TORONTO — While in-person accessible camps are still unable to operate in many parts of Canada, Easter Seals is offering modified camp experiences for kids with disabilities. Virtual camps were a big hit in 2020 with all but two provinces having campers attend. All in, there were 10,500 campers per day and the learning platforms that provincial members built also provided the opportunity for other learning experiences throughout the year. Despite a very difficult year, We Care raised $600,000, which contributed to more than 10,000 virtual camp days. Its first Virtual Gala, held last year, raised $76,000.
With virtual camps returning for the 2021 season, last night, the hospitality industry once again came together at the We Care Goes to Camp 2021 Virtual Gala to support this vital work, raising $91,000 in a single evening.
The event included Zoom breakout rooms, an online gaming experience that helps bring camp to life, live-streamed entertainment, a silent auction, prize draws and Gala at Home boxes filled with food from the We Care Gala sponsors. There were also video messages from Easter Seals campers talking about what camp means to them.
“To be able to come back [to camp] get my independence for those few days was a big part of it, but was also to reconnect with friends,” said camper Sydney. “It was a reminder that you can do anything you put your mind to, especially when the days get tough.”
The winners of the annual We Care awards were also announced. Emily De Boer, who attends Emily Carr University of Art and Design, was awarded the Kevin Collins Abilities Scholarship, while Deborah Jackson of Aramark Canada, won the Gary Wright Humanitarian Award.
“I’m honoured to be the recipient of this year’s Gary Wright Humanitarian Award. When I looked up the definition of humanitarian, it means having concern or wanting to help improve the lives and the welfare and the happiness of other people. I volunteer and I fundraise because it makes a difference in people’s lives. And I think we all have the same passion.”
The We Care Corporate Friend Award was handed out to Unilever Food Solutions — one of We Care’s original member sponsors since 1984.
Randy White, the winner of the 2021 We Care Hall of Fame award, has been in the foodservice industry for more than 40 years and has led Sysco Canada as president since 2012. The company has been a member sponsor of We Care since its inception and has raised more than $1.4 million for the charity through annual event participation, sponsorships and in-office fundraisers.
“I do want to shout out to the entire foodservice community food services — it’s great to be with all of you. I wish we could be together in person but we’ll have to wait one more year for that,” said White. “Our long-time support of We Care has been extremely rewarding. This foodservice industry-wide effort is so rewarding. We’ve pushed our fundraising limits to new heights over many years and I’m very proud of these numerous events we’ve done and engaged in together to challenge our industry to step up. What we have done together over the years is significant. We’ve done this and we brought great joy to many We Care children.”
We Care is made up of more than 80 members sponsors from the foodservice and hospitality industry, whose membership fees cover all the organization’s administrative costs, which means every dollar donated and raised during annual events goes directly to sending kids or disabilities to accessible camps. We Care is Easter Seals Canada’s largest annual contributor.