When you’re told that your child has special developmental needs, you usually don’t know where to turn.
In 2014, Shannon Schmidt and her husband Casey had to turn to the southeast—and travel about 500 miles.
“Our son Caleb was diagnosed with autism when he was about two-and-a-half. Because we were already seeing a pediatric specialist in the Twin Cities, we got to check out some inclusive program centers that are available in the Minneapolis area,” says Schmidt, who lives in Minot, North Dakota.
“We just weren’t finding the support and the help we needed back home. I fell in love with some of the facilities, and I was ready to sign him up that day,” she adds. “But making a six-month, long-distance commitment just wasn’t feasible. We have our lives, our families, our support systems in Minot.
“Instead, we took that concept and we said: ‘We need to make this happen in Minot.’ ”
Three years later, thanks to a bumper crop of commitment and courage, it has.
In late August, Caleb's Clubhouse opened its doors as North Dakota’s first day program center for kids of all abilities. The inclusive, non-profit facility focuses on social communication, and offers kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, among other conditions, the chance to grow, learn, form social bonds and develop side by side.
With a qualified staff of seven, a calendar that follows the Minot public school schedule, and a current capacity for about 120 students from day to day, Caleb’s Clubhouse operates:
“Our view is that social interaction is where you see the most growth in a child, regardless of diagnosis. It’s absolutely the most important aspect to their development,” says Schmidt.
“And our after-school class keeps that same focus on fostering social skills and building relationships, so that they can one day live independent lives,” she adds. “As students get older, we work on introducing basic life skills—operating a microwave oven, doing a load of laundry—as well as vocational skills.”
As a company, and as a workforce, Enbridge is dedicated to strengthening the social fabric in the communities near our operations and projects.
In 2016, we invested more than $275,000 in community-strengthening initiatives across North Dakota, while our various employee-driven United Way campaigns from across the U.S. and Canada—including a $194,000 campaign in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions—raised $5.93 million.
Last month, our employees in the Minot area recently volunteered their time as a group to help set up Caleb’s Clubhouse for its first day of operations—and the funds they raised through Enbridge’s Our Community Partners program accounted for $1,250 of the $10,250 donation we made to the facility.
“Teachers have told us that some of our students in the after-school program talk about Caleb’s Clubhouse at school all day,” says Schmidt. “One of the moms told us: ‘Finally, a place, where my son can be himself.’ ”