A huge congratulations to Reach for the Rainbow, and thanks to everyone who voted!┬á Read more about the big win below from insidetoronto.com.
by Cynthia Reason, insidetoronto.com
Hundreds of online voters helped ‘click’ Reach for the Rainbow all the way to winning $50,000 – funding that will be used to send an additional 35 children with disabilities to summer camp this year.
The Etobicoke-based organization, which since 1987 has provided integrated recreation, respite and outreach opportunities for children of all different abilities, was one of four winners of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) inaugural Team Up Foundation Fund (TUFF) announced this week.
The competition launched on Jan. 3 and targeted registered charities that support sports and recreation-based programs for youth. In the end, only four remained – pared down from 72 entries, in large part, by online voting.
“It was pretty outstanding. I have to admit, I wasn’t a big believer in the power of social media, but (this competition) made me a believer,” said Donna Trella, founder and executive director of Reach for the Rainbow, on Thursday, just days after finding out her organization’s bid for the TUFF prize was a successful one.
“We were on (the website) non-stop. It was pretty nip and tuck on the last day, but we put our heart and soul into it.”
Over the course of the nearly three-month competition, the field of charities was first narrowed to 20 by public vote, then to the top 10 by a Team Up Foundation selection committee. Then, for a little more than a week earlier this month, the final 10 was pared down to the four winners by online vote.
In the end, more than 225,000 votes were cast, said Michael Bartlett, executive director the MLSE Team Up Foundation.
“We were very pleased with the public response to it. This was new for us, so I gotta be honest, we had no idea how many votes would come in, but 225,000 votes shows that: one, there’s some fantastic organizations out there that are able to mobilize people; and two, that there’s a real gap in funding for organizations that provide recreational experiences for youth,” he said.
“The proof is in the pudding. If there were 10 votes, then maybe we’re not filling a gap, but 225,000 votes proves that there’s a real need to fund in this area, and we’re happy to be a small part of that.”
For Trella and the Reach for the Rainbow team, the TUFF funding couldn’t have come at a better moment – and just in time for this summer’s camping season.
“Reach for the Rainbow, like so many other non-profits, has been struggling financially over the last five years now. We’ve really had to cut back, and unfortunately, the place we’ve had to cut back is in service delivery,” she said, noting that the organization has been forced to cut the number of children it serves from close to 1,000 at its peak to just 740 last year (600 in summer camp, 140 in its year-round programming).
“So we’ve had some major cutbacks…and this money is going to allow us to extend our programming to 35 more kids, who will all go to camp with one-to-one support.”
While Trella said 35 may sound like a small number, there is much involved in caring for the children Reach for the Rainbow serves – many of whom live with “multiple and profound” disabilities.
Not only does Reach for the Rainbow reserve space for their child clients at one of their participating camps and co-ordinate their one-on-one support, they also provide camp staff with the integration and disability awareness training they need. And on top of that, Reach for the Rainbow also reserves accessible transport for the child to get to the camp when needed, offers the use of its adaptive equipment (ie. all-terrain wheel chairs and adaptive games), visits each participant at camp once a week, and remains available 24 hours a day to respond to emergency pager calls.
The $50,000 TUFF grant means the addition of 35 children in camp spaces, which, in turn, represents 245 days of respite to the families of those children – many of whom would otherwise have to pay at least $16/hr for caregiving services in their home.
“That equals $94,080 worth of respite, so we were able to parlay $50,000 in to more than $94,000,” Trella said.
“And more than that, there’s the impact on the children…the stories we have witnessed are endless, and just so powerful.”
The Boys and Girls Club of London, Doorsteps Neighbourhood Services in Toronto and Perth Avenue Public School/St. Luigi Catholic School in Toronto were named as the other three winners of MLSE’s $50,000 TUFF grant.