Twice a year, the Conn Smythe Foundation holds a meeting of its Board of Directors and Members. It brings an opportunity to reflect on our past history of donations and the impact they made. It also allows us to review our donating strategy going forward as we discuss our candidates for donations.
Additionally, we welcome the chance to meet with founders and directors of charitable organizations to learn more about their mission, direction, and their current and future needs. This past June, just prior to the end of the school year, the CSF held its first meeting of 2016. During the meeting, the CSF had the privilege of meeting with representatives from Casey House and Kids Up Front, giving us a better insight to the invaluable services that each organization provides.
From Casey House, we were introduced to Tracy Hatten, Senior Development Officer, and Katie Connelly, an RN in the Home Care Program. Casey House opened its doors in 1988 as Canada’s first stand-alone treatment facility for people living with HIV/AIDS. It provides a warm and welcoming home-like environment where people with HIV/AIDS are cared for with dignity and compassion. Despite the development of effective medical treatment for HIV/AIDS, there is no cure, and the rate of HIV infections in Ontario remains close to what it was in the mid 1990s. Casey House embraces a client-centred, culturally sensitive, and holistic approach to care-giving as their clients may also be living with multiple health conditions and challenges such as poverty, mental health or substance abuse, discrimination, and marginalization. People living with HIV/AIDS still face a stigma in society. In fact, Tracy shared with us that it can be a major hurdle for potential clients to even walk through the doors of Casey House, as receiving care from Casey House is confirmation of HIV+ status. We also learned that 25% of their clients are women, many of whom are the principle caregiver for a child or children. Through Casey House, they can access child care support for their child during their treatment. Casey House provides care through their residential In-Patient program, which is further augmented by the Home Care program, Recreational Therapy, and Outreach Health Services. In the Recreational Therapy program, Tracy told us a story of a client, who had been making a tie-dyed shirt, being overwhelmed and stating “This is the first time in my life I’ve ever made something beautiful”. Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. In fact, Aboriginal people make up 20% of Casey House community clients and 10% of in-patient clients. Casey House has held a symposium on Aboriginal experience for health care and support service providers, which was well-attended and enthusiastically received. Tracy stated that Casey House will provide an Elder, or Healer for their client, whatever their cultural needs may be. Since 1996, the Conn Smythe Foundation has supported the wonderful and important work being done by Casey House, and we are proud to continue to support Casey House.
Thank you to Tracy and Katie for sharing your experiences, answering our questions, and for your thoughtful insight.
Celebrating 10 years of the Kids Up Front Foundation, we were introduced to Lindsay Oughtred, Executive Director of Kids Up Front Toronto. Their mission as a charitable organization is to provide access to art, culture, sport and recreation to children who otherwise do not have the opportunity to experience them. Lindsay shared a story of how, in 2006, she approached then CSF Chairman of the Board, the late Tom Smythe, with this mission as her idea. With Tom’s support and abundant enthusiasm, the Conn Smythe Foundation can happily claim to have been the very first supporter for Kids Up Front Toronto. Thanks for sharing Lindsay! Kids Up Front now has close to 200 agency partners and provides over 55,000 children a year with opportunities to inspire and educate. It provides positive life experiences for kids with financial, social, or health barriers, and allows parents and family members to bond with them. Lindsay quoted comments from parents saying “We could never have given this to our kids” and “Because you made my son’s dream come true, my dream came true too”. The CSF is proud to carry on supporting Kids Up Front.
Camp Towhee, located in Haliburton Ontario, is affiliated with the Child Development Institute (CDI) and provides an outdoor setting accommodating approximately 100 campers aged 10-17 with learning disabilities and mental health issues (LDMH). Campers participate in a combination of Adventure Based learning, Outtripping and Outdoor Living Skills, Waterfront Program, and Experiential Arts Program. The CSF has previously invested in the purchase of a water trampoline for their Waterfront program and, in December 2015, donated to help with the refurbishment of Camp Towhee’s basketball court to be ready in time for summer 2016. In our June 2016 meeting, the CSF agreed to help upgrade Camp Towhee’s Rope Challenge course. This is the top experience for many campers in the Adventure Based learning program, with elements up to 40 feet off the ground! However, no campers are required to participate in activities they are not comfortable with. A camper may choose to not actually climb, but instead perform the role of support person for other campers, which can be just as rewarding and beneficial for them. This is central to Camp Towhee’s “Challenge By Choice” philosophy. For children with LDMH, the experiences they have, the goals they achieve, and the friendships they make, while participating at Camp Towhee, provides them with invaluable benefits and life-long summer memories. We look forward to hearing more about the children’s experiences this summer and the impact these enhancements to their facilities have made. Andrew Smythe, who serves as a Director on the CSF Board, is a Camp Towhee supporter. Many thanks to Andrew from the CSF as he has been instrumental in bringing the specific needs of the camp to our attention.
These three above highlighted organizations, Casey House, Kids Up Front, and Camp Towhee, will receive donations as determined in our June 2016 meeting. The Conn Smythe Foundation is pleased to announce that we have also pledged to continue our support for Jessie’s Centre, Emily’s House, and the Regent Park School of Music.
Look for our year end newsletter, as we will highlight more of the unique and diverse organizations we are proud to have supported this year. The Conn Smythe Foundation would like to extend our sincere wish for you to have a safe and wonderful summer.