Photo courtesy Angels and Kids Foundation, Facebook.
A little-known Saskatchewan group is hoping to raise awareness of the work it does outside of the major urban centres in the province.
Angels & Friends Foundation is run by an all-volunteer staff and board who dedicates its time and expertise toward helping Saskatchewan children with intellectual disabilities. The group works with families who have children with Angelman syndrome, autism, Down syndrome and Rett syndrome.
The Angels & Friends Foundation Corporation was founded by Bradley and Tracy Schiele in February 2014. In addition to providing financial assistance, the foundation also advocates on behalf of families and their children.
They also look help advance, enhance and expand educational learning and literacy for children with intellectual disabilities who live in Saskatchewan. The group offers financial assistance, which could be used to purchase equipment, fund workshops, create sensory rooms and literacy stations within schools.
Meghan Gervais is the director of communications with Angels and Friends, she says the organization is still very new, having been founded in 2014. She says they are similar to other groups like the Kinsmen Foundation and the Children’s Wish Foundation, but the biggest difference is that the work Angels & Friends does is with children who are not facing end of life situations.
“We are there for the families with a kiddo who was born with a disability and is going to live a regular life. We are there for families who may not qualify for support from other organizations because they are not looking at a disease linked to mortality, but rather be there for the long-term,” she said.
Gervais says because the organization is relatively new in the province, not many know about what they can offer to families dealing with children that have intellectual disabilities outside of the larger urban centres. She says that outreach outside of the two larger cities (Saskatoon and Regina) is a goal for them for this year to let people in rural and northern areas know there is a place families can turn to.
One of the children they work with is a young eight-year-old girl named Avery from La Ronge who has Retts syndrome. Retts syndrome is a severe intellectual disability that impacts a child’s communication ability.
Avery has to use an eye gaze device to communicate with her family and classmates at school. There are no specialists in Canada to deal with such syndromes, the closest is in Chicago. Angels & Friends is helping Avery and her family go to Illinois at the end of April to work with the specialist and learn how to use the eye gaze device more effectively.
“Any tools that we can help her to have that will help Avery and her family use more effectively is what we are working towards,” added Gervais.
Some of the wishes that the organization has granted include family trips to Disneyland, specialized strollers for older children to enjoy day-to-day activities and an outdoor activity centre to play on.
Annual operating expenses are generated through the foundation’s fundraising events and donations. All money raised stays in Saskatchewan with the goal of helping kids be kids.