Casa Connor was donated to Pasitos de Luz to help the children reach their highest potential. Since 2000, Pasitos de Luz has served children with Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Conditions, psychological trauma, severe learning problems and intellectual impairment issues and many more disabling conditions, all at no cost to their families. Pasitos’s services are provided to approximately 130 families, with a waiting list of as many and more, whose children all require specialized therapy and treatment. From the early years through 2016, Pasitos was housed in a very small family-owned home that had been adapted to the needs of the children. But Yolanda always had a dream and in 2011 this dream became a reality!
In 2011 Casa Connor was a dream for the Vanderveens and Peter & Teena Oudman, who live in Calgary in Canada, and it has been their life and breath since that time. The families dedicated themselves to building a facility for children with special needs with the help of a dedicated board of directors and many compassionate donors. Their vision was focused on building a facility that would have the space, required equipment and respite capacity for disabled children and one that would make the children feel special.
Their passion was driven by the Vanderveen’s son, and Peter & Teena’s grandson, Connor, who passed away in 2011 from Hunter Syndrome at the age of 15. Grateful for the compassion and care that Connor received throughout his short life span, they wanted to give back by helping the special needs community of Pasitos de Luz in the Bay of Banderas. The families had become close friends and supporters of Pasitos de Luz during their frequent vacations to Puerto Vallarta. Their vision was to build a castle so the children could feel magic in their lives every day.
Two dreams come together
What started as two dreams, and a vision of both Yolanda and the Vanderveen/Oudman families, has intersected and has become a reality for many special needs children in the Bay of Banderas. On October 20, 2016, Casa Connor was officially opened during a celebration of dreams come true.
Casa Connor is located in the state of Nayarit, on donated land, close to San Vicente, which is just north of Puerto Vallarta. Thanks to the generosity of a Mexican family who donated land and many, many generous donors and volunteers, after 5 years of construction a new 20,000 square foot (1,800 square meter) facility, Casa Connor, was completed in late 2016. The Caring Abroad Society of Alberta (the ‘Casa’ of Casa Connor) has held numerous fundraisers and sought donations from numerous families and organizations to create the facility. The Oudman and Vanderveen families and the many, many donors and volunteers who participated in its development, donated Casa Connor to Pasitos de Luz in October 2016.
On January 9, 2017, the Pasitos de Luz children began attending their new home – Casa Connor. The Pasitos de Luz children love being at Casa Connor. They have space and room to grow and flourish. The smiles on their faces when they get off the bus each day has made this dream so worthwhile for everyone involved.
Connor Vanderveen was born July 11, 1996.
Connor was well known for his beautiful red hair and blue eyes and infectious giggle. Connor was diagnosed with a very rare genetic condition called Hunter Syndrome. His body was missing an enzyme that normally breaks down certain molecules and this meant he suffered permanent and progressive damage that affected his appearance, mental development, organ function and physical abilities. There is no cure for Hunter Syndrome, so treatment involves management of symptoms and complications.
Connor passed away on October 10, 2011, when he was 15 years old. Casa Connor was built as a living legacy by the families and friends of Connor Vanderveen. From Teena Oudman, Connor’s grandmother:
“Connor taught us there is nothing more important than love and taking care of each other. We couldn’t have a more fulfilling and satisfying retirement – bringing compassion to a hurting world. When you reach out to anyone less fortunate, it blesses your life.”