the unimaginable and now, we cannot imagine ever going back to the way things were. We have a new appreciation for the value that virtual brings for some of our clients while blending it with face-to-face. KidsAbility is officially a hybrid organization. Logistically, this was an enormous undertaking but the shift in mindset and the fortitude that it took to go bravely forward in this new world meant learning new skills, stepping outside of our comfort zone—all while trying to blend our work-home life into a new normal. To our families, children and youth, we thank you for your perseverance and trust in us.

To our donors, your faithful support over the years ensured that we had the technology and resources needed to be able to be there in new ways so that time in isolation was not time wasted. Your generosity allowed us to help children, youth and families to benefit from therapy and support at home. Our world may have paused but your kindness and generosity did not.

We believe providing early and exceptional family-centred services for the wellbeing of children, youth and families is the most powerful way to build brighter futures. Together, we have discovered new ways to continue to be here when families needed us the most. Together, we are building brighter futures.

As we put the final checkmarks on our work and home to-do lists in preparation for the holidays, KidsAbility will be closing our offices from December 24 to January 3. This break comes at a time when we need it the most allowing us to spend time with those in our households and find new ways to enjoy the holidays after a very uncommon year. We will reopen again on January 4 at 8am and for those who wish to make a donation, you can do so online, mail or by calling KidsAbility Foundation at 519-886-8886 ext. 1202. Donations postmarked before January 1 will receive a tax receipt for 2020.

Your support over this past year is appreciated beyond what words can measure. We miss seeing all of our children, youth, families, staff, volunteers, donors and community partners face-to-face and look forward to that day when we can gather in person again.

Stay healthy, stay safe and stay hopeful that the best is yet to come. We have accomplished great things and leaned on one another as we navigated this uncommon year together. Thank you for being a part of our journey and for helping children, youth and families to achieve great things in new ways. On behalf of our KidsAbility family to yours, I wish you a happy holiday season and a happy new year.

Photo of Linda Kenny CEO of KidsAbility 

Linda Kenny

Chief Executive Officer - KidsAbility