Friday, September 30, 2005

Raise a Reader Campaign

Hey everyone,

Story of interest from today's paper. For more information on Raise a Reader you can visit:

We didn't benefit from any of the fundraising in Ottawa, but Frontier College in Toronto was one of the beneficiaries.



PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2005.09.30
BYLINE: Alex Hutchinson

$82,500 collected for Raise a Reader campaign: 325 volunteers hit the streets

In exchange for donations to the Raise a Reader program, an army of newspaper hawkers greeted downtown commuters with free copies of the Citizen as they exited their buses yesterday morning.

About $82,500 was raised for children's literacy programs in Ottawa, including $11,500 collected by more than 325 volunteers who staked out downtown street corners, Tunney's Pasture and at the Ottawa International Airport before 7 a.m.

Similar campaigns were held in 12 other cities across Canada, as part of an initiative by the CanWest Global Foundation that has raised more than $2.8 million for literacy programs.

The rain and strong winds during the morning commuter rush didn't stop volunteers such as Shirley Tam, a Citizen employee who has participated every year since the Raise a Reader program started in 2002. "The first year was freezing, and the second year was pouring," said Ms. Tam, as she braved the elements on Metcalfe Street.

Commuters juggled umbrellas and ducked into bus shelters as they fumbled for change, and the occasional $10 or even $20 bill.

"It's a good cause," said Diane Waddell, who paused to pick up a paper as she came out of the Rideau Centre on her way to work at National Defence Headquarters. Her children like to read "sometimes," she said. "I try to encourage them, but sometimes it's hard."

On Sparks Street, a pair of 12-year-olds from St. Paul's School were doing a booming business and happily endorsed the day's goals.

"I love to read, mostly chapter books like the Harry Potter series," said Allysha Van Tol, a first-time volunteer.

"My dad usually has the newspaper open on the table, and if something catches my eye, I read it," added Alana Hutcheson.

"And the comics too," Allysha added.

In addition to the funds raised by the hawkers, all proceeds from single-copy sales of the Citizen yesterday were donated.

Corporate sponsors included Assante Wealth Management, which contributed $20,000 to the Ottawa campaign.

The national tally for yesterday's event won't be in for a couple of days.

"It is very gratifying to see community leaders, CanWest staff and our partners come together for such an important cause," said David Asper, executive vice-president CanWest Global Communications Corp., who donned a bright orange T-shirt and handed out papers in front of CanWest's head office in Winnipeg.

"Literacy is at the core of creating opportunity for our children, and as they go, so does the future of our country. Based on the tremendous response from people all across the country, I would say the Raise a Reader effort is striking home, with nothing but better things to come."

The funds will be distributed to schools, hospitals and community groups in the Ottawa area through a grant administration process.

These grants have played a crucial role in supporting literacy programs at places like the Ontario Children's Treatment Centre, which received funds in two previous years to help children with special needs.

"If you have a child, five or six years old, who can't talk and maybe can't move, learning to read and write is extremely important," said Patricia Shapiro, director of the centre foundation. "It will be their only means of communication."

Previous grants have supported the purchase of computer equipment and software that help children with conditions such as cerebral palsy and autism learn to read and write. About 30 children in the Ottawa area attend the treatment centre. The resources are also made available to school boards in the region.

This year, the centre hopes to obtain funding for a specialized five-person team to focus on teaching children who can't speak, learn to read and write.

"This makes the difference between whether they remain dependent all their life, or become independent as adults," Ms. Shapiro said.

"There's a bright, intelligent person in there, but the body just does not respond. They need a chance to get out and live their life, and reading is the real key."


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