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Category Archives: Our 50th Stories

Our 50th Stories: Youth in the Alberta Special Games

Our organization and Individuals we have supported have a long history with the Special Olympics.

Six youth who lived in Sunshine House competed in the 1973 Alberta Special Games held at the University of Alberta in Edmonton; Laura Flett, Heather Longtin, David Laboucan, J.D. Griffith, Rodney Flett, Kelly Lambert.

They competed in Track and Field and placed in a few events according to a Peace River Record-Gazette article published May 30, 1973.

The youth were able to attend the Games thanks to community support from the “Flowers of Hope Campaign”, one of the original fundraising drives of the organization.

Peace River Record-Gazette June 6, 1973

John Coristine, an Individual that our organization has supported and continues to support, also competed in the Games.

The article was published by The Post July 15, 1981.

Our 50th Stories: Community Fundraising

In the early days, many fundraising events were held in support of our organization.

Approximately 50 people took part in an over 14-mile Walk-A-Thon in June of 1970 as remembered by Sharon Fowler who attended the fundraising event. Her husband Alvin was the organization’s 1st Vice President and son Roy received organizational supports. Sharon says the farmers were still in the field but came out to cheer the walkers on.

“After the Walk-A-Thon, they had hot dogs and ice cream and juice at the old Deadwood Hall and the kids ran around and played.”

The ‘Flowers of Hope’ campaign saw thousands of flower seeds packaged and sent to residents in the Peace Country.

The campaign always kicked-off on Mother’s Day and lasted until the end of May.

The Flowers of Hope motto was “Courage-Faith-Acceptance’ and promoted the well-being and happiness of children with developmental disabilities as a social responsibility.

The campaign also funded a trip to the 1973 Special Olympics for six children of Sunshine House.

Early days fundraising campaigns also included bake sales, a baseball tournament and World’s Largest Easter Egg ticket sales. According to the Peace River Record Gazette article dated March 5, 1969, the 100-pound egg was 31 inches high and made entirely of chocolate.

The Auctioneer’s Association of Alberta were generous supporters, also raising money for the children of Sunshine House.

In March 1982, the World Championship Pig Races held in Peace River raised $2,415 for our organization.

An organizational fundraising committee was established in 1982 to raise funds to furnish a home being built in Grimshaw. The first-of-three fashion shows were held March 9, 1983, and was called “Changes ‘83”.

Another large fundraiser happened in the summer of 1984 titled ‘Truckin Rights Along’. A cyclist from Grimshaw, Darryl Aubin, travelled from Grimshaw to Edmonton and back and according to the Edmonton Journal August 29, 1984 article, Aubin decided to take on the challenge after being a model in a fashion show.

“I really enjoyed the people that I met. And I just thought if I could help them out more, I’d try if I could”.

**Walk-A-Thon picture courtesy of Sharon Fowler, ‘Giant Egg’ Peace River Record-Gazette March 5, 1969, ‘Flowers of Hope’ Peace River Record-Gazette May 12, 1971, ‘Grimshaw cyclist catches breath’ Edmonton Journal August 29, 1984

Our 50th Stories: Sunshine House

In 1970, the Peace River and District Association for the Mentally Retarded recognized the need for residential care in order to accommodate out-of-town students attending Cosmos School.

The process of designing and constructing got underway immediately and in 1971 both dormitory and school became operational. Sunshine House was funded by the Alberta Housing Corporation while operated by the PRAMR and was able to house no more than 14 students as well as two housekeepers and dorm parents.

Through the Peace River Record Gazette in 1971, a dormitory naming contest was created.

The winning submission came from Dr. John O’Gorman, the Director of the Peace River Health Unit. There were 25 name suggestions submitted to the newspaper according to the article published December 8, 1971.

The official Sunshine House Grand Opening was held June 17, 1972, at 11:00 a.m. and was attended by:

– The Honorable Grant MacEwan, Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta

– Captain Max Bulmer, President of the Peace River and District Association for the Mentally Retarded

– Randy McKinnon, Alberta Department of Education

– Bob Orysiuk, President of Alberta Housing Corporation

– Major John Whalley, Government of Alberta Chief of Protocol

– John Friesen, Mayor of Peace River

– Ernie Marshall, President of the Peace River Chamber of Commerce

– Rev. Bob McLaren, Pastor of Baptist Church

– Al Adair, Peace River MLA (former PRDAMR President)

It was at this time the Lieutenant Governor unveiled a plaque and planted a spruce tree called ‘Sunshine Tree’. It was planted in front of the house and we believe it still stands today.

The grand opening also served as an opportunity to recognize the organization’s perseverance and dedication as well as a ‘thank you’ to the community for the support received. Much, if not all, of Sunshine House’s furnishings, including bedrooms, were donated by local businesses and community members.

Once operation of Cosmos School was turned over to the Peace River School district in 1973, Sunshine House became a full-time group home. This change forced the organization to rethink its mandate.

In 1979, the organization added ‘physical disabilities’ to its mandate and officially became the Peace River and District Association for People with Special Needs in November of that year.

In 1983 it was decided that Sunshine House would be reclassified as an ‘Adult Special Care Facility’ to reduce the stigma associated with the term ‘Group Home’.

May 1987 saw Sunshine House close as a residence and open as the organization’s main office building for a short time.

While no longer called Sunshine House, the building is home for some Individuals ASLS supports in Peace River.

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.

Our Stories: We Started as a School and Dormitory

In 1968, a group of parents and community members came together forming an organization 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.

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

That same year 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.

By November of 1971, 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. That year both facilities became operational making Cosmos School the second school under the Association’s operation at that time.

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 1973 the Peace River School Division took over the responsibility of operating Cosmos School and Sunshine House became a full-time group home.