All that was missing was a round of mimosas at the Children’s Aid Foundation of Ottawa’s anniversary breakfast celebrating 30 years of sending thousands of children to summer camp while helping hundreds more young people pursue a post-secondary education.
Some 170 supporters gathered Thursday morning at the Canadian Museum of Nature to listen to inspiring stories of how the charitable organization each year provides comfort, stability and financial support for more than 1,000 local children and youth, along with their families.
Attendees included Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney, along with the foundation’s board chair, Marion Bailey-Canham, a partner and trademark agent at Gowling WLG, and its vice-chair, Robert De Toni, a partner with Merovitz Potechin LLP.
On hand was the foundation’s executive director, Walter Noble.
Organizers set up a giant cookie jar for departing guests to slip their donation cards into. There were also smaller cookie jars – even a coveted Cookie Monster one – serving as centrepieces for the breakfast tables.
Other attendees included Anna Lynch, vice-president of engineering at TITUS, and Jonathan Westeinde, founder and CEO of Windmill Development Group. Tom McKenna, co-chair of the 28th annual Ski for Kids event in support of youth at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the Children’s Aid Society, was there with fellow organizing committee members John Booth and Jeff Parkes. This year’s ski event at Mont Ste. Marie in February raised a record-breaking $454,500.
The breakfast, which was emceed by Katherine Dines from Majic 100, featured 19-year-old Sydney Lalonde, an amazing young woman who has benefited greatly from the support she’s received from the Children’s Aid Foundation of Ottawa. She is studying nursing at Queen’s University and has also been doing volunteer humanitarian work in South and Central America.
“I’m very excited for what my future holds and I can’t wait to get there,” she told the room. “Even though I was in an unusual circumstance growing up, I still got to experience many of the things that other kids did.
“My mom was unable to take care of me but I was left in very good hands.”
At age nine, Lalonde was put into the care of the CAS and subsequently placed into foster care, due to her mother’s struggles with mental illness and addiction. Her father wasn't on the scene. By age 12, Lalonde was taken in by her adult brother.
With the financial help of the foundation, Lalonde was able to go to summer camp, which continues to hold a special place in her heart. She formed lasting friendships there, bonded with her counsellors, and is now on staff.
The young woman has also had the opportunity to participate in life-changing volunteer work by helping at a mobile clinic run by doctors, dentists, pharmacists and ob-gyns in Latin America.
“I got to hold a flashlight and suction as people were getting their cavities filled and their teeth extracted,” she said enthusiastically. “It was pretty cool.”
Most importantly, she’s been able to go to university through the foundation’s Dare to Dream bursary program that helps current or former Crown wards with the financial costs of tuition, books and other necessary requirements to pursue a post-secondary education.
Lalonde graciously acknowledged and thanked her brother, her social worker, her former foster parents, the foundation and its donors.