In 1952, the May Court Club of St. Catharines provided half-day per week parent relief programs for children with cerebral palsy. Originally working out of St. Thomas Church’s parish hall, the May Court Cerebral Palsy Centre was relocated and subsequently operated out of the St. Catharines General Hospital.
In 1963 the centre added speech therapy and physiotherapy. In that same year a committee was established to investigate the feasibility of operating a full-fledged Crippled Children’s Centre in the area. After due investigation, the committee recommended that a full five day program be initiated to provide educational opportunities as well as therapeutic treatment. In January 1964 classroom space was provided and a teacher was procured. In 1964, through the efforts of the May Court Club, several area Rotary Clubs, and the Port Colborne Lions Club, the Niagara Peninsula Crippled Children's Society was established, and the Centre was officially incorporated on October 15, 1965. Dr. William Orr was the founding Chairman. The Centre opened at its present location on Glenridge Avenue in 1969; in 1978 a major addition was completed, incorporating a therapeutic pool and a gym. To meet increased space demands, five portables were added in 1990, while another major redevelopment was being planned. This redevelopment, which was completed in 1996, provides the Centre with adequate, up-to-date space and equipment to serve some 3,000 children and their families each year.
In September 1994, the Niagara Peninsula Children’s Centre Foundation received government approval for incorporation.
Once known as the Niagara Peninsula Crippled Children’s Centre, the name was changed in 1999 to the Niagara Peninsula Children’s Centre to reflect the broader group of children served by, including children with physical, developmental and communicative delays and disabilities. In the fall of 2012, the Centre’s publicly used name was changed to Niagara Children’s Centre, retaining Niagara Peninsula Children’s Centre as the legal name.
During the past several years, there has been an increasing emphasis on delivering services in the community where children need strategies to be independent, and where they live and participate in activities. Often the Centre’s therapists work with pre-school teachers, families, and staff from other agencies to develop, implement and achieve goals for the child.
Currently, the 21 Children’s Treatment Centres (CTCs) in Ontario, of which the Niagara Peninsula Children's Centre is one, are mostly funded by and responsible to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. The Centre also receives some funding from the Regional Municipality of Niagara, the provincial Ministry of Community and Social Services and our Foundation.
Dr. William Orr
Dr. William Orr has a special place in the Centre’s history. A local physician and a Rotarian, Dr. Orr was instrumental in establishing the Centre. He unselfishly gave of himself, volunteering at clinics before the Centre was established, while relentlessly pursuing his dream of a Children’s Treatment centre for Niagara, which was fulfilled in 1964. Dr. Orr became the founding Chairman and the Centre’s first Medical Director. He continued to serve as the Chair until 1970. Dr. Orr served as Medical Director for the next 30 years until 1994. Following the Centre’s expansion in 1996, the therapy wing was named the Dr. William J. Orr Wing to recognize his significant contributions. .
Throughout his 30 years as Medical Director, Dr. Orr did not accept a salary. In his honour, in 1989 the Centre’s Board of Directors set up a trust fund for the equivalent of his earnings. The Dr. William Orr Trust fund is use to provide financial assistance for children requiring specialized equipment, programs and orthotic devices.