Restrictions halt life-enhancing programs at home for medically fragile
A charity helping residents of a home in Sarnia for medically fragile young people has been hit twice by the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Joan Armstrong, executive director of Community Concerns for the Medically Fragile, stands outside the residence, Standing Oaks. Programs the charity provides at the residence have been halted by COVID-19 restrictions. A charity helping residents of a home in Sarnia for medically fragile young people has been hit twice by the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Community Concerns for the Medically Fragile has had to cancel or postpone fundraising events it relies on while being unable to offer its art and music programs for residents. “They haven’t been getting the extracurricular activities that enhances their lives, which is sad,” said Joan Armstrong, the charity’s executive director, “and fundraising has come to a halt, like everything else in the city.” The charity began in the late 1980s when a group of parents of medically fragile children came together to see what they could do to increase services in the city. That eventually led to a partnership with the March of Dimes to open a homestyle residence for young adults in 2004 known as Standing Oaks. Its nine beds, including one respite bed, are all full. The residence is operated and staffed by the March of Dimes. “The staff have been working really hard, and I keep knocking on wood,” Armstrong said. “Everybody is safe and healthy, which is wonderful.” There are worries about what could happen to the medically fragile residents if COVID-19 entered the home, she said. Standing Oaks and its residents “have been on lockdown since the middle of March,” Armstrong said. “And, they can only Facetime with their parents,” who were regular visitors, she said. It also put an end to the regular art and music programs that have been offered at Standing Oaks for several years. “We noticed when we started doing art, how much the kids had changed,” Armstrong said. “And then when we started doing music, we noticed another change.” The residents were happier and more fulfilled, she said. Sue Bendall delivers the art program and Ethnee Roodt, a violinist with the International Symphony Orchestra, delivers the music program. Both stopped when the COVID-19 restrictions went into place. “I know the kids are missing it, and the teachers are missing it too,” Armstrong said. “They both do a fabulous job.” Unless they were young enough to be attending school, the residents might have only seen staff at the home and family members who visit, without the extra programs. They also went for walks with staff and spent time outdoors at Standing Oaks, which is in a park-like setting. Since the restrictions, they haven’t been spending that time outside, Armstrong said. The restrictions also halted plans to offer additional services for the residents. “We were looking at bringing in massage therapists and physiotherapists,” Armstrong said. “That was just going to start when all of this came down.” Like other charities, Community Concerns for the Medically Fragile is trying to figure out how to raise funds in the current situation. A pasta night planned for the Dante Club was cancelled. The charity takes part in the annual Race to Erase fundraiser, which has been postponed. It was also involved in Bingo at Jackpot City, which came to a halt with the restrictions, and a fundraising river cruise was postponed. Also, a draw for a donated lawn pergola has been put on hold, she said. “We’re trying to come up with something we can do online,” Armstrong added. Typically, the charity raises between $30,000 and $50,000 a year to help support activities at the residence. “We have received some donations while we have been sort of closed, which has helped a little bit,” Armstrong said. “We just feel really bad that we can’t provide those extras because it really does make a difference.” Armstrong said her message to the community is “think of us.” Standing Oaks and its staff are among the front-line workers during the outbreak, although the home doesn’t have a high profile in the community, she said. “Keep us in mind as a charity that, if they are wanting to give, we would love their support,” Armstrong said. “We’re just trying to do the best we can with what we have to work with, like everybody else.” The charity can be reached by email at email@example.com. Its website is www.ccmfsarnia.com.