Canuck Place helps families be together, not just in the physical sense, but emotionally and mentally. When you have a child living with a life-threatening illness, the worry and stress can consume an entire family. Canuck Place gives families the tools and support they need to be able to step back, breathe, and just be present together.
The Matsunaga family knows this first hand. They have been involved with Canuck Place since 2010, when their son was diagnosed with Trisomy 21, a congenital heart defect, and liver hemangioma.
“At the beginning, our son, Soskay, had so many medical complications, and we were so occupied with taking care of him, we almost forgot about our family life,” mom, Akiho explained. “Everything was about taking care of him and how to manage it. Then we started going to Canuck Place, and slowly got involved in programs. We started having an actual family life, and that made us really, whole.”
The family, including Soskay’s older sister, Nana has participated in all sorts of recreation therapy activities, including Summer in the City, Canucks games, and the Vancouver Aquarium.
Before coming out with Canuck Place, they were hesitant when it came to bringing Soskay out.
“We put up limitations [when] going out, I didn’t feel comfortable bringing him to certain activities, but Canuck Place showed we can really do these things. [Canuck Place recreation therapists] Gillian and Laura set up activities that we can just go, and join, and enjoy. So we started going out in the community more. We didn’t hesitate.”
The thing that Akiho is most grateful for is being able to let her children enjoy life and get involved with other children.
“For Nana, it’s quite unique being Soskay’s sibling,” she explained. “Often nobody understands her situation, even I don’t understand having a sibling with so many medical needs. At Canuck Place she can be herself. She can meet other siblings who experience the same kind of situation.”
Nana attended her first Canuck Place siblings camp this Fall. While Soskay was well taken care of, she could have fun with other kids her age and live in the moment. This years camp theme was the Circus, which provided tons of fun for all involved.
“There is no other place like this,” said Akiho. “We get respite. Soskay can be involved in activities. Finally. There is no other place we as a family can do something together. We are so supported.”
Be Present is featured in 2016’s 12 Gratitudes. Follow along as we share joy and gratitude.