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03 April 2019

Adam White is a Five Counties First

By Berton Woodward

Photo of Adam White in an officeForty years ago, Adam White was born with cerebral palsy. Throughout his youth, he received “awesome” treatment at Five Counties Children’s Centre in Peterborough, and he went on to success as a teacher, student achievement consultant and volunteer. Today, he is chalking up another milestone: he is chair of the board of the Children’s Treatment Centre where he was once a client.

Adam says Five Counties provided critical support to his family as well. In fact, you can say the centre runs in his blood. “Even my becoming a teacher you can blame on Five Counties,” he chuckles. After getting physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy over the years, he volunteered as a teenager for a Five Counties summer camp program, teaching younger kids. That turned into many summers at camps for special needs children, and he finally realized he wanted to teach kids as a career. He entered Trent University and became an elementary school French teacher.

But he was never far from Five Counties. He did fundraising and volunteering, then joined the government relations committee. He’s proud of having been a facilitator for several years of a Five Counties program that helps teens with disabilities prepare for independent living by spending time in residence at Fleming College in Peterborough. As a teacher, he has also taken his Grade 4 classes to Five Counties to get a taste of what the place is like and to thank the Smilezone Foundation, founded by two former NHL players, for decorating a part of the Peterborough building, as it has at many other Ontario centres.

In 2013, perhaps inevitably, Adam joined the Five Counties board, and he has moved up in notable fashion—“it’s the first time a past client has been chair,” he says. A key role he sees for himself is helping to expand community partnerships, including with potential donors. “One of the things that shocked me was to learn just how small a cog we are in the wheel of government funding, and yet how far that stretches when you have people who are committed to kids and families,” he says. “It’s frustrating on one hand, and inspirational on the other.”

But what that means, says Adam, is there’s a danger that Children’s Treatment Centres could simply fall off the government radar, and perhaps be consolidated or absorbed into other areas. “Yet the work we do is unlike any other,” he says. “For example, we’re not the same kind of seniors need in our community. It’s about kids, and we’re looking at the future. It’s not only rehab to make muscles work better, it’s a model of treating the whole child and helping them be the best they can be. It’s about all the soft things that go into making a person who they become.”

Adam sees himself as an advocate for both Five Counties and for all children’s treatment centres. “Just because we’re a small budget item,” he says, “we’re not small in importance.”