It’s now easier for families with children and youth who feel overwhelmed by sound, lights and activity to spend more time enjoying a variety of places in the Red Deer area.
Last fall, Red Deer Firefighters Children’s Charity partnered with Variety Alberta to bring a Sensory Backpack program to the community to help children impacted by sensory processing disabilities.
Backpacks, that can be signed out free of charge, are filled with resources for self-regulation like noise-cancelling headphones, tactile toys and books to focus a child’s attention. They are available for use in 16 locations that include Red Deer Public Library branches, Bower Place shopping centre, and Westerner Park.
“We have a lot of great partners here in Red Deer who were willing to take the project on,” said Donavon Brandon, president of Red Deer Firefighters Children’s Charity.
Since last fall, 30 backpacks have been available in the community for families.
“It’s been very beneficial in public places where families with children with sensory overload problems would have to leave early because their child couldn’t stay long due to so much stuff happening there.”
He said feedback has already been positive. Once the program has been operating for a year data will be gathered to determine where families benefit the most from having the backpacks available, and if other locations should be considered.
Backpacks are located at the following locations: Gasoline Alley Farmers’ Market, Bower Place shopping centre, Collicutt Centre, Rec Centre, G.H. Dawe Community Centre, Michener Aquatic Centre, Westerner Park, Red Deer Public Library (Downtown, Dawe, and Timberlands branches), Family Services of Central Alberta, Co-op Food Store: Timberlands and Deer Park, Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, and at the Central Alberta Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network.
Red Deer Firefighters Children’s Charity received a $10,000 Enabling Accessibility Fund grant from the federal government to provide the backpack program.
Variety Alberta has partnered with organizations around Alberta and Saskatchewan to make the backpacks available.