Mary Ann McGrath

As a young parent in the late 1980’s, Mary Ann became passionate about the importance of early childhood development and ensuring that all children have opportunities to reach their full potential. She became a volunteer, advocate and part time staff member with the Regina Early Learning Centre which provides programming for three and four-year-old children who would otherwise not have the opportunity to benefit from Preschool experiences. This commitment has become a life-long passion and the dedication to the Regina Early Learning Centre and its work has remained central.

Early on, Mary Ann’s work centred around advocating for a more sustainable funding agreement for the Early Learning Centre’s Preschool program, researching the case for early childhood education and completing grant applications as well as participating in community coalitions to improve outcomes for young children in Regina. In 2003, she became a fulltime staff member of the Regina Early Learning Centre in the role of Family Outreach Coordinator and in 2007 became the Centre’s second Executive Director.

The Early Learning Centre has played a leadership role in early childhood programming in Regina since its founding in 1977. It continues to grow in response to community needs, neuroscience research, effective early childhood development and parent education programming and the growing body of knowledge on the impacts of colonialism and residential schools.

During Mary Ann’s tenure as Executive Director, she played an active role in the community collaborative that developed the Regina Early Years Family Centre (now the Regina Early Years Family Resource Centre) – a program with three locations offering exemplary early childhood environments at which parents with infants and young children can drop-in to play, make friends, engage in activities, or learn from early childhood specialists in a variety of fields. The Family Resource Centre is now a program operated by the Regina Early Learning Centre and also benefits from Mary Ann’s leadership and passion to provide high quality learning opportunities for young children and extend supports for their parents. In 2020, the Centre launched the Regina Perinatal Health Network – a program to address the needs of pregnant and new parents experiencing Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. Most recently, the Centre has launched a Prenatal Outreach Program to work with prenatal mothers facing multiple challenges who are at risk of having their infants apprehended at birth.

For many years, Mary Ann has played an integral role as a CAYC SK member and executive member. Her generosity to open the doors of the Regina Early Learning Centre to CAYC SK for meetings, workshops, site visits, presentations, etc., as well as the active role she plays in these events, speak to her commitment to CAYC. She is an invaluable mentor with a vast source of knowledge that she generously shares. Mary Ann’s actions exemplify her efforts to improve the quality of life of young children and their families and make her a most fitting recipient of the Friends of Children Award.

-submitted by Darlene Dixon