We are proud to present DSRF's Annual Impact Report for 2019. The second year of our five-year strategic plan was a success, with a number of major strategic priorities achieved.
Thank you to all who invested in empowering individuals with Down syndrome over the past year!
Just as it has for every person, business and charitable organization in Canada, the COVID-19 crisis swiftly and completely changed the landscape for the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation. We take very seriously our obligation to protect the health and safety of our clients, families, volunteers and staff, and as such we were an early adopter of social distancing practices. Ultimately, on March 17, we closed our doors to the public and instructed all staff to work from home until further notice.
Services for Families
Within days, everything had changed for DSRF – both practically and financially. We were fortunate in that the first two weeks of closure coincided with our scheduled spring break, giving us a couple weeks to reimagine how we could continue to deliver our programs and services in the time of COVID. By the time spring break ended, we were ready to begin hosting our adult educational programs via videoconferencing. A week after that, we unveiled newly developed one on one teleservices, delivering both individualized therapy sessions and parental consultations to families in their homes – services that have been very gratefully embraced. One family shared that DSRF is "the most important element in their child’s life, even more so than school." It’s a sentiment that seems to be shared by many of our clients. Meanwhile, we are also being contacted by families outside our regular service area who are interested in partaking in remote services.
Even as we pivoted our programs and services, our team also got to work developing a new resource: a "Learn At Home" section on our website (http://DSRF.org/LearnAtHome), where we post one or more home education exercises each day, including free downloadable materials so that parents can do it themselves. Our teachers and therapists have gotten very creative, filming demo videos for various skills. These posts have caught the attention of not only our current families, but the worldwide Down syndrome community and other homeschoolers. This has driven our highest-ever web traffic numbers, raising our average daily web views from approximately 500 to over 800. Just last week we had our highest daily web views in DSRF history, and April 2020 will be our best month ever - beating the previous monthly record by more than 50%. One of the few silver linings of our current circumstances is that we are expanding our reach beyond our immediate geographic area through our wealth of online learning resources.
While our program team reimagined their whole approach to caring for families, we also had to come to grips with our new financial reality. Understanding the strain and uncertainty many of our families are facing, one of our first decisions was to make all DSRF programs and services available free of charge to families in financial need for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. Under normal circumstances our programs and services are highly subsidized by fundraising, but nevertheless, program fees represent approximately 25% of our annual revenue. Forsaking just a portion of these fees would take a major bite out of our budget, but we felt this was an important step to take for our families when they need our help more than ever.
Approximately half our families receive public funding from external sources which they use to cover DSRF services. This has allowed us to continue collecting program fees from those families who receive funding, which in turn helps us to offer free services to families who don’t have this kind of funding. We have also expanded our bursary program to include more families facing more serious financial challenges including those at or below the poverty line (see http://DSRF.org/funding).
There remains a significant gap between the funds coming in from program funding and emergency government support, and the cost of maintaining our operations for the duration of the crisis. In order to meet this need, our fund development team – much like our programs team – has quickly changed course, making difficult decisions about some of our upcoming events and campaigns, and working to identify new funding opportunities.
In the short term, Up the Down Market Toronto was rescheduled to October, while Up the Down Market Calgary has been cancelled. Run Up for Down Syndrome – our biggest annual fundraising event, has been reimagined as a virtual event: Run Apart for Down Syndrome (http://DSRF.org/RunApart). We are inviting supporters to participate as virtual runners, and run or walk in and around their homes on June 7, with some fun additional activities online. We are also asking participants to proceed with their fundraising as they usually would. We have, however, drastically lowered our expectations for the event.
Looking ahead, we expect that COVID-19 will have a long-lasting and significantly detrimental impact on our fund development. Whether we are able to proceed with the three Up the Down Market Dinners scheduled for this fall is an open question at this time, and even if we can, it remains to be seen the extent to which the economic downturn will impact their success.
Once our centre reopens, and assuming the emergency wage subsidies will end in short order, we will face tremendous pressure to restore our fund development to meet needs amidst a very difficult economic environment. In the meantime, however, our focus remains fixed on caring for our families during this time when they need us most and ensuring that DSRF continues empowering people with Down syndrome through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
To do so, we need your help. We understand that these are difficult times for everybody, and not everyone can afford to give right now. But for those who are able, your support now means more than it ever has. You can rest assured that we are stretching every dollar for maximum impact.
We would like to suggest two ways to help if you are able to do so:
1. Join us on June 7 as we Run Apart for Down Syndrome! The entry fee is just $10. Invite your friends and family to join you in doing BIG things for people with Down syndrome by donating through your page or participating themselves. Visit http://DSRF.org/RunApart to get started.
2. Become a Triple-21 monthly partner. Many people find it’s easier to give a small amount each month than to make a larger one-time gift, especially during difficult times. Your $21 a month will add up to a big impact in the lives of students with Down syndrome. Learn more and sign up at http://DSRF.org/Triple21.
Whether or not you are able to give at this time, please know that we you are deeply grateful for your support through the years, and we wish you and your family good health as we face this challenge together.
Wayne LeslieChief Executive OfficerDown Syndrome Resource Foundation
April 6, 2020
To: All DSRF families
RE: COVID-19 Update – DSRF Services Restoration
Dear DSRF Parent,
I am very pleased to be writing you for the specific purpose of providing more definitive details about the restoration of DSRF’s essential 1:1 Speech & Occupational therapies, Education and Mental Wellness services, as well as group programming. I am sure you are equally happy to be receiving this information.
I will start by thanking you for your patience and encouragement as our team of dedicated specialists and support staff worked extremely hard to adapt our services and programs to a new tele-service online system. This includes members of our fund development team and senior management who have been working equally hard to secure the necessary financial resources that supports DSRF’s work and ultimately, your family.
We recognize that along with the serious health concerns being faced, the current situation continues to place many of our families under financial pressure. For this reason, DSRF remains committed to providing all programs and services free of charge. This will be done through the continued use of approved individual family financial funding from sources like At Home Program (AHP) and Autism funding, as well as DSRF’s Bursary Program for families who do not currently have funding from other sources. Through this supportive financial framework, families will not have to pay out of pocket at a time when doing so might mean choosing between getting the essential services their child needs and another essential need like food or shelter.
At the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation, YOU ARE FAMILY and we will do everything within our power to make sure no member of our family is left behind.
Our funding partners like AHP and Autism have been very supportive and flexible by agreeing to broaden their guidelines for the types and amounts of services (e.g. adapted 1:1 sessions, consultations, etc.) they will fund. This helps families access the types and style of services that best meet their needs. Like DSRF, these funders believe that freedom to self-direct access to services is more important than ever at this time. Further details about this and other similar agencies we are working with to secure flexible funding, will be provided directly to families in the coming days.
For families without funding from other sources, DSRF’s Bursary Program is being changed to support you. This includes creating a rolling intake process with revised guidelines until further notice to address the current financial realities that families are facing due to things such as sudden loss of employment. Further details and application information for DSRF bursaries will be provided in the coming days.
I would also like to take this opportunity to encourage you to contact us if you have questions about this information or any other aspects of DSRF’s programs and services at this time. While our facilities may be closed, our dedicated team is most definitely still open for business. Nimet Tejpar, our Programs & Operations Coordinator, is at our virtual front desk to assist families and direct them to the right DSRF people and/or solutions. She can be reached by phone (604-444-3773, Ext.101) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The entire DSRF team is looking forward to the day when we can welcome you back in person. Until then, we encourage you to continue following the advice of officials to keep yourselves healthy and safe so that when we collectively emerge from this crisis, our Down syndrome community will be stronger and more unified than ever.
Wayne Leslie Chief Executive Officer
Hello DSRF families,
We hope you are all staying safe and healthy during these incredibly altered times!
We want you to know that we are all working very hard to get telepractice sessions up and running for our DSRF students in lieu of in-person therapy and teaching. This model of service delivery is new to DSRF, so we ask for your patience both with beginning the service, as well as working out any glitches that may come up as we move along. To provide enough development time for this new service, we will delay the start of therapy and teaching sessions at the originally scheduled block start (March 30th). However, we expect to contact each family individually within the first two weeks of this block to begin the process.
During this period, we remain committed to providing our services at no charge to families who need it most. However, we have also heard from families who have funding for our services from other sources. For example, the Autism Funding Unit and the At-Home Program have both confirmed that they will fund telepractice sessions. Families have asked that this funding be used to pay for the services they receive, to assist DSRF in providing no-cost services for families who do not have other funding resources. We are deeply grateful, but not surprised, that our community is pulling together in this fashion. As a result, we will work with individual families to assess needs and alternative funding opportunities.
In the meantime, stay tuned to our social media and our new section on the DSRF website for ideas around activities you can do at home: Learn at Home http://dsrf.org/LearnAtHome. We'll be adding one or two new, fun things each day!
Stay strong, everyone!
Susan Fawcett and Eleanor Stewart
March 17, 2020
To: Our Community
Fr. Wayne Leslie, Chief Executive Officer, Down Syndrome Resource Foundation
RE: COVID-19 Update – DSRF Services & Support
I wanted to personally reach out to DSRF families, supporters and British Columbians to provide an update on actions DSRF is taking to support local and provincial efforts to prevent further spread of the coronavirus and protect the health, safety and well-being of BC’s Down syndrome community. Since closing last week for our usual Spring Break, we have continued regular cleaning of our facilities and limited staff activity at these locations to enhance and preserve cleanliness.
As a result of today’s announcement by the Province of BC that schools will remain closed and in-person services are suspended indefinitely, DSRF will also remain closed and is suspending all in-person services indefinitely.
We recognize and acknowledge the difficulty this imposes for families who rely on us. We do not take suspension of our essential services lightly, but the health of our families, the health of our team members and the health of British Columbia, is foremost in our mind. We believe an integral part of this approach is being completely in step with the guidance and actions that government and health officials are taking to protect organizations like DSRF, such as schools. We are continually monitoring this situation and in contact with the appropriate agencies to stay on top of the issue.
In the interim, our dedicated team of specialized therapists, teachers and support staff are developing strategies to provide continuity of care and a level of service and support for our families to help them through this very difficult time. We anticipate these will include options for clients, students and parents, to speak directly with members of our team either by phone or online.
We understand that along with the serious health concerns being faced, the current situation may be placing families under immense financial pressure. For this reason, and until further notice, all DSRF services will be provided free of charge.
We hope that in some small way, it gives families of individuals with Down syndrome comfort knowing their health, safety and well-being remains our #1 priority.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the supporters who have contacted us asking how they can help, in their own way, our efforts to protect and assist those who are most vulnerable during this unprecedented crisis. We are humbled by your willingness to think of others during what we know is also a difficult time for yourselves.
For the past 25 years, DSRF has provided essential services to British Columbia’s Down syndrome community, through good times and bad. We remain resolute that, working together, hand-in-hand, we will successfully navigate this very challenging period.