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Surrey mom shares how local charity gave her family hope

Jessica Gonsales shared her son’s story at the Centre for Child Development ‘Gala of Hope’ Saturday

In November 2016, Oscar Gonsales was born extremely premature, weighing only 1.5 pounds. His skin was so thin that the softest touch would cause him pain.

His mother Jessica Gonsales, who shared his story at the Centre for Child Development ‘Gala of Hope’ Saturday (Oct. 14), had to learn how to hold her son in a way that would not cause him pain.

“I learned that keeping a 25-weeker with severe brain bleeds alive is unlikely,” Gonsales told the audience gathered at the Coast Langley Hotel & Convention Centre.

After two brain surgeries, two shunts placed and one eye surgery, Oscar was discharged from BC Children’s Hospital on March 15, 2016.

“I drove home very slowly that day,” Gonsales recalled. “I didn’t want to break him.”

As soon as she got home, it suddenly hit her – she was all alone in raising Oscar.

“I was so grateful for the fact that my baby was alive and at home, but what if he stops breathing or falls? … I didn’t know what to do, and I was terrified.”

Some time later, Gonsales received a phone call “from one of the kindest voices” she said she ever heard.

It was from someone at Surrey’s Centre for Child Development, calling to offer support and services for Oscar. The centre provides patient-focused, wrap-around services for children with disabilities in the South Fraser region.

The facility’s mission statement, as stated on its website is, “helping children with special needs reach their potential.”It does this in a number of different ways. Depending on the child’s needs, the centre has access to physical and occupational therapists, nutritionists, a speech therapist and many other specialists. Family doctors and B.C. Children’s Hospitals often refer children to the facility.

It takes more than a village to raise a child with special needs, Gonsales said, especially when a parent has no idea what those needs actually are.

The Centre for Child Development became her family’s village and staff provided Oscar with the services he needed to help him thrive.

Now almost seven, Oscar wants to do everything his older brother does.

“Not once…has his community of people ever told him he couldn’t do that,” Gonsales said.

Instead, staff gave Oscar tools to support him. They created casts for his legs, fit him for hearing aids and glasses and helped find him an accessible bike to ride with his older brother.

He spent time in the Centre’s pool with a physiotherapist who worked with him on side-stepping and kicking his legs.

“Physio became a battleground for Oscar,” Gonsales said. “Every small movement was a testament to his perseverance and that of his therapist who tirelessly chased him up and down the ramp in the physio room.”

Staff also taught Gonsales, Oscar, and his brother sign language and how to use Oscar’s hearing aid.

Before he started second grade this year, staff from the Centre visited his classroom to make sure it was accessible for him. They also ensured his team at school was trained so that Oscar could play on the playground with his friends.

Gonsales said the Centre for Child Development gave her family hope.

“The community of people who rallied around Oscar made us realize very quickly that we aren’t just grateful for Oscar to be alive, we are grateful to have the people in it who will help him live,” Gonsales said. “It’s about understanding the power of collective perseverance, as their unwavering belief in Oscar has been a source of strength during the most challenging times.”

Saturday’s gala aimed to raise funds for some of the Centre’s programs that do not receive government funding.

“There are many services that we extended to the community that are above and beyond that (government funding), that make a huge difference,” said Gerard Bremault, the Centre for Child Development’s chief executive officer. “Things like our casting and splinting program, our feeding and nutrition program, our pool and hydrotherapy service.”

Judith Reaugh, the vice president of communications and governance, said while the gala brought in almost $186,000 in revenue, the total amount raised is still unknown, as expenses are still being tallied.

For more information on the Centre for Child Development, click here.

Anna Burns

About the Author: Anna Burns

I started with Black Press Media in the fall of 2022 as a multimedia journalist after finishing my practicum at the Surrey Now-Leader.
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