Blog post 

Engaging All Children in Community Life With Cohesive Communities

It takes a community to raise a child, and Cohesive Communities is building a system of support for children with special needs.

From playground equipment at parks to sensory kits at libraries, the Foundation for Cohesive Communities is creating ways for children and their families to fully and meaningfully participate in community life.

Entering its third year of operation, the not-for-profit organization was formed by two mothers who were struggling to find ways for their children to engage in local parks.  So they took things into their own hands and applied for grant money, which was used to purchase inclusive swings for four parks in Parkland County.

Also having difficulty grocery shopping while pushing a wheelchair, the mothers canvassed local grocery stores. Soon enough, Freson Bros. Fresh Market, Save on Foods and the Co-op grocery store introduced Caroline’s Cart — a shopping cart created for special needs children.

It didn’t stop there. The parents then partnered with the libraries in Spruce Grove and Stony Plain to fill backpacks with collections of sensory items and family games.

“For children who may not necessarily engage with books or literacy there, it’s another option for them,” explained Amy Quintal, one of the founders and a director with Cohesive Communities. “They can sign out this backpack full of sensory items that they can take home, explore and learn from.”

In addition, Cohesive Communities provides support and referrals to parents of children with special needs.

“There’s so many complex systems that you need to navigate for funding and support that it can be quite overwhelming — especially for families who have just received a diagnosis,” Quintal said.

That’s where Cohesive Communities comes in. The foundation points families in the right direction of support systems. They can assist in areas such as getting a specialty wheelchair, accessing funding and finding respite care.

In the future, Cohesive Communities hopes to establish a larger sensory environment for children within the tri-community.

“We want to compile a large lending library where there’s technology that can help kids who are non-verbal with communication,” Quintal said.

The foundation hopes to also one day establish a collection of large equipment items to loan out to families.

“If someone wants to run in a road race with their child, we could have some of those special needs jogging strollers that people can just sign out and try,” Quintal explained.

Cohesive Communities is acting as that bridge to an active, engaging community life for all children.

Share your own story with Cohesive Communities by visiting www.cohesivecommunities.com, emailing cohesivecommunities@gmail.com or calling 780-906-0725 or 780-699-9811.