Tim Horton’s Smile Cookies may be gone, but the money from the campaign will help keep the sounds of baby giggles and playtime going at Regina Early Years Family Centres.
With three sites at Dr. Hanna School, Sacred Heart School and Miller High School, the family centres offer free weekly programs and drop-in play space for babies and toddlers up to the age of six.
Nathaly Mujica learned about the free programs through Facebook while on maternity leave with her son. Now they are regular visitors.
“He loves it. He’s a little shy for the first 15 minutes, then he realizes that it’s a great place to play and he’s very happy,” she said after the Music with Tyne class Monday.
For Mujica, the social aspect is also great because she can talk with other parents while the kids play together.
“Things like that are very important to moms. Sometimes moms are kind of alone at home with the kids and this is a nice place to socialize moms with moms and kids with kids.”
While free play is always an option for toddlers on the move, programs like Mainly Mother Goose, Baby Adventures and Music with Tyne are aimed at developing language, literacy and movement. The sites also offer yoga and fitness classes for parents to participate with their children. There are also some registered classes on nutrition, parenting and even infant CPR.
Health nurses are available to answer questions some days.
The family centres first opened in 2013 with core funding provided by the Kids First Initiative in Regina. Monica Totten, the program coordinator, explained that the centre still has to make up about $160,000 of the operating budget through grant programs and fundraising partnerships, like the one with Tim Hortons.
Sarah Runge said she wishes she had discovered the family centres last winter when her daughter Jade was born.
“We only found out about it after she was much older, so for new moms in the middle of winter – a place to get out and have a space to play is just incredible,” she said. “For all ages, all the stuff that they offer here is priceless, especially for families that maybe can’t afford registered programs.”
Last year the Tim Horton’s Smile Cookie Campaign raised $56,000. For parents like Runge and Mujica, that is definitely something to smile about.