Children's Foundation Launches Emergency Fundraising Campaign

August 17, 2018

Without additional community support, hundreds of children in Guelph and Wellington may not have the opportunity to participate in reactional activities this summer and fall. The Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington has seen an unprecedented increase in the demand for its Free to Play Program that has outpaced available funding. The Foundation is looking to friends and supporters to help ensure that kids from families living in poverty will still have the opportunity to play and have fun for the rest of the year.  

Free to Play helps low-income families fund activities for their children, including playing sports, going to camp, or participating in the arts. “We have heard so many success stories thanks to Free to Play funding,” says Executive Director Glenna Banda. “Children are more active, doing better in school, developing new friendships and feeling more engaged in their community. It would be a shame to say no to providing that same opportunity to other children this fall. These activities are not only fun, they can shape a child’s future and help break cycles of hardship.”

 “If we don’t raise the additional funds,” Banda says, “we will be faced with some difficult decisions and the possibility of disappointing children.” To ensure that it can continue to provide recreation and life skill development opportunities for children and youth, the Foundation has launched an emergency fundraising campaign. Funds raised will ensure that Free to Play can continue to support kids right through the busy fall registration period.

 Families are eligible for Free to Play if their household income falls below Statistics Canada low-income cut-off level. Over 10,000 children and youth in Guelph and Wellington are living in low-income situations and are financially eligible for the program.

 “The Foundation has made a significant investment in Free to Play over the past few years,” says Program Director Karyn Kirkwood. “Through outreach to social service agencies and recreation providers, we’ve been working hard to ensure that families who need the program know it’s here. The good news is that it’s working, but the challenge is keeping up with this increase in demand financially. This year, we substantially increased the budget to accommodate the growing need we’ve experienced the past few years, however the increase in demand is double what we’ve seen before and we are once again challenged to keep up.”

 Banda adds, “We have had some great community support and fundraising success, but the real challenge for us is to keep this important service sustainable and to have the funding available again next year.” The Foundation is estimating that it needs to raise an additional $50,000 to ensure that children applying would be able to register for remaining summer and fall activities. 

This year, 1,882 activities have already been funded through Free to Play, ensuring 1,239 children have had the opportunity to play and learn. The most popular activities include camp, swimming and soccer. Overall, $307,000 in financial assistance has been distributed through the Free to Play Program along with $38,500 in funding the Foundation has facilitated as the local Canadian Tire Jumpstart partner. Free to Play receives support from community partners including the City of Guelph, the County of Wellington and fee-waiving partnerships with local recreation providers.

One mom who has received funding reflected on her experience: “This program is amazing. This was a wonderful activity for our daughter and for our whole family. It supported her growth in so many ways. This was her first experience with a day camp away from us, and she was challenged to let go and stretch into skills which were new, and a bit scary, at first. She did great and has ended the week showing so much confidence in herself. It is fabulous to see this in her!”

“We are appealing to the community to help us continue to provide Free to Play opportunities into the fall,” says Banda. “Our goal is to raise $50,000. This is an ambitious goal, but we know the Guelph and Wellington community is generous, and we know that people will help when the need is there. We are appealing to our friends and supporters who know from their own experience how valuable these opportunities are. Our donors are the ones who make all of this possible.” 

Donations can be made online at www.childrensfoundation.org or by calling 519-826-9551.