TP12: Jays Care Hits Grand Slam

Since
1992, Jays Care
Foundation has been empowering children and youth in need, inspiring
them to
make positive choices and helping them realize their dreams by providing
access
to programs that support physical activity, education, and life-skill
development.

                                                                                                 -bluejays.com/jayscare


Teamwork, involvement, contribution, commitment, passion, and
dedication; six simple
words most would not associate with both a professional baseball team
and a
charitable foundation but all of which explain the underpinning
principals
behind each entity.

On
the
field, the Toronto Blue Jays believe in the heart and hustle within the
team;
the passion and dedication it takes to work towards one goal in unity,
as each
player contributes to the best of their own abilities. The charitable
arm of
the Toronto Blue Jays, Jays Care Foundation, extends their efforts off
the
field, working to engage and inspire youth within the community through
funding
programming and various youth-based programs and organizations.

Thursday
evening
the grant recipients of 2009 were recognized during the pre-game
ceremonies at Rogers Centre prior to taking in the game and having a
chance to
chat with one another, as part of the Annual Jays Care Foundation Grand
Slam
Grants Recognition Night. Most importantly, it marked a notable occasion
in
which Jays Care Foundation awarded the selected organizations and
programs with
the funding from the Grand Slam Grants initiative.

When asked how rewarding it is to
see students succeed and benefit from teaching basic life skills, Jeff
Good,
President and CEO of Junior Achievement of Central Ontario, one of the
2009
recipients, had only one word: “unbelievable.” While he spoke and
explained the specifics of how Junior Achievement influences and impacts
the
life skills of over 80,000 students a year, the smile on his face grew.
He has
witnessed the success first hand of the charity which speaks to youth
about
financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and workplace readiness in the
classroom.
Underpinning those messages are life lessons about leadership, the
importance
of staying in school, and living your dreams. Good was once told that he
had
changed the outlook of a young student and opened her eyes to a whole
new
world. “That’s what Junior Achievement will do this year 80,000 times
and most
importantly, through the support of the Jays Care Grant, we will be able
to
reach that many more students.”

It
is
through these partnerships that youth are given a chance to become who
they desire
to be and are encouraged to pursue their dreams and aspirations, no
matter
their background or upbringing. It is with that chance that these youth
will
have the opportunity to become an active part of a community, in this
city,
because of the organization behind the Blue Jays.

Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre is situated in a high-risk area of Mississauga amid a townhouse complex
which
according to staff member Lindel Merraro “allows them to be right there
for the
children.” The programs, offered for children ages
six
to twelve
, are free of charge and encourage
community participation and work towards creating positive community
involvement and interaction. The grant funding directly impacts one
aspect of
the program which is called the Kids Fun Club, an afternoon program
offering
homework help, healthy snacks and most importantly a positive place to go once
school
is done for the day. “The kids love it,” commented Merraro, while taking
in the
third inning of the Blue Jays victory Thursday at Rogers Centre. “It
directly impacts
a community that is in real need of these programs.”

Jays
Care
Foundation has put over two-million dollars back into priority
neighbourhoods across
the province through Grand Slam Grants, since its inception. Again this
year,
the Foundation has dispersed additional capital funding to local
charities. By partnering
with these organizations, youth of Toronto and Ontario are directly effected,
which gives
them a chance to recognize their goals and aspirations and allows them
to
develop life skills as they grow.

Over the span of almost one hundred
years, Moorelands Community Services has helped thousands of Toronto children living in
poverty with a
recent concentrated interest in
Flemingdon Park (a neighbourhood north of
downtown
Toronto) and engages children who
can use
the experience to improve their outlook on life. The Jays Care grants
will be
specifically directed to the City Summer Day Camp which Moorelands
offers to
children allowing them to participate with children their age through
the
summer months. The excitement that radiated from the Moorelands Director
of
Development, Robert Tomas, personified the optimistic character that
reinforces
the Moorelands programs. “Oh my gosh, it affects them tremendously,”
said Tomas
when asked if the children would directly benefit from the Jays Care
grant.
“What really gets us going and brings a smile to our faces is helping
kids
overcome their own challenges and helping them develop the ability to
think
beyond their own needs. We think of that as being the most important
gift we
can give our students.”

Speaking
with
grant recipients, I was taken aback by how few of the organizations I
was
familiar with. As someone who was born and raised in the city of Toronto, I was reminded of how
much is
often taken for granted in some areas of the city, particularly among
youth who
have naturally grown up with various opportunities. One thing that I
walked
away knowing after speaking to three recipients in particular was that
Jays
Care is spending it’s efforts to learn, partner with and support
programs which
encourage physical activity, education, and life skill development to
youth who
may not otherwise have had an opportunity. That principal would seem
simple to
a great deal of people, but I realized then, that if it wasn’t for youth
programming around the city, a lot of youth would never break out of
their
personal environments. Thursday, my outlook on youth programming
changed, and I
quickly grew passionate about spreading the awareness of all of the
influential
programs available to youth in
Toronto. Trying to convey all
that I
learned in such a brief space is difficult and though I spoke to only
three
representatives from the organizations recognized, I cannot articulate
enough
how important it is to become familiar with these programs and
organizations.

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