Our Respite Care Summer Program Team, pausing for brief photo op. with two our our longstanding club members who put their all in keeping this program running.
August is usually a bitter sweet month for us at the Bowmanville Rotary Club as among other things it usually marks the end of our Summer Respite Care Program. This year was no different has we celebrated the students who rose to the occasion to lend a hand and nurture smiles from the families in our community that signed up for our 25th annual respite care summer program. Moms and Dads and their children with exceptional needs were treated to a summer of well deserved rest ( mom & dad) and fun filled activities (kids). Our team of caregivers swooped in like the super hero they are and brought joy to the lives of these families.  Check out this article that tries to summarize the experiences of our caregivers this past summer .....
In today’s world, any community-based outreach program that spans multiple decades, is usually powered by the collective efforts of multiple well-meaning stakeholders. The Rotary Club of Bowmanville’s Respite Care Summer program, now running for 25 years, falls into this category.
Except for the COVID-19 Pandemic years our Respite Care Program has helped connect families of children with exceptional needs with appropriate summer programs to provide an outlet for the child as well as some well needed me time for their supporting family members. Our program draws on resources from in and around our community, mostly college students studying in fields of similar disciplines as nursing, social services, and behavioral sciences to name a few. This year was no exception as we onboarded five of the most talent young citizens to deliver the well needed respite care to our community.
On August 23rd our local Rotary Club hosted our Respite Superheroes (another name we use to refer to our amazing team of caregivers). Each provided a general summary of their experience during this year’s program. Taking a quick glance around the room during and post meeting you would have spotted a few teary eyes as we heard story after story of how impactful the experience was for the families, the children, and the caregivers. As I took the notes to prepare this write-up I couldn’t at times help having to turn my eyes to the ceiling to hold back the tears. If you had any doubt of what humanity remains and how connecting those in need with services tailored to them brings out that positive human to human interaction, then look no further.
Jessica our program coordinator was up first, as the coordinator, 60% of Jessica’s time is spent organizing and assisting her fellow caregivers with connecting with the families and helping to run the day-to-day logistics of scheduling and arranging for respite care sessions. The remaining 40% was spent providing direct respite relief for families and for the first time ever at the end of a summer job she felt recharged and ready to take on any new challenges. Her encounter with the families and her fellow caregivers had recharged her and while she was said to say goodbye to return to school to start her Master’s Degree Program she was already counting the days when she would reunite with the kids during our annual Christmas program.
Sonja was next on the podium and spoke about the joy it brought her to be able to bring smiles to the faces of the families in her care. The room erupted with laughter has she recounted a trip to the Oshawa Zoo where a horse stole a popcorn bag away from the child in her care and the shear excitement the child had just being able to see this majestic animal and interacting in such a fun way. In closing Sonia reminded us that it’s not always fun and games as there were times when she needed to pause and reassess interactions as they unfolded to ensure if a child had a triggering event how best she could help them deescalate and the compassion with which she shared her process of de-escalation was heartwarming. Sonia is on her way to continue her studies in the field of behavioral sciences this fall.
Julia, a nursing student from Ottawa who opted to stay in Durham this summer as a member of our program is already planning how she can connect with local Rotary Clubs in her hometown to participate in similar programs. For Julia her passion is working with people and seeing how in helping she can help them realize immediate benefits and her words not mine, this program gave her that opportunity. She spoke with such excitement of the excursion she was able to treat the kids to whether that was a trip to Nebs or just a two-hour nature walks at the local park. All that mattered was that both family and child under her care had the support they needed.
Brooklyn, our budding pediatric nursing student tearfully recounted how she has now found it challenging to say goodbye to the families. The connection made with the families and their kids had grown roots and made it ever so much harder to say goodbye. This experience has certainly re-cemented her aspirations of being a pediatric nurse.

Finally, Jessica introduced Carly and the moment Carly took the podium she spoke with such passion and joy about her experience. She jokingly hinted at not wanting the summer to end because of the connections she’s made with the families. Somehow the selection process of caregivers seemed to have picked the right batch of caregivers because even in their individual stories of how the program had provided a well needed break for the families, Carly just like her peers also shared invaluable lessons learnt during the program many of which will follow them in their next chapters. The tear that brought the room down was when Carly shared a story of one of her participants who said he knew he was different from others but just wanted to be seen as just another person. In closing she shared how understanding boundaries and stopping to listen to each child and adapting to their needs was important.
In closing, we want to also thank many of our local businesses who extended a range of discounts that we were able to leverage to provide outdoor and indoor activities to the participants of our program. Your continued support to the program and the families that participate goes a long way and on behalf of the Rotary Club of Bowmanville thank you!