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Female Niagara Children’s Centre Speech Language Pathologist uses Augmentative and Alternative Communication computer technology to provide care to a male child in a wheelchair.

Your Impact

Niagara Children’s Centre serves over 5,800 children and families in Niagara each year, all of whom have an inspiring story. Read some of these inspiring stories below to learn more about how your support can positively impact the lives of so many.


Patrick or “Paddy”, a male child with Down syndrome who receives services from Niagara Children’s Centre.

About Paddy and his family:

While we knew our son would bring great joy to our life, we also knew he would face significant challenges. Patrick, who we call Paddy, was born with Down syndrome, a condition in which a baby is born with an extra 21st chromosome that can cause delays in their mental and physical development.

Paddy has such a bright and joyful personality that continues to shine everyday. Many times I have heard people say that his smile just brightens someone day and spirit and it’s so hard to feel sad around him. He loves watching his big sister, Morgan, and our pet dog, Jarvis, who loves giving him kisses. He loves music and making music with his new instruments and light up toys. He also loves swimming and splashing around.

How did Paddy come to use the support and services of Niagara Children’s Centre?

Our journey with Niagara Children’s Centre began shortly after Patrick was born. He was diagnosed with Trisomy-21 (Down syndrome) and as such we knew he would need support in different areas of his growth and development. The doctors at the hospital referred us to the Centre so we could get further support. We initially met with a social worker, who gathered information about her family and reviewed the services her son might access, before scheduling consultations with an Occupational Therapist (OT) once a month.

Describe some of the challenges you faced before coming to the Centre?

Before Paddy was born we knew that he had a diagnosis of Down syndrome and as such we tried to do a lot of learning and reaching out to community groups for support for possible services that we might access in the first year. It really felt lonely and isolating at times because we didn't really know anyone expecting a child with special needs or any support networks that I could access. Feeling alone was probably one of the biggest challenges and with the nature of the world at the time, it was definitely amplified. Our biggest concern was not necessarily his diagnosis, but what complications or health issues that he might have that are common with a Down syndrome diagnosis.

How has the Centre helped Paddy?

The Infant program that Paddy is a part of really helps us as a family have direction and know the next steps and goals for Paddy and his development. In working with the Occupational Therapist (OT) thus far, we are able to access support in programming that will help develop his ability to hit important motor milestones, such as lifting his head, crawling, rolling, grabbing, self-feeding and eventually walking, talking and communicating.

We have also accessed other services such as physiotherapy and speech therapy and participated in a mentor program that connects us with another parent that’s shared their experience and journey at the Centre. This community connection has been great a starting to get to know other families and alleviate that feeling of being alone.

What’s your most memorable experience with the Centre thus far?

The community of parents I am able to access through the centre as well as the way the professionals on Paddy's team listen to our concerns and needs. I can remember being over a month or two post-partum dealing with my own recovery, as well as some of the challenges Paddy was having, and meeting with our Social Worker. She had spent some time asking about Paddy's progress and then after asked how I was doing. In that moment, I was so grateful that she took the time to listen and just share in this journey with me and my family.

What are your hopes and dreams for Paddy in the future?

My hopes and dreams is that Paddy can have everything he needs to grow and develop at his pace, in his time and on his terms. Even though we are very new to our journey at the Centre, we hope that by accessing their services we can give Paddy the best start in order to live a fulfilling life. We also hope that he can create connections with his local community and by participating in programs at the Centre in the future we hope that he can develop life-long friendships and give back too.

I would love to see Patrick do something that gives him purpose and a sense of belonging, whatever that may be. I have this vision of him as an adult with everyone around him smiling. I'm not too sure what he'll do, but I hope that he brings joy and kindness to others. I know in his short little life so far, he has done so much of that already.

Why do you think people should support Niagara Children’s Centre?

I think Niagara Children’s Centre is a lifeline for many children and families and by supporting the Centre you are ensuring that families have access to services that are really going to help improve their quality of life. By investing in Niagara Children’s Centre you are helping not just the children, but families and the larger community. You believe that children with special needs are important enough to deserve access to services that are going to allow them to reach their potential. You are saying that they matter and the services they need matter as well.


Harper, a female child with a rare genetic disorder, receives social work, occupational therapy and speech therapy services

About Harper and her family:

Harper is the spunky daughter of Francine Faulkner and Anthony Kalcic, and the cherished sister to Hayden. She was born by C-Section on Oct. 17, 2016 and started losing weight right after birth. Harper continued to struggle with keeping down food, diagnosed with a tongue tie, acid reflux and delayed stomach emptying. After a series of visits to the McMaster Children’s Hospital, medications and multiple tests, Harper was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder with no known name. The disorder, which hasn’t been seen since 1977, causes low tone throughout her body and developmental delays. She was then introduced to a full team at the Centre, which included a social worker, speech therapist and physiotherapist who began meeting with Harper two to three times per week. After more than three years, hundreds of sessions, supportive devices and walkers, Harper has gone from a baby who couldn’t sit independently to a toddler that is walking on her own and close to running. I can’t imagine where we would be without the therapists available to us at the Centre.

How did Harper come to use the support and services of Niagara Children’s Centre?

At two-months-old, we were admitted to McMaster Children’s Hospital for failure to thrive, which started our journey with whom we affectionately call Team HBK (Harper Brinley Kalcic). Upon discharge, we were set up with a dietician, Trish Hogg, and an Occupational Therapist (OT), Sally Rennick. They worked tirelessly with us for about eight-months to get Harper to gain weight and keep her feeds inside. When she was 11-months-old, Harper had surgery to put in her first of many feeding tubes and our baby girl began to grow, and thrive.

Upon discharge from McMaster Children’s Hospital, we were referred to a Dietician and Occupational Therapist. They worked together and worked with us trying to get Harper to stop spitting up all of her feeds. Harper started to slowly gain weight.

Late in 2017, we were introduced to our full team, which included a social worker, speech therapist and physiotherapist. We had appointments two to three times per week and, while progress was slow, there was a definite improvement.

How has the Centre helped Harper?

After Harper’s G-tube was placed she began to gain weight. Within months, we could see Harper starting to get more mobile and interested in her surroundings. Our Occupational Therapist (OT) decided it was time to meet our team at the Children’s Centre that included a Social Worker, Physiotherapist (PT), and a Speech Therapist (ST).

Our Social Worker is extremely knowledgeable about funding available to the families, and sat down with us to review the paperwork the hospital had given us. I was so overwhelmed but having her there to walk us through everything made it a lot easier.

We were attending therapy at the Centre weekly until early 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic and were happy to see that she was thriving. We watched her go from a baby who couldn’t sit independently to a toddler that is walking on her own and close to running with the help of our OT and PT. She is currently working on stairs and is an avid climber on our furniture at home. She still isn’t talking but makes lots of sounds and can definitely communicate with us thanks to our ST.

We still have so far to go, but have come so far from where we were. I can’t imagine where we would be without the therapists available to us at the Centre. We enjoy many of the social programs that are coordinated to assist children at varying levels and I attend the Parent Talk Support groups each month. The parents that I have met through the Centre and this support group have become my most entrusted friends and an endless source of support and encouragement when I am struggling. Raising a special needs child can be extremely tiring, frustrating, and lonely world but is also so rewarding.

What’s your most memorable experience with the Centre thus far?

Harper began to make huge strides walking and we went from a walker to a broomstick and eventually to her taking a few steps on her own. That is a moment that her father and I will never forget.

What are your hopes and dreams for Harper in the future?

My hopes and dreams for Harper have always been to not just survive but to thrive in this world. We want her to fit in and feel like she belongs here. We want her to be accepted by her peers. We want her to feel that if she tries she will succeed in this life. Most importantly, we want Harper to be HAPPY!

Why do you think people should support Niagara Children’s Centre?

People need to support the Centre because they help so many families. Our community needs to realize that government funding alone doesn't cover all of the wonderful things provided by the Centre. With your donations, they can continue to offer valuable programs such as social, therapy and mental health, in addition to special events that allow our children feel a sense of belonging from the community. Your donations help our children THRIVE.


Elise, a female child who was born prematurely, receives occupational therapy to aid in physical and cognitive development

About Elise:

Elise was born as a micro-preemie at 23 weeks and four days at McMaster Children’s Hospital where she lived in the NICU for 343 days. As a severe preterm, Elise faced a number of medical complications, respiratory issues being the worst. Elise was artificially ventilated since the moment of her birth, but despite many efforts, she was unable to breathe on her own well enough to come off the ventilator.

In November of 2018, she underwent surgery for a tracheostomy to help her breathe and to allow us to eventually take her home on a ventilator. That same surgery also placed a G-tube in her stomach so that we could ensure she received proper nutrition to help her lungs heal and grow.

Elise is the happiest, most social little girl who makes instant friends wherever she goes. After such a long and difficult time in the hospital, I am amazed every day at how she stays so positive, and as a family, we do everything we can to support Elise. Our little girl has already been through more than most people in their entire lifetime -- she deserves to smile.

Today, Elise no longer uses a ventilator, and is well on her way to a full recovery, and much of that thanks goes to the Niagara Children’s Centre.

How did Elise come to use the support and services of Niagara Children’s Centre?

Due to such a complicated first year of her life, Elise was unable to do many of the things most babies’ do, like rolling over, sitting up, and drinking from a bottle. At the time, making sure she stayed breathing was more important. Once we were sent home from McMaster, we were referred to the Niagara Children’s Centre for Occupational Therapy to help Elise “catch up” in her overall development.

How has the Centre helped Elise?

Niagara Children’s Centre has been instrumental in so many ways for us. Occupational Therapy (OT) has been instrumental in helping Elise through each developmental milestone, both physically and cognitively. Most recently, we received an augmented communication tablet from the Communication Assessment and Support Team (CAST) that Elise uses on a daily basis. Most importantly, she uses it in her preschool class to talk to her teachers, ask her friends for a turn playing a game, and telling jokes at the snack table. This has helped Elise to navigate her way through school instructions, make friends, and most importantly to make herself heard at times when her voice cannot.

What’s your most memorable experience with the Centre thus far?

We recently embarked on an intensive schedule with the Speech Language Pathology (SLP) department at Niagara Children’s Centre. Elise is on the verge of speaking so many words! She knows what she wants to say, she just needs practice getting them out through her mouth and not using sign language. In only two sessions, we have seen Elise make more word sounds with her mouth than we have all year! Next year, it will be Elise herself telling you about her most memorable experience at Niagara Children’s Centre!

What are your hopes and dreams for Elise in the future?

We are right in the middle of realizing a very big milestone for Elise – her speech! It is truly amazing watching her discover newfound abilities and use them in such productive ways. We are watching her, in real-time, gain so much confidence and skill – she is truly shining!

Why do you think people should support Niagara Children’s Centre?

I am asking you today to support the Niagara Children’s Centre because every child needs a chance, an opportunity to conquer even one hurdle, so that they may get their life back; or, gain a life they never thought they could have. So please consider donating to the Niagara Children’s Centre to help them support all of Elise’s friends in their own medical journeys.


Daniel, a male child with autism spectrum disorder, receives numerous Niagara Children’s Centre services

About Daniel:

Shortly after age three, Daniel was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder with an accompanying language impairment by the Centre’s Developmental Pediatrician. Although this was not the beginning of Daniel’s journey at the Centre, it was a turning point that helped to carve a path forward in terms of therapy needs, resources and next steps.

Today, at almost eight years old, Daniel is a thoughtful little boy who cares deeply about others. He lives in Niagara Falls and is regularly supported by many friends and family who love him tremendously and enjoy watching him grow and learn new skills each day.

He enjoys participating in sports of all kinds including hockey, baseball and golf. He also enjoys playing video games, hanging out in his tree house and swimming in his pool during the summer months. Daniel loves to ride his bike with friends, conducting science experiments and completing drawing tutorials of his favourite superheroes – Spiderman and Batman.

How did you hear about Niagara Children’s Centre?

Initially, Daniel was referred to Speech Services Niagara for assessment and it was determined he had a significant speech and communication delay. Since then, there are not many services at the Centre that Daniel has not received, and greatly benefitted from; from speech & language therapy to occupational therapy, preschool resources and therapeutic recreation

How did Daniel come to use the support and services of Niagara Children’s Centre?

In 2015, I visited Niagara Children’s Centre for the very first time with my 18 month old son, Daniel. It wasn’t until the Centre became a lifeline for my son Daniel and for me as a parent that I truly learned the value of the miracles that happen within the four walls of the Centre on a daily basis.

The months following diagnosis turned into years. On a weekly basis we would visit the Centre for programs and services that helped to support Daniel in his growth and development as a child and me as a parent. The Centre has truly become a second home to us.

When Daniel arrives at the Centre he looks forward to seeing the staff and walking the hallways looking at the painted murals of popular characters. It is a welcoming facility, filled with love and hope – this energy radiates each time we pass through the doors. I cannot imagine where Daniel would be today without the valuable services he has received at the Children’s Centre.

Describe some of the challenges you faced before coming to the Centre?

Before Daniel was receiving services at the Centre, it was a very confusing time. He was not hitting his milestones like many other children his age and I didn’t know how to help him or where to even start.

His lack of communication skills resulted in Daniel exhibiting a lot of challenging behaviours and self-injury born out of frustration. As a first-time parent, I felt a lot of uncertainty and guilt not knowing how to help him or what steps to take next. I often times felt like I was not doing a good job at parenting Daniel because I didn’t know how to best approach his needs.

How has the Centre helped Daniel?

The holistic and family-centred approach the Centre uses ensures that the needs of the child are at the forefront and support often extends beyond the Centre walls into home, childcare and school settings to ensure there is integration into all aspects of daily life.

Additionally, I have participated and benefited from social work services as well as many parent education programs over the years. Participation in these programs has helped me to navigate his needs more effectively and draw out his strengths in ways that set him up for success.

Ultimately, the Centre has helped Daniel develop so many skills that readied him for entry into the school system and participation in every day community life. The Centre helped Daniel achieve the ability to thrive in a classroom setting at school and participate in community activities that, at one time, seemed impossible due to his significant communication and sensory challenges.

What’s your most memorable experience with the Centre thus far?

In the early days of the pandemic, Daniel was experiencing significant feelings of anxiety brought on by isolation and lack of consistent and predictable routine, which is a staple in his ability function successfully. A lot of worry and frustration and tears were occurring often. My immediate call to action was to engage his team at the Centre for help and resources because I knew they would provide me with sound advice and tailor any strategies to his specific needs. Not surprisingly, his support team stepped up immediately sending me resources such as social stories, activities and supportive emails and calls to check in on us. During a time that was incredibly difficult for everyone, the Centre staff didn’t miss a beat and I felt very supported as a parent. I will be forever grateful for the army they have become for Daniel.

I feel blessed that when we walk through the doors of the Centre, Daniel is greeted by a staff team who believe in his unlimited potential. They accept him for who he is and work to bring out his strengths. They believe in him 100%, not just some days, but every single day. I think this is the greatest gift any parent can be given – to have others believe in your child the way you do is nothing short of remarkable.

What are your hopes and dreams for Daniel in the future?

My hopes and dreams have remained the same for Daniel since before he was even born – that he leads a happy, healthy and fulfilling life. A diagnosis, a speech delay or any other obstacle will not change the goals or extraordinary love I have for him as a parent. I want him to experience all that life has to offer just as any other child would. I want Daniel to feel a comfort in trying new things, meeting new people and seeing all that the world has to offer him.

Why do you think people should support Niagara Children’s Centre?

The Children’s Centre not only supports kids but also their families and by broader extension, our entire community. By supporting entire family units, we are investing in our communities-at-large and their success, and the inclusion of all people. Supports in the early years are critical and as the only children’s treatment centre in Niagara, it is important for the community to support the Niagara Children’s Centre to keep care close to home and readily available and accessible for all who need it. Money donated to the Children’s Centre is an investment in our collective future and success as a community that cares.