Introducing Free to Grow

October 29, 2018



The Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington has evolved their Free to Play Program, now called Free to Grow. The Free to Grow Program will still fund recreational activities like sports, arts and camps. However, families will now be able to choose to receive financial assistance for life-skill development activities such as babysitting, driver training, tutoring and more.

In 2017, the Foundation reached out to community partners and the families they help and asked what types of support are missing in our community. The resounding answer was funding for life-skill development opportunities. “Some children are able to access things like computer programs, tutoring and driver training. Others don’t have the means. I see it as them not having the opportunity to be who they are, when the person beside them does,” says Foundation Board Director Sheila Hynes. “Children have hope when they’re young. I think keeping that hope alive within them is important and that’s what Free to Grow will do.”

The Foundation set out on the plan for this evolution early in 2018 but financial challenges arose in August and they needed to put out a call for emergency support for the Free to Play Program. At the time, an unprecedented demand meant funds would run out before the busy fall registration period for sports, arts and other recreational activities. Thanks to a generous response from the community, the Foundation was able to fund kids until the end of September.

“Some weeks, we were seeing up to 80 Free to Play applications,” says Program Director Karyn Kirkwood. “Fortunately, donors’ support was immediate and impactful, with donations coming in to cover almost 400 more recreational activities for the fall. We know these recreational activities are invaluable, as they help children develop self-confidence, teamwork skills, and build their sense of belonging. However, hearing some of the children’s struggles in the classroom, or something as simple as getting a driver’s licence, we knew we needed to do even more if we truly want to empower our community.”

“With the funding emergency in 2018, and a financial deficit this year, at times you wonder if you are doing the right thing in expanding your services,” says Executive Director Glenna Banda. “But we know we need to step up to the plate and do more for local families so that we are helping change their future situation. We’ve already heard a sigh of relief from social agencies and partners for this initiative, and we are committed to working with our community to keep the program sustainable so that we can help as many children and youth as we possibly can each year.”



If you believe children should be Free to Grow, donate today to empower them for the future.