Safehaven was created in 1989 immediately after thirty-two disabled children had died under provincial care. Its formation was akin to a call to arms. Safehaven is a charity dedicated to providing loving and meaningful care for and addressing the special needs of all disabled children in Ontario. Its mission statement reads as follows: “to provide exceptional residential and respite care to help families whose children have complex physical and developmental disabilities.”
“Children with medical complexity are described as having substantial family-identified needs; characterized by complex and/or chronic conditions; have functional limitations often requiring dependency on technology; and have high health care use,”
says Safehaven CEO Beverley Gordon.
Safehaven is the type of organization that encourages personal growth and a fruitful education for all children, no matter how mild or severe their disabilities may be. Integrating these children into their own communities is also something that Safehaven works very hard to achieve. No one deserves to be left behind. Every individual deserves their own place in society; they deserve to be welcomed by their peers and accepted into a community that mentors and cares for them.
Safehaven’s focus doesn’t only remain on the children they aid. It also rests on each child’s family members. Having someone in your family that lives with a disability can be incredibly stressful and lead to all sorts of discord between family members. Safehaven is a place where all families receive a “key to the house;” something that allows them to come and go as often as they please, providing access to all of Safehaven’s facilities and programs. As an added benefit to each family’s well-being, Safehaven has reserved a spot on its board for family members who wish to participate more intimately with the charity’s decision-making process and general upkeep.
Volunteer positions are also available to all family members, friends, and loved ones who wish to dedicate their time to a worthy cause. Whether it be at the home or at special Safehaven charity events, able bodies are always welcome — and needed — for the organization to run smoothly and efficiently. This is where close friendships form between staff and family members, children and donors. It’s truly wonderful having everyone band together for the good of the children and for the good of the cause.
The staff at Safehaven is diverse, made up of people from all walks of life and from all different locations throughout the world. Some of them are social workers, while others are experienced world travellers. A great many of them are parents themselves, special education teachers, and youth workers. One thing that they all have in common is their commitment to offering Safehaven’s disabled children the very best care and education they possibly can.
“We’ve found the staff to be totally caring, professional and compassionate, like part of our family. It’s a home away from home,”
says one child’s family member.
The Safehaven Partners
Safehaven’s partners are organizations that work directly with the charity and are dedicated to meeting the special needs of disabled children and their families. Tourism Toronto is one of Safehaven’s biggest supporters, running a unique program especially for family members with disabled children. The program is called “Relax, Recharge, and Renew” and it basically offers special getaway packages to people wanting a break.
“We were looking for a way to help kids and realized that sometimes the best way to help them is to do something for their parents,”
explains Andrew Wier, the Vice President of Communications for Tourism Toronto and Safehaven Board Member.
Safehaven’s and Tourism Toronto’s goal is to help one hundred families every year. Beverley Gordon adds that
“the substantial health service needs of children with medical complexities have a significant impact on the family unit, specifically time devoted to direct care, frequent provider visit care coordination and financial burden. Such stress puts families at risk for burnout and impacts their own mental health as well as that of their child and other family members. There is considerable need to understand the best practice that may assist in supporting caregivers and empowering them and ultimately their children.”
Other charity partners include Arch Disability Network, Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, Family Alliance, and the Government of Ontario. For a full list of partners, please refer to the official Safehaven website.
The Safehaven Annual Gala
This year’s Safehaven Gala will be held on Friday, November 7, 2014, at The Bellevue Manor in Vaughan. This is the organization’s premiere event and its biggest fundraiser. It takes place every November and sells out within weeks of the tickets going on sale to the public. You can purchase single tickets for $125 each. Corporate table packages are also available for purchase at a cost of $3,000 per table.
The annual gala raises both funds and awareness for Safehaven and the care it provides for disabled children and their families. It’s a great way for the community to come together to offer help and support a remarkable charity. If you’re attending this year’s Safehaven Gala, you’ll be pleased to know that among the evening’s slew of raffle prizes, the most covetable is a 2014 Fiat 500 Lounge car! Guests are also welcome to participate in the silent auction that includes fantastic items kindly donated by Safehaven supporters and members of the community.
Last year’s gala raised a staggering $90,000 for Safehaven and the organization aims to beat that total at this year’s event.
“Safehaven is invested in providing respite care which relieves caregiver stress and benefits the entire family,”
“Safehaven is a world leader in creating and sustaining programs for families whose children, for the most part, cannot walk, talk, see, or hear.”