Child Development Resources to Mark 50 Years with Community Celebration is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

CDR's Community Celebration on Sunday will kick-off its 50th anniversary festivities. (Courtesy CDR)
CDR’s Community Celebration on Sunday will kick-off its 50th anniversary festivities. (Courtesy CDR)

Child Development Resources is kicking off its 50th anniversary festivities Sunday with a special community celebration.

The organization has served thousands of Historic Triangle infants, toddlers and families in the past 50 years.

While it began as a preschool for children with special needs, CDR now serves not only families of children with disabilities but also those in financial need or crisis.

Even families who do not fall under either of those categories can benefit from many of CDR’s educational and child care programs.

About 1,000 Historical Triangle families a year currently receive services from CDR, with that number constantly increasing from year to year. Parents can seek out the organization’s services on their own, but many are referred directly from doctors or social workers.

Amy Bornhoft received a referral to CDR for her young daughter Madison seven years ago. Madison had been through a battery of doctor visits and brain scans to determine why she was not developing at the same rate as her twin brother and other children her age.

“She wasn’t walking at all, and had really negative responses to new environments,” Bornhoft said. “We went to CDR as a last effort.”

That last effort paid off, as the therapist charged with making a home visit to assess Madison immediately identified her as having Sensory Processing Disorder, which causes people to become easily overwhelmed by stimuli.

“Things that were such a mystery to us suddenly became clear [with this diagnosis],” Bornhoft said. “We wondered why she always liked big bear hugs but not a soft touch, and it turns out she was overstimulated.”

In a matter of six months, Bornhoft went from not knowing if Madison would ever walk to watching her take her first steps. In that time a therapist from CDR continued to work with Madison directly as well as helping Bornhoft and her husband figure out how they could make progress with their daughter on their own.

There was help in the form of finding solutions, and then there was help in the form of providing respite. Bornhoft eventually signed up Madison for a playgroup at CDR, which not only provided the toddler with opportunities to socialize with other children but also gave Bornhoft a much-needed break.

Bornhoft was so thankful for the help CDR provided to her and her family, she felt compelled to give back. She became a volunteer and eventually began working part time for the organization.

The longer she spent working with CDR, the more inspired she became by the work that the organization was accomplishing. When the director of training position opened up in 2013, she applied and got the job.

“I think it says a lot about an organization that so many people who receive services turn around and want to give back,” Bornhoft said.

Bornhoft and several other speakers will be making remarks at Sunday’s event, which will take place at CDR’s offices at 150 Point O’ Woods off Croaker Road in James City County.

The kickoff event precedes several upcoming initiatives to mark the 50th anniversary. CDR has set an ambitious fundraising goal of $1 million by December 2016, which organizers hope to reach by heavily promoting two existing annual fundraising events.

“We will have the annual auction in March and the Superhero 5K in August,” said Paul Scott, executive director of CDR. “Rather than doing a whole bunch of extra events, we just wanted to put more emphasis on the events the community already knows and looks forward to.”

Funding its many programs and services has been one of the major challenges that CDR has faced in its 50 years.

Though the organization frequently applies for federal grants, those grants are often competitive and restricted in their scope once awarded. Nonetheless, both donations and grants are crucial to maintaining the many services that CDR offers.

“I think the really important thing to emphasize is that no family is ever denied services based on their ability to pay,” Scott said.

One of CDR’s most fundamental services is offering developmental screenings and assessments, which ties in closely with the organization’s emphasis on early detection.

“Anybody can call and have their child assessed,” Bornhoft said. “We want everyone to err on the side of calling, because it’s so much better to call and hear everything’s fine and you don’t need to be worried than to call and hear you should have called sooner.”

Other services like Early Head Start start even before a child is born, giving expecting mothers the information they need to take care of themselves during pregnancy and their babies once they are born.

CDR also offers professional development for child care providers through workshops, seminar and consultations.

“We always say to child care providers, you’re not a babysitter, you’re a brain developer,” Bornhoft said. “What they do is so important and sets the foundation for the rest of the child’s life.”

As the organization has grown over the years to include a wider variety of services, the needs of the community have also grown.

“Part of [the increase in need] is just population growth, as well as increased awareness of the kinds of issues to look for, so we are identifying earlier and more often,” Scott said. “But I think as we continue to learn more we’re also going to see that the prevalence rate is increasing due to things like environmental factors.”

With so much at stake, members of CDR are hopeful the 50th anniversary will bring both money and attention to their cause. A series of profiles written by families who have benefitted from CDR’s services is currently being compiled and share via the organization’s website in order to raise awareness of the ways CDR has shaped lives in the Historic Triangle for the better.

“We’re thrilled that we’ve made it 50 years,” Scott said. “Many nonprofits don’t make it that far, but I think CDR is really one of the gems of Williamsburg.”

The kick-off community celebration will take place at CDR’s offices from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.