WELLINGTON COUNTY – The Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington are upgrading their Free to Play Program and are now calling it the Free to Grow program.
Last year, the foundation asked families of the community what kind of support they’d like to see added to their programs. As per the public’s request, they will now be offering to provide financial assistance to services such as babysitting, tutoring, and driving tests.
“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.”
There were plans for the program expansion to launch earlier this year, but high demand caused the foundation to deplete their funds by early fall.
“Some weeks, we were seeing up to 80 Free to Play applications,” explains 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,” Executive Director Glenna Banda notes. “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.”