Community Concerns for the Medically Fragile (CCMF) is a parent-led community group in Sarnia-Lambton dedicated to meeting the needs of medically fragile young people and their families. In 1989, Monica and Frank Vautour, Diane and Jim Lambert, and Dave and Lori Ashdown, all parents of medically fragile children, began dreaming of a life-long home for their children. They visited several group homes in southwestern Ontario. As Monica Vautour shares, “We saw everything from the sublime to the ridiculous as we visited different homes. By the end of the trip we had a good idea of what we wanted and what we didn’t want for our children.”
In 1990, the group founded CCMF. After ten years of extensive research, applications, and proposals, CCMF established a partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Health Long Term Care Division, the Rotary Foundation and the Ontario March of Dimes to build a home for medically fragile young people in Sarnia-Lambton. In 2001, CCMF temporarily rented a three-bedroom, wheelchair accessible townhouse from the Sarnia and District Association for Community Living while Standing Oaks, the permanent group home, was being built. The Rotary Club of Sarnia donated the land for Standing Oaks and CCMF worked with a local architect to design it. Frank Vautour remembers, “From the start, we knew we wanted to build a home, not an institution.”
Standing Oaks opened its doors in February 2004 and welcomed five full-time residents. After the completion of a large addition in October 2018, that number increased to nine. The home is staffed 24 hours a day by Ontario March of Dimes. Each resident has an individual plan developed with their parents or guardians. Standing Oaks offers a variety of activities, including art and music programs, pet therapy, games nights and outings. Each family paints and decorates their child’s room with their own furniture and belongings. The home also has a respite bed available to families who continue to care for a medically fragile child at home.
In 2014, the Judith & Norman Alix Foundation provided $60,000 to CCMF to purchase a new van that can accommodate wheelchairs safely and has medical equipment to transport the medically fragile. The van is used for medical appointments, outings and family vacations. Dave Ashdown is chair of the fundraising committee. “Sarnia is a very generous community. None of this would be possible without people donating their time and money,” Ashdown explains.
The Vautour’s son Jeremy was the first one through the doors when Standing Oaks opened. He was fifteen and Monica and Frank could no longer care for him at home. Jeremy spent the next several years in long-term care at Bluewater Health. Monica explained that he was well looked after there, “but a hospital is not a home. Standing Oaks has made all the difference for Jeremy. He has friends here and adults that are dedicated to caring for him. He has quality of life.”