by Lisa Tabachnick Hotta Friday July 10, 2009

I recently toured Bloorview Kids Rehab – Canada’s largest rehab centre, located in Toronto. I was eager to gain insight from the experts at the facility for a TVOParents.com article I’m writing on summer recreation for kids with disabilities. 

Over the years, I’d heard great things about the rehab centre and was curious to get a peak inside. The entire facility impressed me – its recently renovated halls were clean, bright and expansive – nothing like the crumbling, drab interior of many of today’s institutions.  Bloorview’s massive property hosts, among other things, a library, a creative arts wing, a gleaming indoor pool, a café, a school and, of course, space for traditional and alternative rehab treatments for children and youth with brain and other injuries. I also saw people with and without wheelchairs (and other supports) buzzing about the spacious lobby talking to visitors, staff and each other. 

Outside, the tour of their backyard “spiral garden” was just as inspiring. This garden/park/picnic area is the crux of many of Bloorview’s summer camp and creative arts programs.  Clearly passionate about the facility, the staff who gave me the tour made sure to include all the details and anecdotes they could think of explaining how so many campers find friendship, peace and creative wonder here.

After the awe wore off, I thought, “I must get my children involved!” as many of Bloorview’s programs are open to children of all abilities. Comparing their beautiful swimming pool with the crumbling, rusty City pools that we frequent, I am determined to enter their swimming lessons lottery system this fall.  I know my son would absolutely love many of the creative arts programs – theatre, puppetry, drawing, music – as well.  While the cost is somewhat prohibitive, I will scour their site for possibilities since the benefit of having my children involved in an integrated program is so appealing. 

Thinking about all of this, the world would be a less complex place if more children were able to experience programs and camps like those offered at Bloorview. The staff are passionate, the resources are plenty, the grounds expansive.  Besides the beauty of the building and its extensive property (which, in itself, is amazing), the mandate to include children of all abilities, is an admirable one.