Children from Waban’s Fraser-Ford Child Development Center will sing for the audience at the 46th Annual Waban Telethon on Saturday at the St. Ignatius Gym in Sanford. COURTESY PHOTO

Children from Waban’s Fraser-Ford Child Development Center will sing for the audience at the 46th Annual Waban Telethon on Saturday at the St. Ignatius Gym in Sanford. COURTESY PHOTO

SANFORD — Forty-six years ago, the first Waban Telethon was held and the tradition continues Saturday as folks from near and far continue their commitment to programming that helps kids with developmental disabilities.

Sponsored by St. Thèrése of Liseux Parish, the telethon is fundraising, as it did in 2016, for the new autism therapy wing at Waban’s Fraser-Ford Child Development Center.

So far, donors have contributed $1 million of the $2 million project costs for the 7,000-square-foot facility that will sport four classrooms, a multi-purpose room and a number of therapy offices, said Waban Director Neal Meltzer.

The donations so far have come in the form of very large contributions from community banks, a number of $1,000 donations from community organizations, and $5 and $10 gifts from individuals who want to help, he said.

Meltzer said ground will be broken soon for the facility, with a view to a fall opening.

“Right now, we have six classrooms for children with autism, and they’re all full,” said Meltzer, explaining there are usually about eight students, all 3- to 5-year-olds,  in each classroom.

Each student receives one-on-one instruction. The four new classrooms will provide space for more than 30 additional children. He said the youngsters attend classes six hours a day, five days a week, 240 days per year.

“It is very rigorous for them. It is the type of intense instruction needed,” said Meltzer.

The 46th Annual Waban Telethon will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at St. Ignatius Gym, 25 Riverside  Ave., Sanford.

Last year’s telethon raised $87,000, bringing the total over the past 46 years to $2.3 million.

Television coverage will be produced by Metrocast Cablevision (Channel 12) in conjunction with Time-Warner Cable (Maine Channel 9 and NH (Channel 21 & 22). This year’s viewing area will be from Kittery to Presque Isle including all York and Cumberland counties as well as most of New Hampshire.

Entertainment will will continue throughout the day, from the ever-popular fiddler Ben Guillemette and his band to an array of others, winding down with MECA.

Parents from the Fraser-Ford Child Development Center will be on hand to talk about how the Waban programs help their children.

Gift certificates for everything from furniture to sporting event tickets to gifts and restaurant meals will be given in return for pledges, there will be an array of raffles, and the Knights of Columbus will be preparing breakfast and lunch.

Donations may be placed between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the day of the telethon by calling 324-5344 or 877-544-4275 or by accessing PayPal on Waban’s web site at waban.org.

 Meltzer said the new wing will give Waban the capacity it needs now, and also allow the agency to work with kindergarten, first and second graders. He said the multi-purpose room will allow Waban to develop after school programs for kids with autism, both those who attend Waban and  those who attend public schools.

Waban in 2012 adopted the New England Center for Children’s autism curriculum, which Meltzer said sees kids increase by 50 percent in socialization, communication, peer interaction and more.

“It is an evidence-based treatment program that is very effective,” he said.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]


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