CLOVERDALE — An eight-year old “graduate” of Surrey’s Centre for Child Development spent her birthday giving back to an organization that helped her.
Jaya Garner asked her friends to bring donations in lieu of presents during her birthday at Surrey Sport and Leisure Centre in March.
She collected $500, and a friend of the family who owns BMF Homes donated $1,000, making her final tally $1,500.
Jaya has a rare and complex genetic disorder called macrocephaly capillary malformation, MCM for short, which is characterized by developmental delay and overgrowth of several tissues in the body. Most children with MCM have an enlarged brain.
For Jaya, it’s meant delays in speech and physical development. She uses a wheelchair and is unable to speak.
Dad Greg Garner explained the CCD has made a huge difference not only for Jaya, but for her whole family. The centre’s support far surpassed simply providing therapists and specialists, Greg said.
“It’s not only supporting Jaya, too, it’s supporting the parents,” he said. “To be honest when you have a child you certainly don’t expect to have a child with special needs. So they just helped us with the day-to-day of it, and I don’t think Jaya would be so social if she didn’t have the skills she learned from those supports early on.”
And social, she is.
Greg described his daughter as a “practical joker” who is “mischievous” and loves to crawl, play, sing and smile.
“She’s not vocal, but she doesn’t like to sit still, she likes to be moving and groovin’,” he said.
Greg praised the “inclusive” culture at her Hazelgrove Elementary, where Jaya’s quite popular.
“Unfortunately there are many stories of kids with special needs not being accepted by their peers, however this is not Jaya’s experience at all. Jaya has many friends who love and appreciate her for who she is. Hazelgrove Elementary has done an exceptional job of integrating Jaya,” he elaborated.
“She’s got some friends she hangs out with outside of school, as well, that treat her fabulous. Kids come over and say, ‘Good morning Jaya.’ She gets cards from her friends that say, ‘Jaya, we love you.’”
Hazelgrove’s Vice Principal Jane Clowers said Jaya “brings a sense of unity” to the children at the Cloverdale school. “They love singing with her, they love playing with her outside, it just brings all the kids together. She’s always smiling. Inside, outside, up and down the halls, it’s just lovely,” said Clowers.
CEO of The Centre for Child Development Gerard Bremault said Jaya’s generosity is impressive “for any eight-year-old, but is an especially inspiring reminder of why we do what we do every day at The Centre - to be able to stand back in awe at the tremendous contribution that every child can make…. We are so proud of Jaya and grateful for her.”
Greg said the family may make the donation effort an annual tradition at Jaya’s birthday parties.
“On a bigger picture, obviously, we have a special place in our heart for kids with special needs. It’s something we’re living with every day, so if we can do anything to help other kids that’s something we fully support,” said Greg.
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