Its front facade is non-descript - so much so that it's easy to walk by without realizing just how magical a place The Safehaven Project for Community Living is.
Situated on Bloor Street West, just west of Dufferin Street, Safehaven is a non-profit organization that provides respite and residential care to children with multiple disabilities and complex medical needs. Many cannot walk, talk, see or hear.
"It depends on the family. Some kids live here year-round...but they can stay as little as a weekend up to two weeks to give parents and caregivers a break," said spokesperson Angelica Meigs last Thursday, June 21. "It's also a great way to integrate a child into the greater community."
Irina Abbassova's almost 15-year-old son Michael has cerebral palsy and she says as a single mother, Safehaven is a God send.
"Twenty-four/seven, I am with Michael. I didn't even know what to do with myself when he first went to respite," said Abbassova, an Etobicoke resident. "We're so glad there's services like this."
Michael needs a lot of help, says his mother. He doesn't walk and relies on a wheelchair, however, he is very verbal and sociable.
Michael got to meet one of his favourite singers, Danny Fernandez, at a recent concert compliments of Safehaven.
"He was so excited - it was a great experience," she said.
With offices on the main floor, upstairs is the children's home away from home. There is a kitchen where all meals are prepared, a fully wheelchair accessible patio with a barbecue where parties are held regularly and kids can get fresh air, listen to music and garden. There is a rec room where children can watch TV or play video games. Bedrooms and washrooms are outfitted with ceiling lifts. Children are bathed every day.
The children participated in more than 100 outings last summer, including trips to Toronto Raptors and Argonauts games and concerts.
Children can play the piano or spend time in the 'Snoezelan' room, which serves to heighten or relax their senses. It's a safe and hypo allergenic environment with fiber optic long strings, a water bed, a ball pit, a large lava lamp with bubbles and a projector.
"One child is in love with loud music and loves the vibrations," said spokesperson Brianne Fodey.
Because Safehaven is a non-for-profit organization, it relies heavily on donations and sponsors.
"We'd like to reach people who need our help and those who would like to help us," said Meigs.
On Saturday, July 21, Italian Car Day will take place at the Boyd Conservation Area to help raise funds for Safehaven, which currently serves children at not only the Bloor-Dufferin location, but homes in Aurora, Woodbridge, Etobicoke and North York.
If you would like further details, visit www.safehaven.to