Centennial Stories

Graduation story

Alessandra is now four years old and happily ensconced at Beverley School, near the Art Gallery of Ontario. She has Cornelia de Lange Syndrome. Which takes on a few different manifestations, but tends to signal universal delay and problems with eating. Alessandra has an Audrey Hepburn-esque look, with lovely long limbs and huge inquisitive eyes surrounded by sweeping eyelashes. She is a doll. At Centennial from 2013 to 2016, she loved, and was greatly loved in return by all the staff. As a family, we were loath to move on from the cozy community. As with most transitions, we (read: me, her mother) seemed to move through a version of the 4 stages of grief! 1. Denial that she was old enough to move on from Centennial. 2. Anger that I couldn’t make time stand still 3. Bargaining for more time at Centennial 4. Depression, and finally 5. Acceptance of her exciting new adventure at Beverley School. We smoothed over the rough moments with retail therapy in the form of a new pretty pink wheel chair, new clothes and a swimsuit for her thrice weekly school swimming classes. I also began to love the humour and care shown by her new teachers and principal at the Beverley School community. When all the school buses were having problems in the first weeks of this school year, her principal at Beverley sent an email to stressed-out parents with the subject line “the answer to our bus woes”. We opened it to find a photograph of a horse and cart. We are very grateful for both Alessandra’s years at Centennial and the years about to unfold at Beverley. Loving hands all around.

Pamela & Howard Levitt

Aliyya & Family


AM - Aliyya photo

Aliyya is a charming, engaging and active 3.5 year old girl. Aliyya was born with Mosaicism with partial trisomy 17- one of the rarest chromosomal abnormalities with extremely limited research. Since 2011 there have only been 28 reported cases of this genetic disorder. Her specific case is extremely rare and we are not sure what to expect in the future. So far we have seen low muscle tone and generalized delayed development. We found out about Centennial because our pediatrician gave us a number for Early Intervention services in York Region who then directed us to contact Toronto Public Health. Through this contact we met Jessie Kimmel our Early Interventionist at Centennial. It was such an amazing experience and Jessie is so awesome! She worked very closely with Aliyya and worked according to Aliyya’s pace. She never got frustrated when it would take Aliyya a few weeks to complete a task. She lent us some toys and other objects to help us work on her fine motor skills and got us working with Lori McCrindle, a CICC Occupational therapist to help work on her gross motor skills. As a bonus, they came to us in our home, and then of course introduced us to the preschool program. Aliyya has grown and changed so much since starting at Centennial. She has become a lot more social; saying hi and sharing out hugs and kisses, even waving to strangers on the TTC! She understands Big Emotions; she consoles/comforts her big brother when he is upset and is excited when she accomplishes a goal. She claps and says “good girl”, even telling others to “sshh” when she sees someone sleeping. Aliyya has been so impacted by Centennial both in her growth, development and behavior. She had just started walking the summer before starting preschool in Sept 2014. Since then her confidence in moving has grown to her running, jumping and going up and down the stairs independently. As mentioned above she is much more social and very friendly. She is working very hard on her speech and signing and has come a long way. She also used to destroy books, but now she will sit and turn the pages and point out different people and imitate their actions or different animals and make their respective sounds. All of these daily changes in Aliyya has impacted our life so greatly.  Centennials programs have also helped our family in deeper ways. To be completely honest, we were having a rough patch in our marriage before she started. But since then we have grown together and worked together to get Aliyya what she needs. Our family is a much more solid unit nowMeeting all the wonderful people who genuinely care about Aliyya and all the children has been so incredible. The teachers, the office staff, and volunteers. Especially the other children and their families. Just knowing that we aren’t alone and that there are services available has brought a certain ease to our minds. It has been a roller coaster since having Aliyya, but Centennial has taught us to be humble and grateful and of course to fight for the rights and needs of our children.                         -Deeba Ali & Ian Mohammed

Kate & Charley


We are the proud parents of beautiful identical twin girls, Kate and Charley. At two years old, our daughters were diagnosed with Rett Syndrome, a genetic disorder that leaves most diagnosed girls non-verbal and non-mobile. After the initial shock, we set out to find services and organizations that would enhance our daughter’s lives. Kate and Charley were happy and social, loved being with other children, and enjoyed singing and playing. They needed to be in preschool, but definitely required one on one support. Thankfully our Occupational Therapist suggested Centennial!

The thought of sending our little girls out into the world alone each day was scary to say the least, but the staff at Centennial made us feel at ease every step of the way. From our initial meeting with Kim Clarke we knew our girls would be in a loving, caring environment that would be safe and inclusive while providing activities and educational scenarios appropriate for Kate and Charley. Reading their communication books each day reminds us of how lucky we were to find Centennial. It is truly a place that continually impresses us as parents. Their team is regularly working towards Occupational and Physical therapy goals; and have been an integral part of developing a communication method the girls will use moving forward into JK.

Centennial’s support does not start and stop at the front door. If our girls were ill, we would receive phone calls to ask how they were doing. And when one girl became a little ill at school, a staff member drove home with her as an extra precaution. The care is genuine, and they’ve always made an effort to take into consideration our family’s overall situation.

The teachers, Kim, Lisa, Lorraine, Jacqui, and Krista have worked hard to make adaptations to the classroom and programs that allow Kate and Charley to be a part of all activities. For two years we have been in constant dialogue with them to discuss the girls’ changing needs and to enhance their experience at CICC. Through the arts and crafts we see, and the pictures emailed to us, we know that each day our girls smile, giggle, are hugged, and are loved.

In September, Kate and Charley will enter JK. Centennial has prepared us for the transition to elementary school and has supported our quest to find the right school. We knew that at a moment’s request we had a group of advocates ready to speak on the girls’ behalf.

I would like to thank all of the staff at Centennial including the volunteers, therapists, drivers, musicians, and teachers that have made the past two years an exceptionally enjoyable and enriching experience for the girls and our family.

-Jamie and Michelle O’Reilly-

Testimonials From Parents

“Centennial gave me the strength not to fear what the future is going to bring my daughter”

“Centennial has been the best thing that has happened to us.”

“Centennial is a magical place, a special place, a one-of-a-kind place. It is a place of hope and strength, a place where our children flourish and grow. Our Son, who was born with Down Syndrome, would not be the amazing kid he is now if it weren’t for Centennial.”

“Centennial not only provided Max and our family with the services we so desperately needed, but became a cornerstone of our lives.”

“Centennial was such a supportive environment for Nick… there are no limitations.”

“It doesn’t matter what comes up on a day to day basis, I get the answers from Centennial… whether it is a health issues, behaviour issue or how to help my child with basic skills. I don’t know how we would have got through these few years without them… It has made an enormous difference.”

“My song doesn’t move on his own. He is completely dependent on someone else. For someone to say to me, ‘we are going to be his arms, to be his legs, to help him interact with other children’… it was huge for us. I don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t been for Centennial.”

“The changes in Landon after attending the preschool for a few months were shocking. At school Landon learned to crawl, stand, climb stairs, drink from a cup and began to connect and communicate with us!”

“The skill and love of the volunteers and professional staff have made a real difference to our daughters life and to our lives.”

“It seems to me that we learned more from you (about our daughter) in a couple of hours, than from all our other information sources combined! Thank you.”

We are proud to live in a city and a country that has a facility such as this one… We are more grateful for your support than you will ever know, and grateful to be part of a place that sees so much ability in our child. “

“We often heard (from Centennial staff and volunteers): Don’t focus on what he can’t do, lets focus on what he can do.”

Simone Graduates!

Simone began preschool at Centennial in 2008, a shy and tentative 2 year old who was not yet walking independently and spoke only a few words.  Four years later, Simone has now graduated from Centennial’s kindergarten program and is a wonderfully engaging little girl who loves to run, chat, tease and entertain a crowd with her lively rendition of O’Canada!


Kim Saltsman and Lisa Fantauzzi, Simone’s teachers, proudly recount the ‘Simone stories’!  She often tried to charm them to avoid tasks at hand, but always managed to succeed through her strength and determination whether it was learning to count, learning to take those first steps or learning to write her name.

This Fall, Simone will be attending Grade One at her neighbourhood school.  We look forward to hearing about Simone’s adventures that lie ahead.



Isabelle Ouellette.

Centennial Grad At Her Highschool Prom!
Perfectly poised and articulate, 18 year old Isabelle Ouellette recently recounted some of her high school experiences including her recent prom debut.

Isy_having_her prom_champagne_post

Isy (as she prefers to be called) attends Heydon Park Secondary School in downtown Toronto, a unique TDSB all-female school.  She currently has four high school credits and this fall will have her first co-op placement at the Bank of Montreal.  Isy enthusiastically talked about attending community college in the future and some of the options she is considering: fashion studies, make-up artistry, music and computer studies.

Isy’s recent active social life has included two school proms!   She received an invitation from Alex, a long-time friend, in contemporary fashion via text message.  The ‘grad prom’ for North Toronto Collegiate was to take place at the Palais Royale in late May.  Mom’s emerald green prom dress (yes…saved in a trunk from Julia’s high school days!) was brought out; it fit perfectly and was given a contemporary update.  Grandma Mary and Nanny were called upon for make-up and hair expertise.  As her picture attests, Isy looked fabulous!  She went off to have dinner by the lake, followed by dancing to a great DJ and rests on the lovely outdoor patio…..not to mention a long ‘nap’ on the bus the next day on a school excursion to Wonderland!

Congrats Isy on all you have achieved!  Thanks for sharing your story…..we always like to hear about our Centennial graduates.



Sophie’s Story.

To Friends and Families of Centennial…

Our family’s life changed on November 10, 2009 when our daughter Sophie was diagnosed with Sanfillipo syndrome. This disease would take our 2 year old and slowly affect her cognitive and physical functions until she eventually succumbed to physical disability and dementia. We were told that our sweet, normal daughter had a life expectancy to her mid-teens.

“We felt so proud to be able to send our daughter to a preschool that she clearly enjoyed.” – Tom and Sarah


Any parent can attest to the anguish this news caused. It was very important that we take charge and make the most of our little girl’s life and give her the attention, love and life experiences that would make the most of her time with us. Centennial, more than any institution, has allowed our daughter to make the most of her abilities.


We felt so proud to be able to send our daughter to a preschool that she clearly enjoyed. It has so clearly helped her develop her vocabulary and start to build speech and interact with other kids. The friends that she has in her class and the experiences that she goes through are the same combination that other kids have in their environment. The difference is that the specific needs of our girl and the kids in her class are catered to in order to develop them as much as their abilities allow.

We are proud to live in a city and a country that has a facility such as this one. The skill and love of the volunteers and the professional staff have made a real difference to our daughter’s life and and to our lives. Our Soph brings home a piece of Centennial every day, and the mark that Centennial leaves will be with her for every day that she has with us. We are more grateful for your support than you’ll ever know, and grateful to be part of a place that sees so much ability in our child.

Tom and Sarah


Maggie and Quinn.

Maggie is a happy and bustling 2½ year old with Down Syndrome. Quinn is her typically developing older sister. When Maggie was 6 weeks old, her parents first heard about Centennial’s preschool program when they met with their Early Intervention case worker and had hoped to have her attend the program when the time came.

Maggie & Quinn

Maggie was offered a spot in the preschool program in September of 2010.  Maggie, while bright and engaging, was struggling with low muscle tone and other developmental issues typical to a child with Down Syndrome.  Through the constant support and dedication of the team at Centennial, in a few short months the growth in her development has been inspiring.  She has started pulling herself up to standing position, cruising around furniture and getting into all sorts of  happy mischief. Her parents attribute her successes to her loving and dedicated team of teachers, therapists and volunteers.

Centennial has been the best thing that has happened to us.  Our family has a greater sense of balance.  I know that daily, Maggie is getting all the support she needs so that when she returns home to us, we can focus on being a family.” – Sherry Garner, Maggie and Quinn’s mom.


Perhaps the biggest surprise has been the benefit the preschool program has had for Maggie’s big sister (and hero), Quinn. 19 months separate the two girls.

When Maggie was born, the demands of her challenges were difficult for her older sibling.  Sibling jealousy was a huge issue as the new baby seemed to occupy much of her parents’ time.  Attending Centennial has allowed Quinn to develop a sense of empathy and purpose.   She has fostered many close friendships and has embraced her role as her little sister’s champion and companion.  She has learned to celebrate Maggie’s accomplishments without suspicion and has a greater sense of self confidence.