Waban Executive Director Neal Meltzer guides the hand of lifelong donor Courtney Starffin to cut the ribbon opening the new Autism Therapy Wing at the Fraser-Ford Child Development Center in Sanford. Beside them are Jan Fraser and Charlene Ford Ralston for whom the building is named, and major donors Brad Paige of Kennebunk Savings and Blaine Boudreau of SIS Bank. Autumn Dupuis photo.

Waban Executive Director Neal Meltzer guides the hand of lifelong donor Courtney Starffin to cut the ribbon opening the new Autism Therapy Wing at the Fraser-Ford Child Development Center in Sanford. Beside them are Jan Fraser and Charlene Ford Ralston for whom the building is named, and major donors Brad Paige of Kennebunk Savings and Blaine Boudreau of SIS Bank. Autumn Dupuis photo.

SANFORD — After five years of planning, several years of fundraising, a $2 million capital campaign, and the generosity of hundreds of individuals, businesses, corporations, organizations, and community members, the day finally arrived to formally open Waban’s new 7,000-square-foot Autism Therapy Wing at the Fraser-Ford Child Development Center.

A gathering of major donors, key participants, teachers, board members and senior staff marked the milestone Nov 2.

The Center expands services for Pre-K to  Grade Two students with autism. With statistics on the rise for autism in the state of Maine and across the country, programs such as those offered by Waban are more critical than ever, said Waban spokeswoman Selena Brock. This new wing will facilitate these essential programs and will serve the children and families of southern Maine.

Four new classrooms are set up and furnished, and several students have already enrolled and begun classes in the new wing, said Brock. The school’s main entrance has been moved and offices and therapy spaces have been added. The new multi-purpose room, a gymnasium-like space with a built-in climbing structure and special cushioned flooring was used as a gathering place for the event.

Waban’s original school, then called the Child Development Center, opened in 1972, followed by an expansion in 1988 to add square footage and additional program space. Jan Fraser, who was executive director, at the time with Assistant Director Charlene Ford oversaw the expansion. A few years after their retirements, the building was dedicated to them in 2011 and re-named the Fraser-Ford Child Development Center. Emblazoned on the dedication plaque were Fraser’s words, “Given the opportunity, every child can succeed.”

After tours, attendees assembled in the lobby for a ribbon cutting. Gold scissors in hand, both Fraser and Ford (now Charlene Ford Ralston) joined SIS Bank President of Blaine Boudreau, Kennebunk Savings Bank President Brad Paige, Waban Executive Director Neal Meltzer and life-long donor Courtney Straffin at the ribbon.

Major donors for the Autism Therapy Wing were SIS Bank, Kennebunk Savings, Joseph Sevick, Elmina B. Sewell Foundation, PATCO Construction, Max Kagan Family Foundation, Sanford Springvale Rotary, Greg and Christa Silva, DLMC Foundation, Roberta Milo, Jean Butler, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux Parish, Jan and Bruce Fraser, Charlene and Michael Ralston, and the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

Through generous donations from hundreds of individuals, businesses and organizations, the critically needed Autism Therapy Wing has transformed from blueprint to reality, said Brock. 

Although the wing is built, support is still needed to complete the campaign. Visit the gofundme page at: gofundme.com/autismtherapywing to help Waban make a difference in the life of a child with autism.

 A public open house is planned for 3 to 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 6.


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