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Centennial Infant and Child Centre operates an integrated preschool.

Centennial Infant and Child Centre’s (CICC) integrated preschool in Toronto is a happy place. Children with developmental challenges play, learn and laugh alongside friends with typical development as they all discover the world in their own way, at their own pace.

Three of Laura Dottori-Attanasio’s four children attended Centennial. Her introduction to the organization was through a home visit by a member of the Centre’s Early Intervention program about six months after she brought her twins – a daughter, and a son with Down Syndrome – home from hospital. Later, the twins and their younger sister attended the preschool.

“Many people are not aware that for every three non-typically developing children, Centennial welcomes one typically developing child,” says Ms. Dottori-Attanasio. “The program is wonderful, and not only my son but also my two daughters gained a tremendous amount from their experience there. Being in an environment with so many children of various abilities made my children better little people. They are so much more accepting of people’s differences than they would have been if they had not been exposed to an organization like Centennial,” she says.

While her children have completed their preschool years at Centennial and moved on to other schools, Ms. Dottori-Attanasio maintains her links with the organization.

“I still reach out to them if I need advice; they are so incredibly thoughtful and supportive,” she says, adding that the Centre’s goal to move to a larger, more convenient location will help meet demand in the community.

“As wonderful as CICC is, they are lacking the space and accessibility for what they can offer,” she says.

While Debra Bond-Gorr, chief development officer for the CICC Foundation, is proud that Toronto has a facility like Centennial, she acknowledges the building only provides half the space the organization needs, limiting their capacity to respond to the need for services.

CICC has launched a $10-million Campaign for Centennial Kids to enable a move to a new site. Ms. Bond-Gorr says CICC needs a new purpose-designed building with enough property to allow for an outdoor therapeutic recreational area, safe drop-off zone and parking. The building will be designed to be fully accessible to accommodate all aspects of the preschool program on the main floor, with training, meeting, Early Intervention program and administrative space on the second level as well as appropriate storage space.

Ms. Dottori-Attanasio and her husband made a substantial commitment to support the campaign, and CIBC, her employer, has been a long-time supporter since 1995 through its Children’s Foundation.

CICC also fulfills a broader role in the community, says Ms. Dottori-Attanasio. “I’m a big believer in inclusion, and when we are able to include everyone in our society and accept them, we see the possibilities in everyone. It broadens our horizons, gives us new perspectives and new ways to look at things. Overall it makes us better people.”

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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