On February 17, 1958, nine women got together. They had two things in common. They were:
- mothers of residents at the Smiths Falls Hospital School (later renamed to Rideau Regional Centre), and
- members of the Ottawa and District Association for Mentally Retarded Children.
These women formed an organization called the Smiths Falls Hospital School Welfare League. Their goal was to work with the staff of the institution to improve the quality of life for the residents.
In 1962, they changed their name to the Rideau Regional Centre Association.
By the 1960s, many institutions had similar organizations. Composed of parents, siblings, relatives and friends, these groups became known as family associations or family auxiliaries.
Their active participation in the institution helped to improve the lives of the residents and the well-being of the entire organization. Here are some examples of their activities:
- raising money for items, projects and events, such as:
- specialized equipment
- accessible vans and buses
- pontoon boats
- arts and crafts supplies
- construction of therapeutic and recreational swimming pools
- construction of barns
- family day activities, special events and excursions
- Special Olympics
- advocating on behalf of the residents
- participating on an institution's administrative committee in an advisory role
- organizing birthday parties, concerts and dances for the residents
- supplying learning tapes for speech and language
- providing educational scholarships for staff members
- establishing scholarship trust funds to help students working at the institution
- providing bursaries to students graduating from the Developmental Services Worker program offered at the college level, and
- sewing clothes and linens.
Today, families and friends of individuals with a developmental disability and community service providers work together on similar projects and activities.