Cranberry Eco Preschool facilitator Daniela D’Onofrio has been awarded the regional award of excellence for the Vancouver Coastal Region in this year’s provincial Child Care Awards of Excellence. The annual awards honour outstanding achievements of individuals, organizations and local governments who provide or support delivery of exceptional early care and learning services.
D’Onofrio said she is honoured to be receiving this award and wanted to thank her director, Ocean van Samang, for the nomination.
“I’d also like to thank my incredible team at the Cranberry Children’s Centre for their ongoing support,” said D’Onofrio. “My dream and vision for a nature-based, outdoor preschool program has come together with the help of skilled and dedicated staff.
“Our families and community believe in a program that supports each child’s unique abilities through hands-on learning in a natural environment. With our facility nestled on the edge of the forest we can learn, grow and explore what our beautiful community has to offer.”
D’Onofrio said the program supports children to develop skills in every developmental domain while also learning about the environment and how to care for it.
“Every day is a new adventure and I’m thankful to have a position where I can nurture and care for children,” said D’Onofrio.
“We nominated Daniela because of her commitment and passion to our preschool for an entire generation now,” stated Ocean van Samang, director of child and family services at inclusion Powell River, which operates the preschool, in a media release. “The pandemic just brought her dedication into the spotlight. Daniela brought her usual ability to listen to the needs of the community, stay open-minded, find creative solutions and work tirelessly to adapt the program so we could provide care to as many families in our community as possible.”
While the Cranberry Eco Preschool has always had an outdoor focus, at the onset of the pandemic, D’Onofrio made accommodations to the space so the preschool could be run entirely outdoors. Old pegs and plywood were repurposed to create undercover outdoor spaces to hang backpacks and artwork outdoors. After successfully applying for a grant last spring, D’Onofrio had a raised-bed learning garden built for the children, as a further learning tool. Throughout the pandemic, classes at the preschool have remained full, and there is a waitlist for next year’s class, according to the release.
“Daniela truly sees the individual gifts that each child brings,” stated van Samang. “She is dedicated to creating an inclusive, magical space for children to learn and thrive, however that looks for them. The fact that she has done this during a pandemic is all the more impressive.”
D’Onofrio will be celebrated in the 2021 Child Care Awards of Excellence ceremony, taking place online this year. The ceremony will air on the BC Government YouTube channel on May 25.