Slaight Family Foundation Gives $11 Million to 11 Canadian Charities

By Perry Stern 2/11/16 |

The Slaight Family: (L to R) Ali, Gary, Chrissy and Donna — photo credit: Gary Beechey.
Toronto’s The Slaight Family Foundation (SFF) has announced that 11 Canadian national charities that serve children and youth will each receive a donation of $1 million. The selection of the recipients is part of the Foundation’s strategic approach to philanthropy, with the aim of assisting groups that aid the healthy development of vulnerable children and youth.

The charities include the Rick Hansen Foundation, Children’s Wish Foundation, Children’s Aid Foundation, Kids Help Phone, Canadian Feed the Children, Frontier College, Pathways to Education Canada, Breakfast Club of Canada, Canadian Red Cross, CANFAR and Special Olympics Canada.

“Each of the organizations and their programs are ensuring that children and youth are supported in all areas of their lives.  By focusing on younger Canadians, they are shaping the future of our country,” said Gary Slaight, president and CEO of the Foundation, in a statement.

The SFF was established in 2008, after the family sold its broadcasting assets for more than $1 billion,  and has supported initiatives aimed at health care, social services, arts and culture, with an emphasis on projects that help disadvantaged and at risk youth.  (Full disclosure: The Slaight Family Foundation is a supporter of

The donations will be distributed in $250,000 instalments over the next four years and the funding will enable the groups to start new initiatives or expand current services.

“Over the past several months, we worked closely with each of these organizations who identified projects that support the health and development of children across Canada,” Slaight said at the press announcement this week at Daniel Spectrum’s Ada Slaight Hall.  “Each of these projects touch on a different but equally important initiative that will improve the physical, mental and social well being of children across Canada. It’s our family’s hope that these resources will help our most vulnerable children lead healthy, successful and positive lives.”

The CEOs for each organization were on hand to receive their first cheques, thank the Slaight family and explain how the funds will be specifically used for children and youth oriented initiatives.

Rick Hansen Foundation

Founder and CEO Rick Hansen said that his Foundation will expand their Youth Ambassador program, “to bring people with disabilities to share their real life stories, so that they can actually translate the ideas into the human experience.” While accessibility has long been an important goal for the disabled, inclusion and participation in all aspects of life is the next great challenge and, says Hansen, “the key to that is youth. Youth are going to be the champions of that change.”


Kids Help Phone

Established 26 years ago, Kids Help Phone’s 24/7 phone lines have assisted thousands of youths with issues of depression, abuse, suicide and drug use. With technology changing the way we communicate, the service has recognized the need for an equally available online presence.  President and CEO Sharon Wood explained that SFF funds will, “increase live chat counseling capacity, which is not seven days a week yet.”  The service will make one-on-one encounters accessible to thousands more young people, including those in remote communities with few other options for help.


Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada

The Slaight Family donation will help underwrite the Children’s Wish Foundation’s ability to grant wishes to children with serious neurological and genetic diagnoses. These at-risk children have complex care and mobility challenges and are highly dependent on their families for daily activities. Each wish is planned with the children and their families to enjoy respite from their illnesses, a renewed sense of hope and to memories to last a lifetime.


Canadian Feed the Children

CFC will continue to fund Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, a national First Nations food security program, designed to reach 20 First Nations communities by 2020. The vision is to help build transformative and sustainable change by expanding beyond school feeding and implementing community-led food security programs, which will help children and communities thrive for generations to come. “At a time when 40 percent of aboriginal children live below the poverty line,” CFC president and CEO Debra Kirby says, “we are thrilled to be able to roll out a program that goes beyond the schools, engaging parents and elders in terms of community gardens, honoring the traditions of First Nations’ foods and meals and rituals.”


Children’s Aid Foundation

The Right at Home Program was created as a national housing support program serving and improving outcomes of youth who grow out of the child welfare system. “Every year we have a ‘graduation’ of young people, approximately 2,300 nationally, who age out of the system and it’s probably one of the sorriest graduation days you can imagine,” offered the foundation’s CEO and president, Valerie McMurtry. “These young kids look into their future where they leave behind the supports the child welfare system has provided, and the future looks very grim.” The first national initiative of its kind, the program will provide important help, such as first and last months’ rent and moving expenses in three large municipalities where such youths are most congregated: Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.


Frontier College

With the SFF’s donation, Frontier College will recruit 30 new youth literacy interns annually for the next four years, and support many volunteer and community-run initiatives. The program services 16,000 kids across Canada and has established Aboriginal Summer Literacy Camps in 99 First Nations communities to date. The donation will fund 10 more camps and, as a result, they will help over 4,000 marginalized children and youth strengthen their literacy skills.


Pathways to Education Canada

Pathways will use their donation to establish the Slaight Family At-Risk Youth Scholarship Fund, which will provide 275 students with post-secondary school scholarships, and support the efforts of over 5,000 more to stay in school with the goal of post-secondary study.


Breakfast Club of Canada

This organization already provides healthy breakfasts for 150,000 kids across Canada each day. The SFF’s donation will help bring breakfast programs to 20 additional underserviced communities, eight of which are aboriginal, specifically in remote Saskatchewan and Alberta. The Breakfast Club also provides financial support for groceries and kitchen equipment and teaches best practice guidelines for planning, shopping and creating healthy menus.


Canadian Red Cross

“With this generous donation,” Red Cross VP Tanya Elliot announced, “we are going [to launch] the Healthy Youth Relationships Program,” an anti-violence, anti-bullying educational program lead by youths. “What we’ve found through our experiences working over the past 20 years is that when you empower and help your peers, that’s when change happens,” she said. Kids in over 700 schools will be offered training and certification in the program to help and support other students.

Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research

CANFAR president and CEO, Christopher Bunting said, “We have a significant high school program that’s been running for over 20 years that reaches about 2.5 million kids each year with messages about HIV and AIDS. Where we have much more difficulty is reaching that 10 percent of kids who are not in the mainstream education system, who are marginalized, who are more vulnerable. Kids who are in a number of aboriginal communities, LGBT communities. This $1 million over four years will allow us to partner with youth community groups and really work to get at those kids… and also engage those kids in the process. So that will increase our chances of actually having effective dialogue – effective interactions – with that group. All part of a larger strategy to bring an end to AIDS in Canada through both research and education.”


Special Olympics Canada

Operating in Canada since 1969, the Special Olympics has two programs specifically developed for young people. The Active Start program is for kids 2-6, and the FUNdamentals program is for kids 10 – 12. The SFF donation will be spread amongst the organization’s 12 Provincial and Territorial Chapters, targeting kids with intellectual disabilities who aren’t getting proper support opportunities in their communities, and help them lead active and healthy lives.

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