Kwadwo Asante stands with Child Development Centre Executive Director Margaret Warcup before a 40th anniversay celebration for the CDC.

Kwadwo Asante stands with Child Development Centre Executive Director Margaret Warcup before a 40th anniversay celebration for the CDC.

Kitimat Child Development Centre marks 40 years this year

The Child Development Centre in Kitimat welcomed special guests to celebrate their 40 years operating.

Lordy lordy, look who’s 40.

Why, it’s the Kitimat Child Development Centre.

Since 1974 the CDC has been a crucial community service, starting with just three programs, now expanded to nearly 30.

Attending the 40th anniversary celebration of the CDC is the Centre’s founder. Dr. Kwadwo (Kojo) Asante. He said he marvels at how the centre has grown since its inception.

“I’m very gratified, I’m impressed by the breadth of services,” he said. “It’s impressive, the services provided by the centre now.”

Asante was born in Ghana and came to Canada, and later to Scotland, to study medicine.

He first arrived in Kitimat on Canada Day weekend in 1970.

He came on the encouragement of colleagues — as well as deciding it was too cold to move to Quesnel or Williams Lake — and opened a pediatrics practice.

“There had never been a pediatrician here,” he said.

After being here awhile he came to realize a need for services for youth.

“As a pediatrician I was familiar with the needs of children here, especially young children with developmental and physical handicaps,” he said.

“During my early years in Terrace and Kitimat I realized there was no facility for children who had cerebral palsy and other problems, to have physiotherapy, speech therapy and other kinds of treatments.”

He rallied parents, the school board, and the province for support and in 1974 the Kitimat Child Development program began. In Kitimat it started in the Service Centre and has moved several times in its history, to the first floor of the old Kitimat hospital to the Roy Wilcox elementary school, to the former school board building it occupies now, sharing a parking lot with Mount Elizabeth Middle Secondary.

In Terrace, the Child Development Centre he helped start began in a parent’s basement.

Asante credits the personal involvement of those who work at the CDC for growing it to the organization it is today.

CDC board president Jo Ann Hildenbrandt has been with the CDC for 22 years now and has seen first hand how the centre has grown over two decades.

With 1,000 clients on the books when she started, the centre now has 5,000, and has grown grown from three programs at its beginning to 28 today.

She said her entire involvement with the centre all comes back to the birth of her son 25 years ago.

“Both my interest in becoming a teacher of children with special needs and my involvement in the centre, all go back to to the birth of my son,” she said. Her son has special needs and has benefitted immensely from the CDC’s services.

“If we didn’t have a child development centre the children in our community would not be the children they are today because they wouldn’t have had access to the services that helped them to become who they are,” she said.

She believes if the CDC hadn’t existed in Kitimat her family would have had to move to where there were services.

“We are so fortunate we have the quality and level of staff and committed staff that we have here. That’s what I believe parents appreciate,” she said.