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Niagara Children's Centre honours lifelong philanthropist with legacy award

June 27, 2023

Two people standing in front of banners 

Niagara Children's Centre honours lifelong philanthropist with legacy award

St. Catharines, ON – Thirty-two years ago, Ken Janzen made a decision that changed his life.

In 1990, Janzen was nominated by the Rotary Club of Grimsby to become a volunteer board member at Niagara Children’s Centre, a local child development and rehabilitation centre in St. Catharines. While initially reluctant, he would accept the opportunity which ignited a lifelong passion for volunteerism.

“It became one of the best decisions I ever made,” said Janzen. “I was fortunate to be raised in a family and work in a culture that encouraged you to give back and become more involved in the community.”

He would earn high praise throughout his tenure from both the Board and management team at the Children’s Centre for his character leadership that prioritized the best interests of families, employees, and donors.

“He had a unique ability to balance the big picture with sensitivity to day-to-day challenges faced by the Centre,” said Oksana Fisher, CEO, Niagara Children’s Centre. “He always recognized and addressed the needs and challenges faced by children and families.”

Over the years, Janzen fondly remembered the expansion of the Centre’s services. As the organization developed its family-centred care philosophy, he was proud to see the organization keep the personal touch it had built its reputation on in the community.

He would continue to serve on the Centre’s Board of Directors until 2022. His strong leadership abilities and his commitment to the organization, lead him to serve as the Chair of the Centre’s Board of Directors on two occasions, from 1996 to 1998 and from 2017 to 2019.

On June 21, Janzen was recognized for his contribution when he was presented with the Centre’s annual Dr. William J. Orr Tribute Award at the organization’s employee recognition dinner.

“This special occasion allows us to reflect on Dr. Orr’s incredible legacy,” said Fisher to the audience in attendance. “He unselfishly gave of himself, volunteering at clinics before the Centre was established, while relentlessly pursuing his dream of a children’s treatment centre for Niagara.”

The award honours Dr. Orr, a local physician who would become the Centre’s founding Chairman and first Medical Director in 1964. He would continue to serve as the organization’s Medical Director until 1994, never accepting a salary.

“He represented everything I thought was good in life,” said Janzen. “He set a tone that established the caring and empathy the Centre continues to provide today.”

Much like Janzen, recipients of the award are recognized for their dedication to supporting the mission and vision of the Children’s Centre and positively impacting the quality of life of children and youth with disabilities, in the Niagara Region.

“Ken, your commitment to the Centre, authenticity and character are strongly aligned with those of Dr. Orr; a man you held in high regard,” said Fisher during her dedication speech. “Our organization, and the local community, have benefited so much from your leadership, vision and engagement.”

Janzen’s professional career was based in the finance industry, where he most recently retired as CEO of PenFinancial, a credit union deeply committed to supporting the local community.

He was instrumental in establishing PenFinancial as a key sponsor of the Children’s Centre’s annual Superhero Run and would frequently participate with a team from the institution.

“Ken’s commitment was evident last year when he and his son participated in the 5K run,” said Fisher. “Even though he was no longer on our Board or the CEO of PenFinancial, he took great joy in seeing children and families participating in the event, and frequently commented on how hard our incredible staff worked to provide an engaging and inclusive event for all participants.”

Janzen's connection to the Centre was also shaped by his personal experience as a parent. When his son was diagnosed with a speech delay at the age of two he was able to experience, firsthand, the profound impact of the Centre’s services on his own family.

“That was when my eyes were really opened," Janzen shared. “The Centre does such a wonderful job of creating an environment of caring and empathy while providing outstanding services.”

Janzen's philanthropic endeavors have extended far beyond the Centre. For twenty years, he also served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Red Roof Retreat, a local organization serving children, youth and adults with developmental disabilities. Ken also served on the Board of Directors for the Foundation for International Development Assistance, which provides resources to empower communities in rural parts of Haiti.

His hope is that more people will follow in his footsteps and encourages local residents to consider volunteering for service clubs and community organizations.

“The community operates better when we have a diverse group of people coming together,” said Janzen. “Having board members that reflect people from all walks of life ensures we can provide a more equitable future.”


About Niagara Children’s Centre:
Niagara Children’s Centre provided rehabilitation and support services to nearly 5,300 children and youth last year across the Niagara Region with physical, developmental and communicative delays. The services include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language services, augmentative and alternative communication, family services and therapeutic recreation.

For further information contact:
Michael Morrison, Marketing & Communications Officer
Phone: 905-688-1890 ext 260
Email: michael.morrison@niagarachildrenscentre.com

Photo caption:
Oksana Fisher, CEO, Niagara Children's Centre, presents Ken Janzen with the Dr. William J. Orr Tribute Award for his lifelong philanthropic work at a private event at the Stone Mill Inn on Wednesday, June 21.