Our Stories

As part of our 75th anniversary celebrations we are inviting alumni to share their stories – whether your association was through the orphanage, the group homes, the daycares, or the preschool classes; as a client, a staff member or a volunteer. Stories can be submitted to alumni@providencechildren.com.

Here are some stories that have already been submitted:

Kimmy’s Story

Gabe was an amazing baby. He never really cried or fussed. Come to think of it, he wasn’t making many facial expressions either. When a family member noticed Gabe was perhaps, unusually quiet, we decided to take him to the doctor and have some genetic testing. We met with specialists, speech pathologists, and occupational therapists, and through Alberta Health Care we were referred to Providence.

Heartbroken, scared, and worried, we felt lost for our little boy. But from the moment we walked into Providence there was a sense of ease. We were welcomed and reassured by an incredibly genuine and warm community. We were given instant hope, which grew alongside the fast progress Gabe was making.

Gabe attended Providence from ages two to five years old, when Gabe came home and showed us how he could drink out of a straw, we were overwhelmed with joy! Unable to breastfeed, difficult to bottle feed, and on solids at an early age – learning to suck was a major milestone for Gabe. Extremely proud parents, we never imagined that Gabe would be where he is today and are forever grateful to Providence for fostering his growth.

Providence allowed us to be parents. Providence allowed us to love and play with our son and leave the hard work to the experts. The community at Providence is understanding and gentle. It makes you feel safe, both as a parent and a child. Gabe was excited to go, and we were excited to take him! The genuine compassion and love felt within the walls of Providence is indescribable. We truly don’t know where they find the teachers they do, calming, caring, and compassionate, but we wish there were more.

Providence not only changed Gabe’s life, but our entire families. An environment of endless support, Providence equipped us with the physical and emotional tools needed to support our son in every way he needed. At one time, we alternated leaving home to run errands, but after Providence we were able to go as a family. In the beginning Gabe was uncomfortable and unsure how to be around others, but Providence drastically improved his social skills including, the use of gestures for expression and understanding human touch. Gabe’s sensory processing deficits still exist, but at a minimal state that allows him to be a typical young man. While he may be nervous or awkward at times, we are so excited that he has a group of incredible friends who accept him for exactly who he is. This year, Gabe is graduating high school and excelling in mathematics. He drives, and as parents, we can happily say that we have expectations for him and his future.

We are honored to share our story with others. Our advice to parents of children with extra or special needs is early intervention, like Providence. If a family member comes to you, never be offended. We learned that sometimes you are so close to your child you might not always see what is there. It is very important to talk through emotion with your child, and also with your partner and community. Our message to the world is to never judge. Show compassion, respect, and understanding to all without making assumptions.

For who you are, what you are, and for the love you have left in our hearts, we thank-you Providence.

– Kimmy Hayden (Parczen Family)

Tanis reading to his younger brother.

My son was speech delayed and gross motor delayed before attending the school, with his teacher Gencesia as his teacher and his OT Perrin! He come so far and made so many strives in the school. He started in the school at the age of two and wasn’t completely talking, within in six months he was making full sentences and walking. Even after moving away from the city, we are so grateful for the base he was provided. As a single mom the teachers and school were amazingly awesome!!!!!

Thanks again. After many years of being gone from the school my son Tanis is still striving because of the base that was provided from the school.


My daughter Elizabeth just started attending last year. It has been the most wonderful experience. The staff there is awesome. Her speech has improved greatly. She is so excited and happy to go to school there. If the weekend comes she still wants to go to school. In all my years of being a parent which is 21 yrs. I have never had a child that loves school so much. I can’t say enough good things about Providence main school. I want to say thx for everything they do from speech therapy to physical therapy.

My son Peter Karamitsos attended Providence from September of 2007 to June of 2011. When Peter first attended Providence he was 2 1/2 years old and couldn’t talk, just learned to walk and had no understanding of his world around him. Before Peter started at Providence I didn’t know what to do with Peter, I didn’t know what future Peter was going to have either. Peter’s time at Providence he learned how to run, jump and talk as well other things with the help of physiotherapy and speech therapy. If it hadn’t been for Providence I don’t know where Peter would be today. Peter gained so much for being at Providence. Peter is now in Jr. High in grade seven and loves sports especially running. In 2015 Peter ran in the Calgary 2015 terry Fox run and raised over $800 dollars for cancer research by going door to door asking for the donations himself. Peter is now in the air cadets, he loves being a part of the air cadet routines especially the marching. Thanks for listening to the story of my son Peter Bye for now.

Keri Karamitsos

My son attended Providence School when he was in Pre-K/Kindergarten. He had a speech impediment and difficulties with learning and social skills. He required intense speech therapy and support in a classroom setting. When my son was just 1 years old, I left a domestic situation to give him a better life and for some years he had some difficulties with trusting others and being around people. He is the sweetest boy ever and just had a hard time. I put Connor into Providence school and the support he got was so amazing. All the teachers and staff were so supportive, caring, patient and very good at teaching children with learning difficulties and speech therapy needs. My son even loved his bus driver at Providence and he talked about her every day. I have never in my life had this kind of support and kindness from a school before. My son is now in grade 3 and he does not require speech therapy anymore and he is doing so well now in Public School. He is at a above grade level and he has so many friends now. Every day at recess he goes outside and plays soccer with his friends and he is considered a mentor in the class to others. He is now a buddy to a younger child in his school that he helps and mentors. He has so much empathy and kindness and I am so proud of him. I truly believe that his time at Providence did impacted him and has helped shape him to who he is today. Just a wonderful kid who is there for others as Providence was there for him.

Tracy Colby


Martha Cohen and Providence Creche

Martha Cohen was President of Providence Creche for two years and spent 10 years on the Board of Governors. She was the first Jewish woman to hold the position of President.

Martha held a meeting at her home, this was likely in the mid-1950s. The doorbell to our home rang and Martha’s son, Philip, ran to answer the door. Outside were a group of nuns wearing their full habits. Philip had never seen nuns before and yelled to his mom that there was a group of wicked witches at the door and he thinks they might have legs. Needless to say, soon afterward Philip received his first lesson about nuns and Catholicism.

It was through Martha’s work at Providence Creche that she met Father Patrick O’Byrne. From time to time, Father O’Byrne would come to our home to swim in our pool. One day my sister, Faye, asked Father O’Byrne how many children did he have.He answered none and Faye was insistent that he had children because he was called Father. Another lesson in Catholicism.

Congratulations on 70 years of great service to the community.

(Irv Finkleman was a volunteer at Providence for several years. Sofia participated in Providence’s Outreach and preschool programs. )

. . . The years Sofia spent at Providence did a great deal for her and played a large part in her development. For that alone I will always be grateful. And all the other kids … I watched them learn and grow as they moved up the developmental and social ladder. Your Report To The Community was wonderful, but will always be an understatement because only those who have been there, as a child, as a parent, and the staff, can really appreciate what Providence has done.

My time there was one of the most beautiful periods in my life.

Fond regards and great memories….

-Irv Finkleman aka ‘Grampa’ Irv

First Baby Adopted from the Creche

I read your very informative article in the HERALD and I am congratulating the Providence Centre. My connection to the Centre is that I was the very first baby to be adopted from the Providence Creche!

I was adopted by Julia and George Young at a very early age. My earliest memory (.3 and a half?), was being with my mom and dad at the Creche and on tip toes, looking through glass windows at the babies in their cribs when my parents were looking for my brother.

I have had a really good life and had wonderful parents. Just in the past couple of years I have found my birth family on my mother’s side. It’s all quite nice and I am happy with the closure as I wondered all my life: “who am I ?”

I am forever grateful for the dear people who cared for me when I was born and I congratulate the continuing work you are doing!

-Very Sincerely, Valerie Rigby (Valerie Young)

50 Cents a Baby

When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I got 50¢ a baby. Good money in those days, especially for the kind of work I had to do. Setting my neighbour’s hair netted me 25¢ and it was harder work with no joy attached to the task.

My mother was Mrs. E.E. Newel, an adoption agent with the Alberta Government. Part of her job was to match babies with prospective parents and she took her job very seriously, labouring over medical histories and visiting the homes, relatives, and friends of prospective parents, hoping to ensure a good decision for the babies and the prospective parents. She was a devout woman and I do believe she often prayed for the wisdom to do right by everyone involved.

And by everyone involved, she meant the babies, the new adoptive parents, and the poor young girls who made one of life’s most difficult decisions: to give up her natural child in the hope that the baby would have a better life with someone else. But I wasn’t necessarily on the list of people Mom hoped to help. She just needed me to help her hold on to the baby she picked up from Providence Crèche and keep it held tightly in my arms until we reached the home of the new parents, gurgling and cooing to the baby as
needed to make sure it wasn’t frightened on this first big journey of its life. And I got paid the exorbitant rate of 50¢ for the one of the most joyous experiences a young girl could have.

We would drive to the Crèche in Mom’s old ’52 pale green Chevy and we would go inside to get the baby. I was always awed by the icons (we were Protestant, not Catholic) and by the long quiet walk to the nursery. Mom did the paperwork and I held the baby, so sweet and small and new to the world. I felt quite adult even though I had only been around for a decade myself. We then got into the car and drove the baby to its new home. The expectant home was rarely hard to find once we were on the right block. Some family member was usually on the porch or at the door waiting for their new baby and would shout the news that the baby had arrived as soon as we stopped in front of the house. What extraordinary joy I was allowed to witness.

At this end of the journey I had to stay in the car while my mom took the baby up to the house. I can’t remember her ever getting halfway up the walk, winter or summer, before the house spilled out the happy parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and friends onto the porch, the sidewalk, and the yard ready to see and hold and love their new family member. There were literally cries of happiness, tears, shouts, and remarkable tenderness as they each took a turn holding the baby. They would all pile back into the house for the formalities – whatever they were – that my mother had to officiate.

I sat in the car and waited, absolutely happy to the core of my small being. What a gift I was given.

Never in my life have I seen adoption as anything but a wonderful thing – an extraordinary gift. Never did I see the Crèche without remembering the complementary sacrifice of the young girls and the dedication of the nursing sisters. Never did I experience such a lovely gift from my mom. 50¢ a baby and a lifelong memory.

-Sheila Newel

Gray family legacy passes to next generation

We have been involved with Providence since the 1960’s through our parents, Jim & Noreen Gray. Our parents were invited by a friend to come for a tour of the Providence facility in Midnapore where she worked. Mom and Dad had not heard of Providence prior to this invitation and were happy to go to see the facility based on the work that they did there. They were immediately impressed with both the facility, the story of how it came to be, the staff, but most of all by the children that were being assisted by the facility and the programs. Dad immediately fell in love with a little boy that had the biggest smile for them when they entered the facility. Mom and Dad could tell how happy the children were and Providence immediately became their charity of choice. When Dad passed away in 1995, Mom continued to not only donate to Providence but she was treated to more tours of new facilities as they opened and came to receive visits from the management of Providence when she was no longer able to come to them.

Although we had not been to the school, we had heard so much about the facility, the children and the management through Mom and Dad we felt that we were a part of it also. Prior to Mom passing away in 2011, we told her that we were going to carry on in her and Dad’s memory with Providence. Mom was extremely happy with our decision as she always thought that the people of Providence always put the children before themselves and they were doing extremely good work that was so needed.

We had the opportunity to attend the Mission location of the school last year. It just so happened that the day we picked to visit was the school’s Christmas celebration and we able to join in the festivities. The school is amazing! The organization is second to none. The staff dedicated to the wellbeing of the children. The management is hands on and so proud of what they do. But the biggest indicator of how well this facility operates is the happy children! Their smiles tell the story. We were treated to crafts that were made for us when they knew we would be visiting and the children could not wait to give them to us. There is nothing more infectious than a smiling happy child and Providence is full of them. The school caters to all of the needs of the children both with physical equipment and emotional support. What they do is truly amazing and we are proud to support their cause.

-Paulette Stevens and Eileen Lefley

Patricia’s Story

My name is Patricia and my story with Providence starts with meeting my neighbor Christine who had been working with Providence since 2001.

Christine had asked me if I would like to do some volunteer work for them and loving the organization for what they do for children, wasn’t hard for me to jump at the chance. There was an opportunity for me to sit on the Fundraising committee so Christine had invited me to come down to the building and meet with her to learn more about Providence. After the meeting they gave me a tour of the facility. We entered what was a part of the original building, which was the rectory and still had the stain glass windows of the original church, and when I looked up, I immediately had a premonition that I had seen those stain glass windows before. A strange feeling came over my whole body. I couldn’t explain nor figure out why that was.

We continued with our meeting back in the boardroom and Christine gave me some paperwork pertaining to the organization and I read ‘Providence Creche’ – that’s when the hair on the back of my neck stood up!!

This is where my story really began with Providence Children’s Centre, formally known as Providence Creche.

When I was nine months old, my mother found herself in a situation of having to leave her alcoholic husband and taking her six children with her. She did not have anywhere immediately to go with us and in order for the Children Protective Services not to take her children away and have us put in different foster homes, she was faced with ‘farming’ us out until she found suitable housing arrangements.

My mother decided to send two of the children to Edmonton to stay with our paternal grandmother and then put the second and third youngest into the ‘Creche’ which was run by the Catholic Nuns at that time. She then took the baby and the oldest with her to her mother’s home.

My brother, who is 15 months older than me, and myself, were the two that went to the Creche. I was 9 months old and we stayed there for approximately a year and a half. I learned how to walk while I was there. After all these years, I had no memory of my stay at the Creche, until that afternoon when I looked at the stain glass windows and a memory of them came back to me. My brother has great memories of our stay there and I love learning from him about how wonderful we were treated and loved and how the nuns would let us wave at the train when it went by because our father worked on the train and we believed that we were waving to him as it passed by.

I am 61 years old now and I am so very grateful there was a place for my mother to place my brother and myself, where she knew we would be safe and well taken care of.

I believe that Providence continues to be a place where children feel loved, safe and are taken good care of on a daily basis.