TORONTO — Almost two years after its inception, DANI, an organization that serves young adults with special needs, has rented a 3,000-square-foot house as its home base.
DANI’s Place, at 12 McAllister Rd. in the Sheppard Avenue and Bathurst Street area, hosts an opening celebration on Sunday, Feb. 24, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Known by its acronym, Dani, “Developing and Nurturing Independence” was co-founded by two mothers of young adults with special needs, Kathy Laszlo and Susie Sokol.
For children like Laszlo and Sokol’s, who are no longer in school, it is important to continue learning and practising life skills and religious studies, Laszlo said.
Among the planned activities at the new house, which DANI is leasing from Magen David Sephardic Congregation, is a cooking and baking program that will involve seniors who live nearby.
DANI has received a New Horizons for Seniors grant from the federal government for the program. “Whatever we do is very community oriented,” Laszlo said.
A related goal, further down the road, is the establishment of a kosher café.
More imminently, the organization is planning to bring in work for some of the clients, either light assembly or piecework, as well as vocational training.
“We want to change the environment so they can do as much as possible independently,” Laszlo said. “I really believe everybody can have a place.”
Last year, in addition to regular Jewish holiday programs, DANI ran its second annual one-week summer camp. But even in a recreational program, organizers built in life skills education for participants, who had to buy their own TTC tickets for outings and had a bank tour to complement their training in how to use money.
New this year is a basketball program being run out of Yeshivat Or Chaim by Daniel Moshe Johnson, a former professional basketball player who was contacted by DANI after he was featured in a CJN article last year. He is the director of sports mentoring for the International Charity Association Network (ICAN). Or Chaim students help in the DANI basketball program as volunteers.
“Everybody’s having so much fun, and [the participants] are so accepted for who they are,” Laszlo said. “You would not necessarily know which ones have special needs.”
DANI has a mailing list of 65 families and is assessing needs to determine future programming directions.
Its activities have been funded in part with the proceeds from last year’s fundraising dinner attended by 750 people, which raised more than $60,000.
This year’s gala fundraiser will be held March 27 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. The event, Broadway North, will be hosted by Diane Dupuy of Famous People Players. It will honour Batya Feigenbaum, a physically handicapped teacher at Tiferes Bais Yaakov High School who serves on DANI’s board, and Esther Wachsman of Shalva, the Association for Mentally and Physically Challenged Children, based in Jerusalem.
For further information about DANI or its upcoming events, call 905-731-6606 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.