Ever since my daughter Kilee was born 20 years ago, and was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2½, I have deeply involved myself in supporting the search for a cure, a prevention, and ways to care for children and their families afflicted with this devastating disorder. One of the most glaring needs of these families is to have somewhere to turn, a place where they can receive emotional support, get solid information, and discover ways to make things better for individuals with autism throughout their entire life.

So, I was excited when Sergio Cocchia and Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia shared their vision for building a centre for children, youth, and adults with autism and their families. Their gift was the opportunity for me to be the lead individual donor in building the GoodLife Fitness Family Autism Hub in Richmond BC in partnership with the Pacific Autism Family Foundation (PAFC). The PAFC charitable foundation and its core of dedicated volunteers have worked so hard to bring this all to life, securing a commitment from the BC government of $20 million and amazing community support from businesses, organizations and donors alike.

This visionary centre will open November 9th, 2016. I am excited about the bricks and mortar building which is beautiful and functional. However, it is a commitment to helping individuals with autism achieve the best quality of life possible that moves me. This new centre is not going to focus on autism as a “condition,” but instead to encourage and uphold the potential of each and every person affected by the disorder.

The centre will be driven by the desire to ease the suffering of all these families by providing information, support, clinical services, and ongoing research. It has created an approachable, welcoming space with an atmosphere that will empower and reassure all those who come through its doors. Together with hundreds of volunteers, we will be a dynamic, helping community. The GoodLife Fitness Family Autism Hub commits itself to offering inclusive access to services, regardless of location or families’ economic situations.

As I look back on the time when I first got involved with pursuing research, treatment options, and familial support for individuals with autism, I never would have thought I would see this day—when the beautiful family autism hub would become a reality. And here we are! In so many ways, my daughter Kilee transformed my life and taught me some of the greatest life lessons I have ever experienced. I feel both honoured and privileged to be making sure that the inspiration she gave me is now being passed on to hundreds of other families.