Natasha Walz

Special gift for troubled agency

Twelve-year-old Natasha Walz donates prized Justin Bieber tickets to help learning association

  • Aug. 27, 2010 9:46 p.m.

A Red Deer girl is making a huge sacrifice to help keep the financially troubled Red Deer-based Learning Disabilities Association of Central Alberta open.

Natasha Walz, 12, has been helped tremendously with her math skills by the LDAA, and wanted to give something back to help the local office keep their doors open.

For her birthday last month, she received three tickets to pop megastar Justin Bieber’s Edmonton concert in September. But after a little reflecting, she decided to donate them to the LDAA so they could use them in a fundraising raffle this week.

“I got the tickets, and the next day I thought what if I donated these because they’re worth a lot. I thought maybe I could get some money to help them (the LDAA).”

Bidding starts at $200, and closes at 5 p.m. on July 16. Those interested can call MindBody FX at 403-356-1100 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“It kind of blew us away,” said a delighted Sheryl Krill, executive director of the LDAA. Natasha’s gift was announced at a recent board meeting and “We were all very, very surprised.

“It was such an unexpected gift from a child who is so appreciative.”

Natasha’s mother, Laura Freeman, said since Natasha started with the LDAA her Gr. 6 math mark soared from an E to an A. As for the ticket donation, it’s in her daughter’s nature to help out, she said.

“She’s a very caring person, and she keeps saying that she wants this place to be around if her brother needs it or if her friends need it,” said Freeman. “She asked me if this (giving of the tickets would help) and I said they are your tickets, and if you want to donate them then definitely go ahead.

“One value we hold in our home is to not complain about something unless you’re prepared to do something about it. It’s been a huge lesson in teaching the kids about giving back.”

Freeman recently signed on as president of the LDAA’s board as well, showing the family’s dedication to the organization that much more.

“We believe in this, and I think that’s a lesson that Natasha has picked up on. Because of her compassion, she just wants to help.”

The LDAA has been serving families for the past 21 years but of late has been facing dire financial pressures. With provincial grants and other sources of funding having dried up over the past while closure this past spring had become a certainty unless new sources of money could be found.

Donations have come in to keep things going for now, but Krill said the real need is for sustainable funding.

“Because of the community’s investment in the Red Deer Chapter, we are able to schedule programs for 15 children, ages seven to nine and 10 to 12 to attend our social competence day camps in July and have confirmed registration for 15 youth for our summer one-on-one tutoring program in all subject areas specifically developed with learning disabilties in mind.”

The LDAA Red Deer Chapter receives referrals from psychologists, schools, teachers, doctors, Family and School Wellness, Children’s Services, Mental Health, the 49th Street Youth Centre, Neighbourhood Places and by word of mouth from clients.

They also provide one-on-one multi-disciplinary tutoring in reading, writing and math and social competence programs for those who have difficulty understanding social cues, have difficulty making and keeping friends, etc.

Krill said whoever lands the Justin Bieber tickets will also enjoy one night’s accommodation plus breakfast at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Centre. All proceeds from the raffle will support the Learning Disabilities Association of Central Alberta.

Krill has also said she also hopes local corporations would step up with offers of sustainable funding for the foreseeable future. “It would be an investment in the community.”

Otherwise, the organization could very well be gone for good. That doesn’t bode well for the one in five estimated to struggle with a learning disability, said Krill.

“The community support is there, particularly in getting the information to the public,” she said. “That also means there is a greater demand for our services.”

In the meantime, anyone interested in donating to the LDAA is welcome to do so. Tax receipts for donations of $20 or more are also available. A major fundraiser is also in the works for late October.

For more information, call the LDAA office at 403-340-3885.

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