A Coquitlam artist is creating a painting every day this month to help raise money for — and build awareness about — a special needs recreational program at Club Aviva.
Linzy Arnott is about half way through her art campaign, with most of her work now sold to partially benefit bursaries for Empowering Steps Movement Therapy (ESMT).
Arnott and her husband, Russ Huggon, a Port Moody Soccer Club coach, signed up for ESMT when their young daughter, Jude, was unable to progress in other settings.
Jude has a mystery DNA that challenges her development: She didn’t walk until she was one-and-a-half years old and didn’t speak until she was four, Arnott said.
She learned about ESMT at Club Aviva, a Coquitlam gymnasium, through a Facebook group directed for parents who are homeschooling their children with special needs.
“It’s been such a life changer for her,” Huggon said. “We could tell right away how much it was working. It was hard but we knew deep down something was changing.”
The couple credit therapist Krissy Jorgenson for shining a light on Jude.
Through her one-on-one music, movement and swim classes, three times a week, Jude and Jorgenson have learned — in fun ways — how to build up her confidence.
“Now, she’s talking constantly, like crazy,” Arnott said, adding, “I can’t even tell you how [the therapists] do it but they find ways to help kids pull out their strengths.”
Started in 2002 by Club Aviva owner Vivien Symington, who was approached by a mother who had a child living with autism, ESMT focuses on making new neurological connections aimed at increasing cognitive and verbal abilities, said supervisor Alison Davidson.
“I drew upon my knowledge and belief that there is a huge connection between gross motor development and the acquisition of learning and fine motor skills,” Symington said, in a statement to The Tri-City News this week. “With extensive research and years of developing the curriculum, the program now consists of a 10-stage motor scale.”
Today, ESMT is in a research partnership with UBC specialists to look at the impacts of the program with children and their families. And Club Aviva is also working to expand ESMT to a Delta gym facility this fall, under the Symington Symbiotic Foundation.
To date, the 15 ESMT therapists at Club Aviva have worked with more than 150 kids with such challenges as autism, cerebral palsy, fetal alcohol syndrome, ADHD, Down syndrome, PTSD and genetic disorders, to name a few; a diagnosis is not required to attend.
As for Arnott’s art campaign, of which the paintings are created in her studio at 100 Braid St., New Westminster, and can be seen online via Instagram (@colouralchemist), Club Aviva is grateful.
“Words cannot express our gratitude for the Huggon family,” Davidson said. “They amaze all of us daily with the amount of love and encouragement they have for their daughter and for others.”
She added, “Her talent is unbelievable. Each painting has so much details and uniqueness to them. From the bottom of our hearts, we are thankful for Linzy and her family.”
The West Coast Movement Therapy Society (WCMTS) will host its fourth annual Empowering Steps and Wheels 5k walk/run fundraiser at Mundy Park (641 Hillcrest St., Coquitlam) on Sunday, Sept. 30.
Founded in 2008, the non-profit society supports families with children enrolled in Club Aviva’s ESMT program. The event is held in partnership with the Symington Endowment Fund, a major grant contributor to WCMTS.
Entry is $35/$30. Register online at esmt.ca/walkrun.