Local advocates would like the community to stand up for its special needs people, and they are planning a rally on Mother's Day to build support for them.
Elizabeth Rosenau, who is a coach with the local Special Olympics swim team, said she'd like to see the community come together on May 13 to stand "shoulder-to-shoulder" with the special needs community.
"The reason I want this rally to be a success - I want the community to stand side-by-side with the special needs community," Rosenau said.
Rosenau has become involved in the special needs community through her volunteer work with Special Olympics.
As a swim coach, she sees parents who already carry a heavy load caring for their special needs children - many of whom are already adults - also volunteering to coach other special needs people.
This is a recipe for burnout, Rosenau said.
"My goal is... to build a community of support around special needs people," Rosenau said.
The rally planned for May 13 will be part of that.
"We just want the government to know we're watching," Rosenau said. "The needs are going up but the [Community Living BC] budget isn't going up proportionately."
CLBC completed an internal review of its operations, but Rosenau said she'd also like to see an independent review done.
A lot of political pressure was exerted on CLBC last fall when media reported on cuts happening, for example, group homes closing, but also on the termination of a supported employment program at the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society facility, said Bob Goos, a retired Maple Ridge pastor and father of a 35-year-old special needs daughter.
Goos said the group organizing the rally is an informal one consisting of parents and caregivers of special needs people.
The provincial government announced in January $40 million more in funding for CLBC "to increase capacity and improve services for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families."
But Goos said organizers of the rally want government to realize their response has been slow and the promised changes haven't materialized.
While the event is being called a protest, Goos said, they would like it to be a positive event for people with special needs.
"These are people who are valued in the community," he said. "The jobs [at the recycling depot] are real jobs - not make up jobs."
He added that people with developmental disabilities are full and contributing members of society.
Goos said many people with developmental disabilities don't have family to advocate for them.
The rally, which is in its early planning stages, will be at Memorial Peace Park at 11 a.m.