Five years after the death of 15-year-old Connor Vanderveen, CASA Connor will officially open next month in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. CASA Connor, an earthquake-proof, two-storey building with 29,000 square feet, will provide vital care and treatment for children with disabilities and their families, free of charge. It was created as a living legacy to honor the life of Connor, who died in 2011 of complications related to Hunter Syndrome (or MPS II), a rare genetic disorder. During his life, Connor worshiped at Emmanuel Christian Reformed Church in Calgary, Alta., where his parents, Geraldine and Jerry Vanderveen, and grandparents Peter and Teena Oudman are members.
Over the years, the Oudmans wintered in Puerto Vallarta, with Teena flying home several times to care for Connor so his parents could have respite and spend more time with their other children. It was on a return trip to Puerto Vallarta, she said, when “God gave me a vision to build a facility for the disabled [in Puerto Vallarta]. Wow, that was something. . . . This is when our difficult journey started . . . but God was always beside us and got us through those hard times.”
The hard times included serious fundraising as well as partnering with other organizations such as Pasitos de Luz, a local nonprofit organization founded by mothers of children with disabilities from low-income families in the Puerto Vallarta region. Pasitos de Luz will be responsible for operating CASA Connor. The name CASA comes from the Caring Abroad Society of Alberta, which gives financial support as well as helps to raise funds.
Both the Vanderveens and Oudmans raise awareness of the need for support for children who are underserved. “We are so privileged to live in a country that provides incredible support to kids [with disabilities] and their families, and knowing that other countries don’t is heartbreaking,” said Connor’s mother.
“The situations those children [in Puerto Vallarta] live in are so sad,” added Teena Oudman. “There is nothing for them, and most of them have just a one-room house where everybody lives.”
Connor’s family and friends are deeply grateful to all those who have helped make CASA Connor a reality. “Our family truly feels this was a God-inspired and God-led endeavour that gives purpose to our son’s life in a tangible way,” said his mother.