By Jessica Lovell
With help from some extra fundraising, the Children’s Foundation had more money available for its grants program this year than ever before, but for the first time ever, that money has run out.
“This year is the first year that we’ve spent all that we can spend,” said Glenna Banda, executive director of the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington.
The charitable foundation’s grants program, an expanded variation of the defunct Kids Can Play initiative, is less well known that its Adopt-A-Family Christmas program and its Food and Friends school breakfast and snack programs. The grants program provides financial assistance of up to $400 per child for children in low-income families to be able to take part in sports, cultural or recreational activities.
But awareness of the program is increasing, and with that comes a greater demand for funds, which means the foundation also needs to raise awareness of the need in the community in order to increase donations to the program.
“We want to be able to help more kids year after year,” said Banda.
So far, this is what the organization has done.
When the program started in 2007, it provided funding for fewer than 200 children, but that number has gone up each year.
In 2012, $195,000 provided funding for around 850 kids. And this year with $225,000 the foundation was able to fund 1,254 activities for 1,009 children in Guelph and Wellington County, said Banda.But though there are still a couple of months left in the year, this year’s numbers are not expected to go up.
The foundation’s website says, “We are no longer accepting applications for activities taking place in 2013, as our funds for this year have been exhausted.”
For one single mother from Elora, if she had been faced with that message it would have meant a difficult decision about whether she could really afford to put her child in swimming lessons, soccer or karate.
These are the activities the grants program has helped her to fund for her six-year-old son over the past few years.
“It really took the stress off not wanting to cancel an extracurricular activity because of not being able to afford it,” said the woman, who asked to be identified only as Sara.
The value for her son has been immeasurable, providing not just physical activity, but other benefits too, like making new friends, learning teamwork or self-discipline, she said.
“It’s creating life skills that all children should have,” she said.
The program funds families with gross annual incomes of $22,000 or less, up to $400 per child to cover registration costs of non-school-related extracurriculars.
It also provides 80 per cent funding for kids of families with gross incomes of between $22,000 and $40,000.
The more than 1,000 kids funded this year are only a fraction of those in Guelph and Wellington County who qualify, said Banda.
“There are actually about 6,000 youth that would fall into the income level,” she said.
It’s an alarming number that tells the foundation it needs all the support it can get. With funds exhausted this year, the foundation is thinking ahead.
“Most people who are applying to us now are applying for 2014,” said Banda. The foundation is working with the few individuals who are still looking for 2013 funding to find solutions, she said.
The program receives some funding from the City of Guelph and Canadian Tire’s Jump Start program. It also has partnerships with organizations like Guelph Saultos Gymnastics, Guelph Minor Hockey, and the Speed River Track and Field Club, and it’s working on a partnership with the local YMCA/YWCA.
In this way, the Children’s Foundation is attempting to be a single point of access for people who need funding for their children’s activities, said Banda.
But even with all these partnerships, “about 70 per cent of our budget comes from fundraising,” she said.
Its Trees for Tots program, where the foundation picked up old Christmas trees in exchange for donations, meant more money for the program this year, so the foundation will be doing that again.
As well, a volunteer-organized concert fundraiser taking place Oct. 24 will specifically raise funds for grants for arts activities, while also trying to raise awareness that grants are available for more than just sports.
The foundation doesn’t judge funding eligibility based on the merit of the activity, she said.
“It’s music, art, summer camp; we get all sorts of stuff,” said Banda. “I always get excited when it’s something very unique.”
Family situations that lead to the need for extra financial assistance differ widely as well, she said. They include divorce, the death of a parent, job loss and many other things, and she hopes people understand the value of the program in helping families get through tough times.
While general fundraising events, like the annual gala dinner coming up on Oct. 26, make a big difference, Banda notes that donations can be made to the foundation anytime.
“If people are in a position where they can afford to put their child in hockey without thinking twice, maybe they can pay it forward,” she said.
To donate, to apply for funding or for more information, visit
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By Jessica Lovell