A child gets ready to compete on the bowling lanes at Castle Fun Park in Abbotsford during a Canucks Autism Network event earlier this summer. (Submitted)

A child gets ready to compete on the bowling lanes at Castle Fun Park in Abbotsford during a Canucks Autism Network event earlier this summer. (Submitted)

Canucks Autism Network aiming to increase Abbotsford presence

CAN has offered programs and services for those on the spectrum locally since 2010

With the Abbotsford Canucks debuting in Abbotsford next month, the Canucks Autism Network (CAN) is planning to ramp up local services and programs.

CAN has been working with kids, youth and adults on the autism spectrum in Abbotsford since 2010. The organization was founded in 2008 by by Vancouver Canucks co-owners Paolo and Clara Aquilini, whose son is on the autism spectrum.

The group’s mission is to provide programs to individuals on the autism spectrum and their families, while promoting acceptance and inclusion through community engagement and training initiatives across B.C. and beyond.

According to CAN, approximately one in 37 kids in B.C. is diagnosed with autism and there are over 19,000 children and youth with autism in the province.

CAN is partly funded by the Canucks For Kids Fund. Vancouver Canucks head coach Travis Green, whose son is diagnosed with autism, has become a strong supporter in recent years. Green has attended fundraisers like the CAN Pro-Am Hockey Tournament in Vancouver and Fishing For Kids Tournament in Haida Gwaii.

“With the Canucks AHL team moving out to Abbotsford, we are looking forward to increased presence and support in the region,” stated Harold Cecchetti, the communications manager for CAN.

Cecchetti said over the summer CAN was active in the Abbotsford community.

“This past summer, we welcomed over 80 autistic individuals and their families to spend a free day at Castle Fun Park,” he stated. “This fall, programs in Abbotsford are focused on providing kids on the autism spectrum with a positive first experience in sports and rec.”

The current local offerings for CAN include:Active: A weekly physical activity program for ages three to six; hosted at University of the Fraser Valley

Skate: Weekly intro program for ages three to 12; hosted at Abbotsford Ice Centre

“This next year, we are excited to begin significantly expanding our programs in Abbotsford and the entire Fraser Valley region,” he said. “This will include additional sports programs for kids, as well as social, employment and life skills programs for youth and adults.”

For more information on CAN, visit canucksautism.ca.

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