I learned about United Way during the first week of my first job out of college. I was young and extremely excited to be out in the grownup world, so I don’t remember many details. I do remember some nice people came to us during employee orientation and explained how a payroll contribution was a way of helping a lot of people, with one easy choice. And I do remember it seemed to make a lot of sense.
Over the years, as I changed cities and jobs, the United Way was a constant, quiet presence. Where ever I was, there too was United Way. It was like a big comforting umbrella over whatever community I happened to be in.
And I’ll be honest — in those days, I never really thought much past that.
Then 11 years ago, our son entered our lives. It was clear early on that he was special. By the age of six, he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The formal diagnosis was in many ways a blessing. It allowed us room to breathe — to realize the issues we were dealing with weren’t because of terrible parenting, which is the conclusion many jump to when faced with an autistic child having a sensory meltdown in the grocery store.
And it allowed us to get help. As resources became available to us, Sasha began an afternoon program at the Clements Centre. At first, he couldn’t get through two hours without significant social malfunction. Slowly, with infinite patience from the angels who work at Clements, he improved.
Three years later, he has graduated to full day attendance at a local independent school.
As it turns out, the Clements Centre is one of the many local agencies supported by the United Way. So when I was asked to help with this year’s Cowichan United Way campaign, it was a way of coming full circle. My family — my precious boy — benefited from the generosity of those who gave before. And now it is my turn to be one of those “nice people”, asking for help for those who will come after us.
United Way Cowichan has an ambitious goal to raise $250,000 this year. All the money raised stays in our community, helping nearly two dozen local agencies, who provide services to nearly one in three Cowichan Valley residents. Please help us help the community. It was our collective generosity that got my son the help he needed — let’s make sure every child is as fortunate. To make a donation to the 2015 campaign, please call the United Way office, 250-748-1312 or visit www.cowichanunitedway.com to donate online.