The children were there to play and to learn; the adults were there to celebrate the official opening of the community based non-profit organization’s newest centre in O’Leary
Two children were preparing “reindeer food.” Infants in high chairs beamed smiles as adults wandered through their area. Other children were focused on a train set, and reading time was happening in another corner.
Among the adults quietly watching all this take place were Norman and Joyce MacDougall who provided the rental space for the new early learning centre in the former Beechwood Family Health Centre.
The MacDougalls purchased the property about five years ago and renovated part of it to accommodate West Prince Veterinary Services.
The couple was commended for going above and beyond in preparing space for CHANCES.
“Whenever the heart got involved, then they had me over a barrel,” Norman MacDougall chuckled. He said he was impressed with the opportunities CHANCES provides area children for developmental growth.
“It is a good program. They teach the kids and the kids get the early start. We might as well have it in West Prince as anywhere else,” MacDougall concluded.
“When you see the kids walking out of here in the nighttime, and running to get in here in the morning, it’s quite a thing” he reflected.
The Town of O’Leary is purchasing playground equipment for the centre’s use and the MacDougalls are purchasing property across Beechwood Avenue from the Centre to accommodate the playground.
Health Minister Robert Henderson, whose riding includes O’Leary, recalled that MacDougall mentioned wanting the O’Leary CHANCES to be the best childcare program east of Vancouver Island. MacDougall said he wants the playground to be the best east of Vancouver Island, too. Acknowledgement was also given to the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation for providing funds to help get the O’Leary centre established.
The O’Leary centre, open since May, has space for six infants and 37 children between the ages of two and five. It’s already nearing capacity. It currently has a staff of eight. Hours of operation are 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
In addition to the children onsite, CHANCES also provides staffing for an After-School program at O’Leary Elementary.
Henderson recalled a presentation he received from Ann Robertson, executive director of CHANCES, and Verna Bruce, co-chair of the program’s board of directors. They advised him that by the time children turn six, 90 per cent of their brain volume and capacity has already been developed. “If we could have a positive influence on young Islanders as they’re developing…, I think you’re going to see much better outcomes,” he suggested.