Starbright staff members Karina Frisque (left)

Starbright helping young children in Kelowna with developmental disorders

For 60 years, Starbright Children's Development Centre has been helping children as they develop the skills needed for school

Since 1956, Starbright Children’s Development Centre has been providing an important service to young children in the Okanagan.

Although Starbright, as it’s now called, has undergone several name changes in the 60 years since it started, the non-profit organization’s objective of helping children with developmental disabilities has never changed.

Originally formed by a group of parents and paediatricians to give children with cerebral palsy an alternative to travelling to Vancouver for assistance, Starbright has grown to include all types of developmental disorders. Physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists all work with children both at the Starbright facility and at their homes to assist with their early childhood development.

Starbright helps children from the time they are born until they begin attending school, and has a coverage area of Oyama to Peachland. As a non-profit organization, Starbright relies entirely on funding, provided mostly by the province, to operate. Although the need for Starbright’s services has grown as the population of the Okanagan has grown, Starbright and other organizations like it haven’t received an increase in provincial funding since 2008.

“Central Okanagan Foundation came to our rescue in such a big way,” executive director Rhonda Nelson said. “With the ministerial grants, a very small portion can be used for administration and the operation of the whole building. The rest is used for salaries, and we can’t use more than what the ministry says.”

The need for COF’s funding came in August, when Nelson and the other staff at Starbright learned their server didn’t have much longer before it would ‘die’. The bill for a new server was $15,000, and due to provincial regulations they weren’t allowed to reallocate their provincial funding into their operations budget to pay for the needed replacement.

“For our organization if we don’t have the technology it shuts us down, because all of our staff have to enter stats into a program that the ministry accesses so we are accountable,” Nelson said. “So we would not be able to enter child information, the case notes, the recommendations and heaven forbid we should lose any client information.”

Central Okanagan Foundation stepped up with the funding required for a new server, and Starbright was able to seamlessly transition to a new server without having a disruption in their ability to help the children they work with.

Starbright does have a fund within COF that provides them with an annual dividend from any donations made through it. The dividend helps pay for other operational needs they have they can’t do themselves, such as any plumbing or electrical work they would need done. Nelson noted donating to the fund is a great way to help support the development of disabled children in the region, and it can easily be done by simply contacting Central Okanagan Foundation.