NICHOLAS PESCOD/The News Bulletin Scott Bradford, Nanaimo Child Development Centre executive director, Valerie Massey, centre, and Carole Weber, hang wood teddy bears during 50th anniversary celebrations on Monday.

Nanaimo’s child development centre celebrates 50 years

Development centre changed with the times

When Valerie Massey first walked into the Nanaimo Child Development Centre back in 1979, it was a very different place.

“When I came here we were very segregated in terms of our services. Children were in segregate classrooms, segregated schools and we were not an integrated program,” said Massey, the CDC’s former executive director for 18 years.

But over the years, the CDC has shifted the way it provides services to patients and their families.

“We now to go to the homes. There are very few kids in here compared to how many we are serving in the home,”said Scott Bradford, the centre’s current executive director.

On Monday, the Nanaimo Child Development Centre celebrated its 50th anniversary with a small ceremony that included the unveiling of a large wooden bear sculpture.

A part of the CDC’s long-term success has been its ability to fundraise. The centre organizes the annual Silly Boat Regatta, which has been running for 33 years and has become one of the city’s most popular summertime events.

“Now we have other organizations coming from other parts of the province to try and replicate the Silly Boat experience,” Bradford said.

The Nanaimo Child Development Centre traces its roots to 1967 when it was originally called the Nanaimo Neurological and Cerebral Palsy Association and operated out of a small house on Estevan Road.

By the mid-1970s, the association moved into its current location and had adopted its current name, providing services to patients across the mid-Island region, according to Massey.

“When I started, we provided services all the way to Port Alberni, Ucluelet, Tofino, Chemainus, Duncan and then over the years we would have a team that would go to Port Alberni. At one time, the mid-Island was really serviced by this organization,” she said.

Massey said 30 to 40 years ago it wasn’t uncommon for children to be separated from their families for extended periods of time to receive developmental treatment.

“There were children who were deaf and hard of hearing who would take a float plane on Monday morning and go over to the Jericho school for the deaf and be separate from their families for the whole week and sometimes longer,” she said.

Today, the centre provides a range of assessment and therapeutic services to roughly 1,800 children living in the region. The treatment approaches are far more inclusive and staff members now assess how the family is able to work with the child and what kind of treatment or care options will work best for the each individual situation.

Massey said the transition from segregation to inclusion is something she’s proud to have been a part of during her time at the CDC.

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