‘They’ve helped me become the person I am today’

In front of a small gathering of staff at Hotel Dieu’s Child Development Centre, Chad Lees, now 19 years old, spoke about the first time he remembers coming to the centre at the age of two. Looking back on the past, while sitting in front of the staff that have become so familiar to him, Lees thanked all those who have helped him reach this point in his life.

“Now, to see who I am today, it’s like coming full circle,” said Lees later in an interview.

“I’m so thankful to everyone (at the centre). They’ve helped me become the person I am today.”

On Wednesday, Lees was presented with a scholarship from the Ontario Association of Children’s Rehabilitation Services, a provincial scholarship awarded annually to five students who have been served by Ontario’s Children’s Treatment Centres and are pursuing a post-secondary education.

On the verge of tears, Marilyn Johnston, a Child Development Centre staff member specializing in augmentative communication and speech, reflected on Lees’ achievements proudly as she introduced the guest of honour. Having known Lees since he was four, Johnston said working in radio broadcasting has always been Lees’ dream.

With this scholarship, Lees is enrolled to begin the advertising and marketing communications program at St. Lawrence College for the upcoming 2015-16 school year, with hopes that it will lead to a career in radio.

Lees is also the first recipient of the award from Hotel Dieu’s centre, which speaks to his great ability, according to Ann Stocks, manager of the centre.

Not only has Lees benefited from all of the services the centre offers, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, he’s also become the centre’s best ambassador.

“Chad’s given back so much to the centre,” Stocks said. “We need more ambassadors like him.”

Lees has worked with the centre, as well as the Easter Seals for Kingston and the Islands, as a leader in the community, helping each organization raise funds for services from which he’s had direct benefits.

“They’ve done so much for me. I use my story from (the centre) as a promotional tool to hopefully bring others here to benefit from these services,” Lees said.

Having practically grown up in the centre — using all of the services available to manage his cerebral palsy — it was difficult to get a word with Lees, as each staff member in attendance had a personal congratulatory message for Lees on his achievement.

“The people here today, they’re here because they’re extremely dedicated and always put the kids first,” said Danielle Snider, Lees’ mother.

“It highlights what kids can do when they’re given the opportunity.”

Jennifer Churchill, CEO of the Ontario Association of Children’s Rehabilitation Services, was at the event, along with Margaret van Beers, director of the centre, to celebrate the award with Lees.

With the scholarship, Lees said he’s both nervous and excited to start his program at St. Lawrence and to see what lies ahead.