Multi-sensory room honours founder’s memory

Multi-sensory room honours founder’s memory

By Vincent Ball, Brantford Expositor
May 2, 2016

Dan Ritchie died more than 15 years ago but his influence is still being felt.

The Snoezelen room at Participation House, officially opened with a ceremony on Monday, is named in Ritchie’s honour. A plaque that includes a picture of Ritchie was unveiled as part of the ceremony.

Ritchie, who had cerebral palsy, was a founding member of Participation House, a non-profit, charitable organization that provides support and services to people with disabilities and chronic health concerns. He also was an employee of the former public utilities commission – now Brantford Power.

Ritchie died in February 1999 at Hamilton General Hospital after collapsing at work several days earlier.

“It’s beautiful, it really is,” said Ann Elwood, who worked with Ritchie. “I think he (Ritchie) would be humbled by this but at the same time he would be proud.

“He’d be happy that so much has been done to help the residents here at Participation House and that people are carrying on something that began with him.”

Elwood remembered Ritchie as a fun person who never let his cerebral palsy get in the way of living life to its fullest. When he died, his colleagues decided to hold a barbecue in his honour and turn the proceeds over to Participation House. More than $55,000 was donated over a 15-year period. In the last couple of years, Brantford Power employees decided to earmark the funds they raise towards the creation of a Snoezelen room.

The room provides sensory stimulation that includes lights, music, different colours and activities that residents, most of whom depend on wheelchairs, can enjoy.

It cost about $50,000. of which nearly $20,000 was contributed by the Brant Power barbecue committee.

Elwood, who is now retired, said she was happy to be part of Monday’s ceremony, which included Brantford Power CEO Paul Kwasnik, members of the barbecue fundraising committee, Brantford Mayor Chris Friel and Teresa Percival, representing Brantford-Brant MP Phil McColeman.

People got a chance to experience the Snoezelen room and see for themselves the benefits it provides to residents.

“This is really exciting,” said Tina Peeler, a member of the fundraising committee. “It’s so nice. It’s so gratifying to see them enjoying it and knowing that we had a hand in making this happen.”

Kwasnik praised the fundraising committee, noting that it is an employee-driven effort that sets a great example for others to follow.

The work of the committee is an extension of Brantford Power’s service to the community, he said.

Participation House resident Robert Loree, with the help of an electronic voice box, also spoke at the ceremony.

“Thank you very much,” he said.

Vincent Ball (Vball@postmedia.com)

Click here to read article on the Brantford Expositor’s website

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