GymnO Laval recognized for work with disabled youth

By Michelle Pucci

Recreation centre GymnO Laval was named a finalist for the Prix à part entière in Laval region on Nov. 26, for its work with disabled youth.

The certificate was presented to the centre in Ste. Rose by the Office des personnes handicapées du Québec, which delegates the awards, and Jean Habel, member of the National Assembly for Ste. Rose. GymnO Laval was a finalist within the Laval region in the non-profit organization category.

“I saw the devotion of the board of directors, I saw the devotion of the people who work there to help those children,” Habel said of his visit to the organization.

GymnO works with occupational therapists, speech therapists and child psychiatrists to encourage young people between five and 21-years-old with physical and learning difficulties to participate in social activities like sports and day camps. The organization has several centres in the Greater Montreal area, including the one in Laval.

“The activities allow children to find self-confidence because the climate is non-competitive and we value effort,” said Francine Larivière, the director general of the Laval centre.

Laurent Cugno is on the administrative council of GymnO Laval and has a ten-year-old daughter with Gorlin syndrome, a condition caused by a damaged chromosome that leads to defective cellular development. People with Gorlin syndrome will often have slight deformities, but nothing life-threatening.

“For things like recreational services and activities, it’s always been difficult to find a place for my daughter, because usually services are very specialised,” said Cugno.

“There are soccer teams for children with autism, there are basketball teams for people in wheelchairs—but my daughter doesn’t fit into those.”

He said that all the activities at GymnO have been adapted to include his daughter, who is also now socially involved in her public elementary school, like her school radio, the first-aid club and the break-dancing club.

“There isn’t another place that has this structure and this capacity to adapt [to the needs of children],” said Cugno.

With the help of MNA Habel, the centre has received $2,500 in grants, and is currently in the middle of a fundraising drive.

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