West Shore families left in the lurch after daycare operator disappears
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Friday, August 31, 2018 6:37PM PDT
Last Updated Friday, August 31, 2018 6:38PM PDT
What do a Langford family, a seemingly abandoned daycare and a Canadian workout icon have in common? All three are tangled in a story of deceit, lies and potential fraud.
It centers around Willowbrae Academy, a childcare franchise that recently opened up a location on Veterans Memorial Parkway in Langford.
With childcare hard to come by in the Capital Region parents like Lucy Faulkner, who recently moved to Canada with her family, were overjoyed.
"Everyone said to me finding childcare was going to be an absolute nightmare. They weren't wrong," Faulkner said. But when she saw that Willowbrae was opening a location near her, she jumped at the chance to enroll her daughter Addison.
"I liked the fact that they would look after my daughter from the minute she started all the way up until she was ready to go to Kindergarten," she said.
She coughed up more than $900 for a deposit, and a manager told her the facility should open by late August.
But things took a suspicious turn when Faulkner discovered the franchisee had fired staff and disappeared without a word.
"Somebody has run off with my money," she said. "So I have nobody to look after my daughter, and I'm out a grand."
It wasn't just Faulkner left searching for answers. Fourteen other Vancouver Island families also lost their deposits for the childcare program.
CTV News attempted to contact the franchisee multiple times Friday and received no response.
Good news came for Faulker in the middle of the day, when Willowbrae reimbursed the full deposit she paid.
The company has promised to pay back other families who put down deposits, but it still doesn't answer where their money went – and where the franchisee ran off to.
That's where Canadian icons Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod of Body Break fame come in.
The couple works with Willowbrae Academy on a national level, and say they're on the case after learning about the franchisee's disappearance a day ago.
"I was angry. Angry at the franchisee, that he let the parents down. That was my number one feeling about it, and that's why we immediately rectified that situation," Johnson told CTV News Friday.
He said cheques are either in the mail or sent via eTransfer to reimburse all of the parents who put down deposits.
He apologized on behalf of Willowbrae, and said the company still hasn't connected with the franchisee to get a straight answer.
"We have tracked him down and we're going to have a call with him later this evening to find out what's going on," he said.
Johnson said the Langford location will be placed under new management this month and will still open soon.
For Faulkner, it's too little too late. She said she has since found another childcare space for her daughter, even if though it doesn't offer the same services as Willowbrae.
"The trust is gone, and as a parent, you have to be able to trust your childcare provider," she said.