What do children do during their stay at The Darling Home for Kids?


by Susan Cleland, Volunteer

There is no greater gift than happiness.  At The Darling Home For Kids, happiness is a precious gift given by families, friends, donors, staff, and volunteers.  And when children, like 8-year old Holly, come to participate in the respite care program, their happiness is returned tenfold.

Earlier in the day, Holly was brought to The Darling Home by her father for a weekend-long stay.  Her infectious smile brightened as a round of greetings and warm welcomes were given.  Holly cannot communicate with words, but having stayed at The Darling Home previously, it was clear how she felt about coming back for a visit and knowing what was in store for her.  Holly’s respite care allowed her parents to have the weekend to themselves or spend some time with Holly’s younger sister.  For Holly, it gave her an opportunity to take advantage of all that The Darling Home has to offer her.

Born with schizencephaly, or clefs on the cerebral hemispheres of her brain, Holly has developmental delays, nausea, vomiting, and is fed four times a day through a gastrointestinal tube.  She is not taking any medications, but is given an Advil if she cries from any pain.

Holly’s muscles become stiff, so one of her favourite activities is to take a break from her wheelchair and spend some time in the hydrotherapy pool.  Today, while being held in the water, Holly’s arms and legs were therapeutically stretched out and she enjoyed a relaxing massage.  Just before she got out of the pool, Holly burst out in a deep belly laugh, attracting other staff and volunteers to share in her delight.  Holly certainly reminded everyone around her how fun and relaxing hydrotherapy can be.

After leaving the pool, Holly was showered and dressed.  Her brown hair was adorned with a black bow with pink polka dots, and she was kept cozy in her fluffy pink slippers, silver starred leggings, and purple butterfly shirt.  Bright, vibrant colours to accurately represent her personality.

After being fed, it was on to another activity Holly enjoys – bowling!  Her wheelchair was elevated and a blanket was placed on her lap.  “Holly is getting much better at independently starting and maintaining eye contact with the ball,” explained her nurse.

The ball then rolled down the blanket and… strike!  Another joyous laugh from Holly which spread to the faces of all those around her.

Holly also finds pleasure in going outside to enjoy the lush gardens and trees, the colours and movements of the wind mobiles, and the playground.  When she is feeling a little tired, Holly finds quiet comfort in having stories read to her and playing softly in the Snoezenlen room.  There, she can interact with the wall mounted (iPad), swing softly in the leaf chair, watch colourful fish bounce around in bubble towers, or gaze at relaxing images projected on the wall.

It was heartwarming to see that Holly was a very happy little girl during her stay in respite care, and those around her shared in her joy.   Happiness is truly an invaluable gift.  When given, it can seem so small, like a pebble dropped in water creating circles that travel on and on.