OSNS Telethon critical for Okanagan children

The 37th OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre Telethon begins in Penticton at noon Sunday.

Five-year-old Rod Hudson with mom Niki at the OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre Tuesday where the pair have been going for assistance for the past two years. Niki now works part time at the centre and volunteers for events like this Sunday's annual Share-a-Smile Telethon.

Niki Hudson learned soon after her three-year-old son Rod was diagnosed with autism, it takes a community to help a child.

For her, a lot of the assistance came from organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the Dragonfly Pond Family Society, and in particular, the OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre.

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Hudson knew very little about autism at the time, only that Rod was having issues which were difficult for the family to deal with.

“At first he had really bad behaviour and it was hard to take him places like group swimming lessons, things where typical kids would be OK,” she recalled. “When he first started going to the centre there was no eye contact, no potty training, he didn’t even know how to play, he couldn’t even colour.

“I don’t know what I would have done without the centre, probably would have been depressed at home and not taken him out and that would only have made things worse.”

She remembers the reception she received at the centre and the importance of the OSNS philosophy that caring for children with developmental challenges is a team effort by staff and family.

“Everyone at the centre helped me, from the ladies at the front end to all the different departments,” said Hudson. “I’ve probably cried on everyone’s shoulders. I’ve been really happy, really sad. I’ve had every emotion you could imagine and I just really feel lucky that I’ve got them on my side and there are so many people to turn to.

“Everyone there is on my team and nothing I ask is silly, I’m never made to feel that I’m asking a stupid question.”

The changes in Rod since he started at the centre have been much more than she imagined or even hoped for.

“It’s completely turned everything around,” she said. “I’m just so proud of him now, he’s just awesome, going to the doctor’s, going to Wal Mart getting his hair cut, there’s just so many things, he’s just a regular little boy.

“Rod’s just started kindergarten and it’s going really good. He’s started riding a two-wheel bike and how many five year olds can ride a two wheeled bike? I couldn’t. I’m really proud of him considering all of the challenges.”

As much as it’s helped Rod, Hudson also credits the centre for making her a better parent of an autistic child and an advocate for others with the disorder.

“And with my job there I couldn’t feel more honoured and more proud to work at a place and with the people who have done so much for my son,” she said.

As a way of giving back to the organization Hudson began volunteering to help at various centre functions including the annual Share-a-Smile Telethon where she will be again this Sunday for the third time.

Read more: OSNS breaks goal at Share-a-Smile telethon

The 37th telethon begins at noon Sunday and will be broadcast on Shaw TV (Channel 11) and streamed live online at www.osns.org.

It is the major fundraiser of the year, bringing in over $50,000 in 2015 which goes entirely back into the non-profit organization’s work.

Along with donations hundreds of items are up for bid as part of the online auction which opens at 9 a.m. Friday.

Dennis Walker and Mare McHale are hosting this year’s show.

“The telethon and auction are critical to keep the centre open so we can continue to provide the many services we do throughout the South Okanagan and Similkameen, helping over 1,200 children each year,” said the centre’s executive director Manisha Willms.

The telethon airs at noon and will run to 5 p.m. During the show viewers will have an opportunity to see the workings of OSNS, hear from many of the people who have benefited from the services and get to see some great local entertainment as well.