Our 50th Stories: In the beginning

A group of concerned parents and community members came together to ensure their children received an education, forming a group that would advocate for the education of children with developmental disabilities.

At that time, children with developmental disabilities were not accepted into the regular school system.

On June 2, 1968, a meeting took place at Peace River High School and was chaired by Mr. Aubrey Teal with the Alberta Association for Retarded Children.

With over 30 people in attendance, a motion was made by Alvin Fowler to create an organization. That motion was carried unanimously.

Al “Boomer” Adair (CKYL Sales Manager and Sports Director) was elected as president and Alvin Fowler 1st Vice President. According to a letter from Al Adair dated October 7, 1992, he “was approached to get involved by a group of parents headed by the Fowler family from Deadwood.”

Also appointed were; Gerry Hachey as 2nd VP, Doreen Kroeger as Secretary-Treasurer and Joe Zinselmeyer as Communication and Public Relations.

The organization was registered under the Societies Act in 1969 under the name Peace River and District Association for the Mentally Retarded.

An Awareness Campaign was started soon after the organization was formed that included:

– Bake-sales

– Walk-a-Thon

– Flowers of Hope

– World’s Largest Easter Egg

– Baseball Tournament

– Pig Races

And $10,000 raised by 1970.

In 1969 the Association purchased land in Peace River for a school location and a classroom was rented in Falher to teach children with developmental disabilities. In 1970 there were two classrooms in Falher with 12 students. Mrs. Claudette Meardi was the first teacher in Falher.

Classroom in Falher

A portable classroom called Cosmos School was moved onto the land purchased in Peace River east of Glenmary School. It sat next to a dormitory called Sunshine House on the same property.

Jim and June Kenneway were the first dorm parents at Sunshine House. Mrs. Linda Ash (Mawer) and Mrs. Pam Towers were teachers at Cosmos School.

Donations from local businesses and community members furnished the living room, kitchen and eight bedrooms.

Soon after the opening of Cosmos School and Sunshine House, Falher members of the Association formed their own society.

An official opening for Sunshine House was held in 1972 that was attended by numerous community members as well as government officials including the Lieutenant-Governor of

Alberta who unveiled a plaque and planted a spruce tree in front of the home.

In was decided in July of 1973 the Peace River School Division would take over the responsibility of operating Cosmos School for the 1973-74 school year.

It was then that Sunshine House became a full-time group home.

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