GUELPH – In early June, the Children’s Foundation Free to Grow Program launched a new support initiative to offset the loss of so many recreational activities for kids this summer.
The Free to Grow at Home initiative provides kits for kids that will get their hands and feet moving, spark their imagination and support their learning and development.
Within days of launching, the foundation had close to 850 requests for kits, highlighting how desperate parents are to have something to engage kids after months of isolation and schooling from home.
“We knew a lot of summertime activities would be cancelled due to COVID-19, and we thought providing recreation kits for home would be a big help for kids and their families,” said Karyn Kirkwood, program director.
“But the flood of requests from families was overwhelming. And we’ve heard from so many social workers we work with who think this is a brilliant idea that will make this summer better for kids.
“With 423 kids on the wait list, we just need help from the community with donations to help us fill all the kits for all the kids who’ve signed up.”
Thanks to early donors and supporters, the foundation has already been able to order supplies for about 450 kits from local retail businesses, including Simply Wonderful, Brighten Up, The Bookshelf, Wyndham Arts, Play with Clay, and Canadian Tire Stone Road.
‘Win-win’ team ups
“Teaming up with local businesses is a real win-win,” said Emma Rogers, CEO of the Children’s Foundation.
“Not only will our donors be supporting the well-being and healthy development of kids in the community, their dollars will also be going back into the local economy at a time when businesses need support too.”
In addition to the partnership with local businesses, the Free to Grow at Home initiative recently received a funding grant from the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF) through the United Way Guelph-Wellington-Dufferin, Guelph Community Foundation and the Centre Wellington Foundation.
The ECSF funding significantly reduced the waiting list, but there are still over 400 kids on the wait list.
Each kit is filled with around 10 items fitting one of three themes: thinking, creating and moving.
“At a cost of $75 to $100 per kit, it would take less than 500 donors giving $75 or whatever they could afford to reach this very do-able goal of filling every kit,” Kirkwood said.
Anyone interested in donating can visit the Children’s Foundation website at https://www.childrensfoundation.org/ways-to-help/free-to-grow-at-home.