Happy Days in Pembroke
Happy Days has opened a location in Pembroke to offer day programs for adults with intellectual disabilities.
It was back in 2016 that Darlene Heaslip opened the first Happy Days in Renfrew, founded on the mission of providing a “safe, fun learning environment for adults/youth with intellectual disabilities where they can interact with their peers within their communities”.
With a nine-year wait list for Community Living Renfrew’s adult day program and no other day programs available in the area, Heaslip was inspired to open Happy Days in order to support her own son and to help help fill that gap for others in the community.
“Children with disabilities and special needs are accommodated within the school system, with programs that help connect the kids with their classmates and their community. But once they reach the age of 21, there are few programs and supports available,” said Heaslip. “I experienced that with my son, Kris, when he was graduating from school with his friends and I was told there was a nine-year wait list for Community Living’s adult day services in Renfrew. So rather than sit and complain, my husband and I decided we’d go out on a limb and start our own day program.”
When deciding on a name for the organization, it was Darlene’s son that came up with the idea of “Happy Days”.
“He said “Let’s call it ‘Happy Days' because I’m happy when I’m with my friends and doing fun things" and I thought that fit perfectly with what we were looking for,” said Heaslip. “We’re geared towards doing exactly that – provide them with opportunities to experience adventures, create memories, make friendships and enjoy happy days. They get out in the community, gain new life skills, and enjoy fun-filled days of learning through new experiences.”
Soon after opening Happy Days in Renfrew, her phone started ringing off the hook with people interested in her services.
“We started with two days a week, but we quickly grew in numbers and now operate Monday through Friday full-time,” said Heaslip. “Most of our clients are 21-years and older, but we also get a few who are a bit younger.”
With the inspiring success and overwhelming interest, Heaslip decided to expand Happy Days to Pembroke to fill an even larger need in that part of the county.
“I had a few families from Pembroke who called me and asked about the services I offered at Happy Days, because they had nowhere else to go to,” said Heaslip. “It's bad enough that we have a wait list in Renfrew for Community Living's program, but there are no day services offered up here in Pembroke and this part of the county at all. This (Happy Days) is the first of its kind in this area.”
After opening the doors to the Pembroke location (480 Boundary Road) on May 1, Happy Days was officially welcomed into the City of Pembroke with a special ribbon-cutting ceremony taking place on June 6.
During that ceremony, Pembroke Mayor Mike LeMay presented a certificate and praised the organization’s concept, saying “The clientele are definitely out there and they need help. So I think this is so great as it provides an important service for the people of Pembroke.”
Deputy Mayor Ron Gervais shares similar sentiments about how the organization will fill a void in the community and have a positive impact on many.
“There is a huge need for this in our community and Darlene and her team should certainly proud of themselves for doing what they're doing and providing the support to these families – because some of these families definitely require it,” he said.”
For more information about Happy Days, visit: www.happydaysdayprogram.com/