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07 November 2019

EKO’s Tribute Awards shine a spotlight on exceptional achievement

Across Ontario, Empowered Kids Ontario members play a vital role in advancing innovative best practices in service delivery for kids with disabilities and their families. This year EKO honours two individuals for outstanding and meaningful work that transformed system integration and family centred care.

The Tribute Awards, EKO’s program of peer-nominated, board-selected awards have been recognizing achievement in child development and rehabilitation for almost a decade. The awards, announced at EKO’s Annual General Meeting, are a way to learn from and aspire to best practices.

“Every year during this process, we’re more and more impressed by those who foster new strategies and initiatives, affirming Ontario’s child development and rehabilitation sector as the gold standard,” says EKO Chair Penny Smiley. There are some great lessons to be learned from these leaders.”

Tribute Award for Leadership: Elaine Whitmore

Throughout Elaine Whitmore’s 17-years as CEO of John McGivney Children’s Centre (JMCC), the centre grew in the numbers of children and families served, volunteers engaged with the centre and its clients, and its staff complement. JMCC also responded to the needs of the Windsor-Essex community by significantly expanding its scope of services.

Committed to ensuring JMCC is a state-of-the-art children’s treatment centre that is welcoming, fully accessible and family friendly, Elaine led an extensive renovation project that was supported by provincial funding, and a successful staff and community fundraising campaign. JMCC also opened Play McGivney together with the adjacent Hotel Dieu Hospital, a fully accessible outdoor playground for all ages and abilities, and completed an indoor Smilezone renovation to create welcoming and fun indoor public spaces.

JMCC achieved many milestones related to improved service delivery during Elaine’s tenure. The centre is the sole provider of School-Based Rehabilitation Services in the area, ensuring the highest quality of rehabilitation services are provided to children attending schools. On-site clinics from London Health Sciences Centre expanded to meet growing local needs for pediatric orthopedic, rheumatology and genetics expertise, eliminating the need for families to travel outside Windsor-Essex for these services. A renewed focus on recreational therapy resulted in expanded opportunities to support therapy goals and social inclusion.

Elaine has been a tireless advocate for ensuring JMCC families are at the centre of care. Under her leadership JMCC adopted a clear family-centred program and developed a Family Advisory Network whose members play an important role in centre decisions.

As a highly respected and involved member of the Windsor-Essex community, Elaine built strong relationships with local system partners, decision-makers and influencers, including in the ever-growing technology sector, to advancer the sector and to promote client independence, improved quality of life and inclusion for kids with disabilities and their families.

Tribute Award for Partnership: Adele Kirby

Collaboration is at the heart of everything for Adele Kirby, who practices and nurtures partnerships with regional agencies and local providers, and with colleauges across Ontario. Her commitment has created interdisciplinary programs that are integral to One Kids Place (OKP), inspirational to centre staff and peers across the province, and that will impact communities for years to come.

One of the first to join the team when OKP was established, Adele later founded the centre’s office in Gravenhurst, and developed the strong programs for the communities of Muskoka and Parry Sound that are today the significant portion of OKP’s services. She worked with community partners across Northern Ontario to create a family-centred service delivery system that benefits all kids with disabilities and their families, and enhances lives. Adele’s work helped make OKP a home to community partners including the Nipissing Association for Disabled Youth, the North Bay chapter of Autism Ontario, PLAYS, EarlyON, and the Section 23 Transition to School Program.

Adele believes that partnership with community agencies improves services overall, and evidence of this is apparent in programs such as the Sound Community Hub in Parry Sound, a unique partnership that co-locates OKP’s office with local service agencies and has become a model replicated by cities and towns across Ontario. Other examples of this collaborative family-centred approach include the Early Start Denver Model, Coordinated Service Planning, Early Years and Best Start, and Get Ready for Kindergarten, a unique outside the box pilot to ensure all kids are ready and able to be successful in school.

A graduate of University of Toronto’s Speech-Language Pathology program, Adele is known for remaining current with trends and advance is her field and her incorporating knowledge into best in class programs and services. She mentors with an ability to listen, motivate and encourage, building team with a depth of knowledge and positive approach to leadership that is respected by all.

“We’re thrilled to see these fantastic colleagues recognized and honoured by their peers and their communities,” says EKO CEO Jennifer Churchill. “Elaine and Adele have shown us how to keep kids at the centre in our evolving environment, and we are inspired by their many contributions to ensuring Ontario kids with special needs and their families live their best lives.”