Our Milestone Timeline
Our history is rich and spans over 20 years of helping children with disabilities and their families. We have both local and international partnerships, which have helped us reach these hugely important milestones, and are widely recognized across the Puerto Vallarta and Bay of Banderas region.
We are pleased to share our Milestone Timeline with you, which we hope will help you better understand the incredible journey that Pasitos de Luz at Casa Connor has been on.
Astrid Elizabeth Sánchez Santiago, the inspiration for Pasitos de Luz, fell ill at age 19. Doctors could not determine the cause of her illness. After many doctor visits, she was diagnosed with a very rare condition called Penfigo Vulgar, an autoimmune skin disorder. It consists of the formation of blisters and ulcers (erosions) in the skin and mucous membranes, including the nose, mouth, lungs, urinary and digestive tracts.
On May 23, Astrid passed away from respiratory collapse.
On December 2, Yolanda Sánchez Santiago, Astrid’s sister, joined a group of eight mothers of children with different disabilities. They began to work together with their children in just one room of a house. They learned that, when everything in a family seems like a battlefield, there should always be a special “Light” somewhere along the way which should help to guide them and lighten the load. That is how “Pasitos de Luz” (Little Steps of Light) came into being. They started with virtually nothing; they only had two boards to help children stand up, a baby-walker and two cribs, a few dishes and an excellent physiotherapist.
On November 22, Yolanda went to a public notary to officially register as an Asociación Civil (A.C.) or Civil Association. Mamás Unidas por la Rehabilitación de sus Hijos A. C. (Mothers United for the Rehabilitation of their Children A.C.) became recognized as a charitable association. The familiar name remained as Pasitos de Luz.
Pasitos de Luz rented a small space as a base for the charity, then another, finally moving to a half-built house owned by Yolanda’s husband, Arturo Ayala Senior. Slowly but surely, they were able to adapt it to the children’s needs. This house is where they resided until the end of 2016. Over that time, the number of children that attended each day grew to 40, which filled all the available space.
Pasitos began working with the Children’s Shelter of Hope Foundation. The partnership allowed United States citizens to receive US 501(c)3 tax deductible receipts for donations to Pasitos de Luz.
Pasitos began working with the Canadian Children’s Shelter of Hope Foundation. The partnership allowed Canadian citizens to receive Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tax deductible receipts for donations to Pasitos de Luz.
The Vanderveen and Oudman families in Calgary, Canada, commissioned to build a house to be called Casa Connor, in memory of Connor Vanderveen, their son and grandson, who passed away from Hunter Syndrome at age 15.
The Caring Abroad Society of Alberta was created in Calgary, Alberta, and they spearheaded fundraising for the building.
The land in Nayarit was donated by a Mexican family.
On October 20, Casa Connor officially opened and the Vanderveen and Oudman families turned the building over to Pasitos de Luz.
On January 9, Pasitos de Luz children began attending their new home at Casa Connor.
In May 2017, a new Board of Directors for both Pasitos de Luz and Casa Connor was formed. The Board has representation from Mexico, Canada and the United States. Three capital projects were identified as priority including a therapy pool, dormitories to provide housing for service groups and schools who send volunteers, and a garden area. Immediately fundraising for a therapy pool began.
In 2018 we began working with Grant Thornton, an international accounting and risk management firm. Grant Thornton has provided invaluable advice on up-to-date accounting and risk management processes and reviews our financials monthly.
In November 2019, therapy pool construction began. The pool was completed and filled with water in October 2020 and the first hydrotherapy sessions with Pasitos de Luz kids took place in December 2020.