For most people, it’s impossible to imagine what it would be like raising a child with special needs. For those families who have a child with special needs, the challenges seem overwhelming. In Bend, being very rural in nature in the 1970’s, the challenges were even more overwhelming due to the minimal resources available in the Central Oregon area. This forced families
to travel to the Portland area and farther, in some cases, for specialized help. The community realized a crucial need and the idea for specialized therapy for children and training for parents was born.
A board of directors for the Preschool for Developmentally Disabled Children, supporting children 3 years to 5 years, was formed. Judy Hatch, Susie Hatch, and Marilyn Robinson, members of the board, coordinated space in the basement of the Methodist Church. With the support of other agencies and individuals, therapy and training groups for families throughout Central Oregon were provided.
Alyce Hatch was an active volunteer in the community at various churches, schools, and agencies. She was sought after by many individuals and organizations for her gentleness and her caring personality. Over the years, Alyce joyfully accepted being a God-Mother to over 50 children around the community. Sadly, in 1984, Alyce passed away and the community mourned a great loss.
At that time the preschool was quickly outgrowing the basement of the Methodist Church. Alyce Hatch’s family gathered together to discuss what options were available to preserve Alyce’s memory in the community. From that meeting, Robert Hatch, donated $50,000 to build a new structure for the preschool in memory of Alyce. With that seed planted, the community began working together to bring the Alyce Hatch Center to bloom.
Local contractors, businesses, and individuals came together to purchase the land, design the architecture, donate time and/or materials to build the building, and create the playground. The entire facility was built with local support with kids in mind, adding a perfect atmosphere for early childhood development. In 1985, staff and children were moved in to begin therapy programs. And the Alyce Hatch Center became a reality.
Since that time, the Alyce Hatch Center has served as Central Oregon’s core location for Early Childhood Development. Now, 17 years later, the board of directors consists of ten community members, two of them being Alyce Hatch’s daughter and granddaughter. It now encompasses programs for children birth to 5 years of age for children with disabilities, developmental delays, and children at risk. With the incredible growth of Central Oregon, the programs for children have outgrown the current facility. And once again, the community is coming together to support the Alyce Hatch Expansion Project.