Blake Avenue PS and the Aviva Community Fund!

vote photo 2

Thank you Jackman PS for voting for Blake to help us win $100,000 for a new playground with Aviva Community Fund Building beautiful play spaces is good for the whole community! Let’s vote EVERYDAY!!!

Jackman Avenue Parent & School Community

Our friends over at Blake Street PS need our help! They have applied for a grant through the Aviva Community Fund to build a new playspace.

Please vote DAILY until October 23rd by clicking on this link:

Thank you folks! It takes a village, and our friends at Blake appreciate that the community is helping them secure this grant.

  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Supporting communities with cause marketing

Cause marketing has been around since 1976 when Marriott partnered with the March of Dimes to raise funds and celebrate the grand opening of a new amusement park. The promotion ran in 67 cities and was wildly successful for both the charity and the company.

Cause marketing goes beyond the standard campaigns about products and services. It helps highlight community investment partnerships and drive value for both partners and return on investment for businesses.

I would like to highlight cause marketing campaigns by Canadian Tire and Always which target social concerns that aim to drive a behavioral change.

For Canadian Tire, they’re encouraging children and youth in communities across Canada to play more and be active. It isn’t connected to raising money for their Jumpstart Charities, but knowing that they support kids through Jumpstart gives the message authenticity. Following on the success of their ‘We All Play for Canada’ advertisement, they recently launched a second commercial in support of this cause called ‘Wanna Play.’

Always has been engaged in a global education campaign for girls in puberty for 30 years. They partner with UNESCO, an agency of the United Nations to educate girls around the world. In a recent study, Always discovered that girls lose confidence during puberty, so they started their Epic Battle #likeagirl campaign.Their goal is to inspire, empower and educate girls to break free from negative gender stereotypes. Supported by six videos, they are reaching out to change social convention to make anything that is done ‘like a girl’ is a compliment, not an insult. Take a look at their latest video that they are airing in 25 markets around the world:

Both of these campaigns have been successful in starting the dialogue on their respective issues. As a mother, these campaigns hit close to home. I restrict screen time for my children and send them to play in the backyard as often as possible. And as for doing things #likeagirl, I make an effort not to categorize any behaviour or activity towards either gender.

The honour of being recognized

Don't worry when you are not recognized,

The people who are the most deserving of recognition are the one’s looking for the least amount. Recognition is a wonderful thing, it makes people feel great about all they’ve accomplished.

When it comes to community giving, people are motivated by a personal connection to a cause or a desire to give back. Many businesses take an active interest in the community by supporting causes that align with their business priorities, their customers and their employees. Awards are a way to show gratitude for all the hard work and dedication that volunteers and supporters bring to every aspect of a strong, healthy community.

Community awards are often interwoven into the local business awards by the Boards of Trade or Chambers of Commerce. In fact, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce started the Community Builder Award which looks for success in a business yielding the greatest social return on investment. SC Johnson and Son was the 2014 winner for their successful partnerships with several organizations in Brantford, where their production facility and corporate offices are located. Their support over the last 94 years contributed to social, health, cultural, environmental and educational organizations and programs.

The Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada are both high public honours that individuals receive in recognition of their outstanding achievement and dedication to the community. Recipients are leaders in their field and are often committed to community service or philanthropy.

In the case of the Order of Ontario, 26 people were named into the Order in February including a local Mississauga businessman, James Murray who has supported numerous causes over his lifetime from health and education to pubic services and the arts. He embraced a lifelong community giving from a young age, having received the Outstanding Young Citizen of Mississauga award.

James Murray

James Murray  Photo credit file photo

More recently, on Canada Day, The Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, named 100 new appointments to the Order of Canada, some of whom have significant philanthropic contributions. Of note is Paul J. Hill of Regina, Saskatchewan, who is helping disadvantaged children achieve educational excellence to help them get accepted to university.

Order of Canda photo

Order of Canada insignias  Photo credit Governor General’s website

I also found Lawrence Hill’s comments about the honour of being named to the Order of Canada with CBC radio inspiring. He emphasised the value of his volunteer experience with Crossroads International in different African countries. He advises young people that

“if you really want to make your life exciting and rich and interesting… think about volunteer work overseas and you’ll never regret having done it.”

His volunteer experience lead to the writing of his acclaimed novel Book of Negroes and other novels partially set in Africa. He was named to the Order of Canada for his writing to tell the stories of Canada’s black community and advocacy work on behalf of women and girls in Africa.

Last but certainly not least, I want to highlight the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award. This award is to recognize individuals who volunteer their time to help others and to build a smarter and more caring nation. The award highlights the compassionate volunteers who are an important part of our national social identity. The stories of the people who have won this award are amazing, including the efforts of two young girls Julianne, age 7, and Rachel, age 9, of Newfoundland. They have raised $30,000 for the Janeway Children’s Health & Rehabilitation Centre by making and selling crafts for the last three years.

Moss girls GG Caring Cdn award

The Honourable David Johnson, Julianne and Rachel Moss, and their father  Photo credit: My Giving

Julianne and Rachel make it look so easy to raise funds, but we know it’s a lot of hard work and commitment. They are truly deserving of this great honour.

Do you know someone who is deserving of any of these awards? Think about the pride they would feel if you took the initiative to nominate them.

Going from Community Giving to Investing

community investment

Can you name five corporations that have excellent community programs? Do their efforts affect where you take your business or where you want to work?

Corporate Community Investment has evolved a lot over the last decade as companies look to leverage their brand with customers and in the communities in which they operate. This is why it is important that the charities that companies support align with their values and business profile.

When corporations invest in communities strategically they can drive value for both their brand and for the organizations they support. When you think about Tim Horton’s or Canadian Tire, you know that they support programs for kids. They both have signature programs that are run by their own charitable foundations. These foundations are supported by the company of course, but also by the company’s customers and employees.

Customers expect companies to give back to the community and will support these causes if they believe that the company is authentic in its support. This is why so much money is raised on Camp Day at Tim’s and Jumpstart Day at Canadian Tire.

It’s overwhelming each year to see how our guests come together to support the Foundation. On Camp Day, buying a cup of coffee and participating in the many activities helps contribute to a positive change in a child’s life. And that’s a good feeling. Bill Moir, President, Tim Horton Children’s Foundation

The role employees have in supporting community programs has grown significantly as well. Corporations encourage employees to contribute both money and time to charitable causes, either of their own choosing or for the company’s signature program.

Many corporations have an annual employee giving campaign in support of United Way or other charities. If the corporation’s signature program aligns with the culture of the company, this campaign can engage employees and provide something for employees to rally around.

Employee volunteering programs benefit the company with employee engagement and retention, the charity with needed hands and skills for projects, and employees with team events and building leadership skills. Such events further strengthen the company’s place in the community, and in some cases provides public or media exposure to both the organization and charity.

Charities have had to evolve with the increase of Corporate Community Investment. Instead of simply receiving cash or products they now work with the company to develop a meaningful, and potentially ongoing partnership; a partnership that has to meet the needs of both the charity and the company. This leads to more people understanding the charitable mission, while companies are able to draw an emotional connection to their brand.

There are a lot of great examples of Corporate Community Leaders in all industries. You can check them some of them out at Imagine Canada.

A little boy’s community

Emerson photo C18 conference 2014

“I have ants in my pants in my brain!”

This is Evan’s* very astute description about why he can’t sit still and focus in class. He is super-duper cute and turns eight years old this month.

Many organizations have helped him and his mother, Madison*, identify and navigate numerous developmental issues over the last eight years. You see, he was born with a chromosome deficiency called 18q-. Of course they didn’t know it at the time of his birth.

At the age of one, Evan started wearing hearing aids and going to speech therapy at the Canadian Hearing Society. But his therapist realized that his hearing wasn’t his only developmental issue. From two to four years of age, Evan went through a multitude of assessments going from specialist to specialist in neurology, psychology, behavioural therapy and genetics.

This is when you understand the true meaning of resilience. Developmental issues can only be identified as they emerge. As each developmental milestone was missed, the issues Evan faced went from “a whisper to a scream,” according to Madison. But despite the obvious frustrations he faces daily, he has a shining personality and great sense of humour with a laugh that starts in his belly and brings smiles to everyone around him.

When Evan was diagnosed with 18q- at the age of four, it explained his speech and language delay, why he is hard of hearing, his autism, his fine and gross motor coordination issues, and his sensory processing issues. Fortunately he doesn’t have any of the medical issues, such as heart and kidney problems, that other children have because of a chromosome 18 abnormality.

But what did this mean for Evan’s future? What could Madison expect in developmental achievements year over year, and how would she be able to support his needs?

The answers to these questions lay in their involvement in the communities of Holland Bloorview and the Chromosome 18 Registry and Research Society. I say communities because these two organizations provide an incredible support system that is like a family to them.

When you’re faced with something as obscure as a rare genetic abnormality it’s not always clear where you can go for support or who can provide service, as the challenges and needs are so varied.

Holland Bloorview’s vision is to create a world of possibility for kids with disability – so this includes Evan. This is where he had his initial developmental assessment and many therapy classes. But what makes this an important community for Evan and Madison are the things that are not covered by government funding like the accessible playgrounds and gardens on their campus, the inspirational newsletter to parents, and swimming lessons.

The swimming lessons at Holland Bloorview serve as a type of physical therapy, without being actual therapy. The classes are integrated with ‘typical children’ which helps Evan feel like a typical child, and helps them understand children with special needs. Half of the instructors in this program are volunteers – the swimming program wouldn’t be possible without them.

The swimming program also provides an incredible support for parents. Consider that Madison is in hours of therapy sessions each week with Evan. Swim class is the only time that she can sit back and connect with other parents while observing Evan having fun in the pool. She has made many friends here who understand what she’s going through day to day; who are on a similar journey with their children.

I would like to thank the over 200 corporations and organizations, and countless volunteers that support Holland Bloorview. When you want to know the difference that your efforts make, think about the on-going impact you have on Evan’s life.

BMO Volunteers

BMO volunteers at Holland Bloorview

The other essential community that Madison and Evan depend on is the Chromosome 18 Registry and Research Society (The Registry)  located in San Antonio, Texas – the only organization in the world that specializes in helping children with the same disorder as Evan.

The Registry is dedicated to providing the latest in medical and scientific research on the syndromes of chromosome 18 with a goal to “making chromosome 18 conditions the first treatable chromosome abnormalities.” Despite its global reach, it really is a local community composed of the parents of individuals with a chromosome 18 abnormality.

Madison finds solace in knowing Evan is not alone. They attend the annual conference (hosted and organized by families) whenever possible and are in regular contact with over a dozen families across southwestern Ontario. Even though not one child has the exact same abnormalities, they can talk to different families about the one or two similar issues that they face. “We have the most accepting, non-judgemental comradery, where everyone cares for and accepts everyone’s kids,” she says.

This organization is supported by regional events across the US, including an annual golf tournament. There is one big difference with this tournament – many of the sponsors are the groups of friends and families of children with a chromosome 18 deficiency, not just corporate sponsors. In fact, a majority of the events are events organized by families: birthday donations, selling items such as baseball shirts, quilts, jewellery or nutcrackers, and fitness events. A truly community based support group with such extensive heart and reach.

Member driven fundraiser

Member driven fundraiser

We all have different reasons for giving, whether financially or through volunteering. We each do so for our own reasons, to act globally or build a community, or help an individual. Holland Bloorview and the Chromosome 18 Registry and Research Society are just two examples of organizations that rely heavily on charitable giving and volunteers; and the community they provide families is priceless.

*Names have been changed

The new B2C; Business to Community

Thank you photo

Blake students say ‘Thank You’ to sponsors of their Fun Fair

When we think about businesses supporting communities, it’s easy to think about large corporations, but it’s equally important, maybe more so to realize the contribution of small business. After all the owners usually live and work in the community, giving them a personal connection to what they support.

Local businesses contribute in a number of ways including donating money, products and services, sponsoring events or local sports teams, and contributing employees’ time. In fact, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), 75% of businesses donate money, products and services.

They also say that the sectors that gave the most back to its communities were retail and hospitality. This is not surprising, they are the most public facing businesses so the community relates to them the most.

I’m sure there’s no end to the requests that they receive, which is why I was so grateful to the businesses that were more than happy to donate money, gift cards or products to the Family Fun Fair at my son’s school.

Even before my son started school, when I saw a sign of support for a local school or charity, I was happier to shop there. I appreciate it when they post thank you notes from schools and charities that they support on their community wall. The value in the contribution isn’t purely altruistic, but serves to let you know they are a member of the community. When I approached businesses for the Fun Fair, I largely went to places I personally frequent. That being said, seeing all the different businesses that contributed will make me more inclined to give them my business in the future.

Thanks to the efforts of the fundraising committee, over 250 local businesses to contributed cash, products and services. This included restaurants, kids’ activities, and real estate agents to retailers and fitness studios. Combined with personal and corporate donations, ticket sales AND amazing weather, we successfully raised over $10,000 that day. Not bad for the school’s third year running the event!

We do our best to promote their support at the fair to give them the attention they deserve. This year I started a Twitter thank you campaign to show our appreciation for some of our sponsors. I even received recognition for being the ‘Lucky Twitter social’ winner from one of the sponsors. It was so much fun interacting with our sponsors on Twitter, I plan to do more next year!

When you give your time, everyone wins!

Volunteer quote


“When you are healthy and have energy that is when you can give back.” This is what someone told me when we were talking about his involvement in designing, and volunteering for a patient peer support program. He had gone through extensive treatment for a chronic illness and wanted to help others who are just starting down the same difficult healing journey.

Volunteers are amazing people, they give so much of themselves without any expectations for something in return. They touch the lives of so many people, with a spirit that will be remembered by each person. But they do get something in return – a connection to others, the gratification of helping someone, and a sense of accomplishment.

According to Volunteer Canada, only 13% of Canadians have never volunteered and 44% of Canadians volunteered close to 2 billion hours in 2013. This is truly something to celebrate! Of course, this number varies by age group, as do the benefits and the reasons for volunteering.

With mandatory volunteer service for high school students, you may think that this group does the minimum hours to meet the requirements for their diploma. However, they are more engaged, doing 44% more hours than mandated. There are many reasons for this, from needing to develop skills and experience to networking. This is important in a highly competitive job market. However, when you look at the breadth of issues this group supports, it shows that they are active both in their community and are global citizens which could continue into their university years and beyond.

The promotion of lifelong volunteering has been aided by workplace volunteer programs which gives employees opportunities to support charities either with paid volunteer days off or during working hours. Many of Canada’s major corporations now have volunteer programs that encourage staff to volunteer for a charity of their choice or to participate in a corporate initiative. These programs aim to increase employee engagement and loyalty while supporting a worthwhile cause.

I would say that people raising families naturally focus on the needs of their families by volunteering for their children’s school or related causes – when they find the time! This has its own set of motivations and benefits including helping their children succeed, connecting with other parents and helping to build up the community.

Seniors are certainly a major force when it comes to volunteering, contributing 39% of all hours. They embody the spirit of volunteering, giving where they can to make a difference through their compassion and touch many lives with caring and kindness. You only have to look at your local hospital to see how much seniors volunteer. While most people only see them at the information desks and gift shops, what they don’t realize is that they provide support to patients in all areas of the hospital.

If you want to touch the past, touch a rock. If you want to touch the present, touch a flower. If you want to touch the future, touch a life.

— Unknown

Note: All statistics come from Volunteer Canada

What do you support?

Charitable giving-word-cloud

Did you know that there are over 170,000 charitable and non-profit organizations in Canada and 85,000 of these are registered charities? (source: Imagine Canada.) This means there are many organizations looking for support and many more ways to support them.

But why should we support charities? They are part of our social fabric providing programs and services that are not covered government. They give us the chance to give back to our communities, show compassion for those in need and support causes with which we have a personal connection.

So what speaks to you? Why do you give?

My charitable giving has changed over my lifetime and the ways in which I support charities. And it is always a reflection of my involvement in my community. From participating in fundraising in my youth; to attending events early in my career; to payroll giving; and coming full circle to fundraising once again.

There are organizations that encourage greater involvement in the charitable sector including ‘Giv3.’ This is a foundation that is encouraging Canadians to be more giving by volunteering, donating to charities, and inspire friends, family and community to get involved.

According to Giv3, our financial and volunteering support to charities is on the decline, however this is based on information from the CRA on the number of tax receipts submitted and may not reflect total giving. They also note “the average level of giving is 0.8% of income. Wealthier Canadians give even less (relative to their income) than average Canadians.” This is why they are encouraging everyone to give a little more and become more involved.

They are involved in The Great Canadian Giving Challenge alongside Canada Helps to encourage more giving during the month of June. Any charities that receive donations through this campaign have the chance to win $10,000. The winning charity will be announced on Canada Day. I’ll be watching to see if my charity, Humber River Hospital wins this prize! And next year I’ll see if it’s possible to include my son’s school in this campaign!

I also love Giv3’s Granny’s Club initiative. It is based on the experience of the founder, John Hallward. His grandmother gave him money for his birthday with the instructions to donate all of it to charity as he explains in this video:

I’ve seen different versions of this in action with younger children. I attended a child’s birthday party and was offered the opportunity to contribute money instead of a gift. Half the money went to a charity of the family’s choosing and the other half went to a gift for the child. I also encourage my children to donate a portion of their birthday money to charity so that they understand the importance of giving back to community and helping those less fortunate.

No matter what you support, it is the fact that you support your community that counts.

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.

– Winston Churchill 

The great divide

the great divide

When I first saw my son’s school, I was disappointed to see an unexciting playground (and I still am), but refurbishing it is such a huge endeavor that is not within capacity of the school at this time. However, I am proud to say that the fundraising efforts of the parent council has made it possible to support the most immediate needs of the school beyond what the school budget can cover.

The Toronto Star recently published an article about the increasing fundraising gap between have- and have-not schools. The article cites public concerns of a two-tier education system, discusses ‘model school’ grants, and raises questions about what should be considered essential school assets such as libraries and playgrounds – and what should not.

When the Star article came out, it started a conversation on Talk 1010 radio about whether or not fundraising levels should be equalized in some fashion. Concerns were raised about giving money to your child’s school, only to have it go outside the ‘community’ and how to ensure that have-not school continue their fundraising efforts if they are given money from other schools.

What the hosts of Talk 1010 failed to realize when talking about communities in Toronto and local schools, is that there are a number of local schools in each community. The school my son attends is a five minute drive away from our home and there are about six other schools between our home and our school. So when talking about community giving and fundraising for schools, you can’t just talk about the most immediate school. This means that our community includes all these schools, and local businesses are approached by many of them to support events with cash or in-kind donations. Their generosity speaks volumes for the community spirit in our area.

The concept of the larger community is not lost on the local schools, students attend activities at other schools to share experiences. This is easy because the schools are within walking distance of each other.

Jazz in Schools photo

Four local schools came together to listen to an awesome group of student musicians from Humber College. Credit: Blake Beat School Newsletter

The Star mentioned that some schools which raise significant funds do support other nearby schools in need. This is a great idea. But how do we address Talk 1010’s concerns about schools slacking off on their fundraising efforts if they know they’ll be getting money from another school? Match only what the school in need raises itself first. It doesn’t make it equal, but it supports all schools and children in the immediate community, and ensures that all schools do their part in fundraising.

They also raised the question of the capacity of parents in low income areas to contribute money and if they have access to work colleagues to buy raffle tickets or other fundraising items. These are valid points but there are other factors to consider as well: is there a culture of volunteering at the school and do they have the knowledge of how to run a fundraising event or campaign?

For my son’s school, we have been developing a culture of volunteerism which takes time. With the increased diversity of mixed income entering the school, the knowledge of running successful fundraising events and expanded reach is certainly helping on the fundraising front. We enjoy taking advantage of our diverse cultural, language, even our socio-economic backgrounds to ensure our community is truly reflected in our school and in our adventures together.