25 and counting: Celebrating the Children’s Treatment Centre in Cornwall

It was a virtual conversation, marking 25 years of the Children’s Treatment Centre of Cornwall and Area.

And there was this recurring theme: it would be tremendous if there were no longer any need for the CTC, but that likely will never be the case.

“We started out (in the mid-1990s) to create something that we hoped we wouldn’t always need,” Jim Dilamarter said. “But I don’t think that will ever be possible.”

Dilamarter all those years ago was a founding member of the CTC, and its first president. Dilamarter no longer lives in the region, but his name is a familiar one for many in these parts – he’s a former director of education for what until 1998 was called the SD&G Public School Board.

He was part of a chat this week along with CTC board vice-president Carole Cardinal-Lortie, and Cornwall Police Service Insp. Dave Michaud, a CTC board member, with CTC president Don Fairweather as moderator.

Looking back to the early days of the agency, before the CTC even technically existed, Dilamarter told Fairweather that, among numerous reasons why he was so willing to get involved – including his decades of work as a teacher and principal, and volunteering for several youth-based organizations in his native southwestern Ontario – was his belief the Cornwall and area community could and would rally around the effort.

“When (government funding for a CAS-based program for abused children in the early 1990s was halted) we had no resources to which we could turn,” Dilamarter recounted. “We desperately needed a place to direct our parents and children who were looking for support.”

At least slightly stung by the pull-out of government funding for previous efforts on that front, “we wanted something that gave us local control, something that was ‘ours,’ and not dependent on government,” Dilamarter said.

The community, fairly quickly, did step up. Dilamarter mentioned some of the earliest contributors, including the Rotary Club. And while it was Dilamarter’s job to advocate for the public school board, he was thrilled the local Catholic community got on board so early with the CTC.

In fact, that he was heavily involved in the creation of the CTC, and that it was widely embraced, is one of Dilamarter’s proudest achievements.

“I’m so proud to have been part of a wonderful group of people who made it possible,” he said. “I’m pleased that (the CTC still exists) and the community is still behind it – the people care. . . I’m proud that it still exists, (but) sad that (a centre) is needed in any society.”

“We’ve been blessed by having really good people, committed to the work they’re doing – there’s no reason why we can’t keep doing this,” Cardinal-Lortie told the group.

Cardinal-Lortie had a long career with probation and correctional services in Cornwall, and she joined the CTC board about five years ago, not long after retiring. But it was long before that, while working as a parole officer and youth probation officer in the 1990s, when she had become well aware trauma suffered in childhood almost always rises to the surface in adulthood.

“It always returns,” she said. “In criminality, in addiction – sometimes both. . . over time I realized that if you can address the issues with youth, you can prevent (adult manifestations).”

Cardinal-Lortie said her work allowed her to understand how early trauma “can dominate your life and spiral out of control,” but that she had also become familiar with the many benefits and all of the assistance the CTC could provide.

The CTC’s impact on life prospects having improved for the future?

“It’s huge,” she said. “It’s a huge component of not having (issues) continue into adulthood.”

Michaud too early in his work career, as a CPS officer starting in 1999, saw the benefits of CTC counselling and support. And a handful of years later, he decided to volunteer, first helping out with the Bike-a-Thon Plus, and later increasing his involvement and becoming a co-organizer of the event’s Motorcycle Ride.

Michaud said once be became a board member, there was “more opportunity to do fundraising and bring awareness to the (CTC),” and he’s proud of his involvement in the celebrity boxing event that shines a bright light on the centre – and widely spreads the word of how successful it’s been.

“(The boxing event) has brought us some national attention,” Michaud noted. “The celebrities who come here, when they go home, they talk about the good work being done at the (CTC).”

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