Kate's Kause

Kate's Kause

 

By Michelle Brunet


 

In August 2010, Kelly Meissner found out that her one-year-old daughter Kate had Angelman Syndrome (AS), a neuro-genetic disorder characterized by developmental delays that affect verbal, fine motor and mobility skills.

But shortly after hearing the diagnosis, Meissner took the proactive approach. She researched ways to help Kate positively deal with her AS and came up with a solution that would not only benefit her daughter, but the community of Elmira, Ontario as a whole.

"I thought we should build a playground that all kids can access," says Meissner. "One of the things that really matters to my husband and I—we’re both teachers— is kids need to be included. It helps enhance diversity, it helps with accepting and understanding, and the earlier you get kids included, the better that ends up being for everybody."

The first steps were to go see a lawyer to register the name ‘Kate’s Kause,’ to create Articles of Incorporation and to apply for not-for-profit status. "Technically we’re a not-for-profit charitable organization because nobody is being paid any salary," says Meissner. She adds that it was very easy to apply for this status in Ontario. They do not have a federal registered charity number (she hasn’t had the time to address this lengthy process yet, and she wants to make sure she does it correctly), but the Woolwich Recreational Facility Foundation has generously met these needs, providing tax receipts for donations, for example.

By December 2010, just a few months after the organization was formed, Kate’s Kause had already raised $20,000! Some of this was earned through fundraising events (like silent auctions and Kate’s Kause silicon bracelets sales) but most of the funds came from donors. Meissner recalls a day when one of her students—the son of Jim Balsillie, one of original CEOs of RIM—came to school with a $10,000 cheque from the Balsillie Family Foundation!

"One of the things that we realized really quickly is networking matters—that there’s somebody out there we know, or somebody out there we know who knows somebody that can help us," says Meissner. "You just have to be able to put yourself out there... I honestly thought that we would have to do a lot of this with fundraising events but a lot of our funds have also come from other groups doing big fundraising events."

Meissner has also been very successful applying for grants and community funding campaigns, including The Keg’s Thanks a Million Grant, the Ontario Tire Stewardship’s Community Grant and the Aviva Community Fund. But these avenues also require determination. Meissner says the Aviva Campaign contest was intense and she had to send e-mail blasts and posts on Facebook and Twitter every day to remind people to vote.

To meet their funding goals, Meissner was volunteering at least 20 hours a week, while teaching and caring for her kids at the same time. But in June 2012, the Meissners’ dream became a reality. More than 130 volunteers showed up to help build the inclusive playground, which features roller slides (a design that prevents the static friction, often associated with conventional slides, which can lead to hearing aides short circuiting), a wheelchair accessible merry-go-round, rubberized flooring that cushions falls, and other elements.

"It was unbelievable how many people just wanted to participate in something like that," says Meissner of the playground build. "It’s really indicative of how much people really do care about the right kind of project and what inclusion and what helping out a family really means to them."

Kate’s Kause’s next project is building a sensory wall at the park this summer. Meissner recently received good news that The Ontario Trillium Foundation will be funding the entire construction!

Meissner says that running the organization has been extremely fulfilling for her, her daughter Kate (who loves the playground) and the rest of her family. "This started off as a coping mechanism for me and it’s changed my life," says Meissner. "It’s helped open my eyes and appreciate what I have. I love the moments that I have with Kate at the park. They make us feel like we’re a typical family and that’s she just a little girl—that the disability is completely removed from the situation—and she’s just playing."

 


LINKS:  |   Kate's Kause

 

 

Story appears in

HobbyFirm Magazine

Volume 1., Issue 2

 

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