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Father and daughter to scale ‘Kili’ for special needs kids
Throughout its history, the Donald Berman Yaldei Developmental Centre, which provides an array of services to children with autism and related disorders, has scrambled to meet its ever-expanding budget.
Founded in 1997 in the chassidic community, the centre has relied mostly on the Orthodox world for support, even though years ago, it extended its reach to any family in need – Jewish or not.
Last year, the non-profit Yaldei (a derivation of the Hebrew for children) thought it had taken its fundraising to a whole new level when it launched a 50-km bikea- thon, appealing to a new type of donor.
Then a young woman came along – not Jewish – who said she was going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for Yaldei. Yaldei founder and director Menachem Leifer was a bit incredulous, but her enthusiasm was contagious, and he gave his blessing.
Next month, Olivia Monton, 24, a McGill University student, will attempt to scale Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, which, at over 19,000 feet, is the highest peak in Africa. She will be making the 12-day climb starting Aug. 6 with her father, Dr. Luis Monton, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Jewish General Hospital.
They call it “The Hike for Hope.” Neither had heard of Yaldei until just over a year ago, and the inaugural bikea- thon was the reason they did. Luis’ colleague, Dr. Cleve Ziegler, approached him to be one of his sponsors.
Olivia and a committee of young adults, including water polo Olympian Christine Robinson, have reached her goal of $42,000, approximately the cost of intensive early intervention for a child for one year.
The first half was collected mostly among acquaintances; the second at a concert in May at Espace Réunion in Mile End, which 250 mainly young adults attended. The special guest was Juno Award-winning singer Sam Roberts.
Olivia had been a volunteer and philanthropist since she was 18. A dedicated runner, she likes fundraisers that test her stamina. She has, for example, run two half marathons benefiting kids with leukemia.
In the summer of 2012, Olivia volunteered in an impoverished part of Peru with children with special needs, and was dismayed at the lack of attention they received.
When her father suggested visiting Yaldei, she was eager to see how a centre here treated such children.
“I fell in love with the place and its staff. They show such care for the children and believe in their ability to thrive in their own way,” Olivia said.
Yaldei takes the toughest cases, including those with physical disabilities, and its holistic approach has an impressive success rate.
The Montons also liked that Yaldei is “a small, grassroots organization. We know that we will see the results of the money we raise, unlike larger organizations where it may be lost in the bureaucracy,” she said. When they reach the summit, Olivia says they will do so in honour of the children who have so inspired them.
There is a reason Olivia is so sensitive to the welfare of children with challenges. She was born with an undetected malformation – an extra bone in her back. In her teens, she underwent surgery in Texas – twice – for this painful, debilitating condition. The problem was fixed, but her days of competitive swimming were over.
Leifer started Yaldei with the parent of a developmentally delayed child, who was also frustrated by the lack of adequate services. From modest beginnings, the centre now serves over 170 kids a year and has a $2.5-million annual budget – and no one waits.
“We are both moved by the hard work that the children, their parents and the devoted staff channel into helping overcome everyday challenges. We have been lucky enough to witness the progress ourselves,” said Luis.
Source: Canadian Jewish News (p.13)