• United Way Oakville pulls together for those in need

    This article was published on September 21, 2016

    2016 campaign fundraising goal set at $4.5M

    The community pulled together — literally — Tuesday (Sept. 20) to kick off the United Way Oakville's (UWO) 2016 campaign.

    The campaign will now see local businesses, agencies and community partners join in a variety of fundraiser in hopes of raising this year's $4.5 million fundraising campaign goal, which will help support 31 human and social agencies supporting more than 34,000 people in Oakville.

    Those agencies work to help children thrive, lift struggling residents out of poverty and build stronger neighbourhoods within Oakville.

    More than 300 people from the business, labour, government and non-profit sectors took part in the 6th annual Bus Pull Tuesday — itself a fundraiser, which took in more than $30,000. That was far above the $23,000 it had hoped for and organizers hope the result is a harbinger of the upcoming UWO campaign’s success.

    Under relentless sunshine, as sweat trickled down their grimacing faces, participants on 22 teams faced off in friendly competition pulling two Oakville Transit buses, each weighing 33,000 pounds, 20 feet across the finish line.

    UWO Campaign Chair Terry Smith said the annual event is a fun way to drum up support and get people excited about doing their part to help the Oakville community.

    Funds raised help support the work of the 31 social service agencies.

    "These agencies are everything from the Distress Centre, which helps youths in high distress, to the Food for Life program that takes food that would otherwise be thrown away and gets it to people in need," Smith shared, noting one in every five Oakville residents needs help for various reasons.

    There are also a number of other groups the funds support, including Community Living Oakville and Lighthouse for Grieving Children, to name a few.

    Last year the UWO's campaign surpassed its $4.3 million fundraising goal by $100,000.

    Smith said he's hopeful this year’s campaign will reach its target.

    "The way I look at it, the money we raise in the campaign is really just the fuel to keep these agencies operating," he said. " I think of it as a web of people tied together. These agencies employ people, they have volunteers, all those people have the opportunity to do good work in the town and our goal is to help fund that."

    He said everyone plays a part in supporting the health of the community.

    Smith, who has a son with autism, said he is personally familiar with the value and importance of charity work and is a "real believer" in the work UWO does.

    If the bus pull was any indication of how successful the rest of this year's campaign will be, UWO is on the right footing.

    "We're pleased that we beat the goal and obviously it's a tiny down-payment on the $4.5 million, but that's a good start," said Smith, adding, "With the amazing turnout this year, I believe we can make an impressive impact in the fight against inequality."

    UWO CEO Brad Park said the teams in the bus pull show what can be accomplished when "we pull together.”

    "Everyone here has so much heart and we feel lucky to have such strong champions come together for United Way," he said. 

    Brenda Hajdu, executive director of Food for Life, was among a number of agency leaders participating on teams named Together, and, We Are Possibility.

    It was all in the "spirit of collaboration," she said, noting many spent weeks ahead of the event, rallying support and raising funds.

    "The strength really comes from the community and not necessarily from strength-training," Hajdu said about preparing for the challenge.

    While catching her breath after the two teams (Together and We Are Possibility) came in at 46 seconds and 48 seconds, respectively, Hajdu described the bus pull as a gruelling experience.

    Still, everyone is a winner, especially those who reply on agencies to deliver programs and services, she said.

    "The United Way is fundamental in the community because they do a tremendous job at raising awareness of services that are available to people when they're in need and it's a great opportunity for the people of the Town of Oakville to support their fellow neighbour," said Hajdu. "The United Way is also important because without the United Way, the agencies can't deliver on the programs. They bring critical operating funds to our operation so we can continue to distribute fresh food to more than 9,000 clients who visit per month in Oakville."

    Commuity Living Oakville (CLO) Executive Director Janet Lorimer agreed, saying the UWO helps fund the CLO’s day support programs for young people no longer in the school system.

    "We really value their partnership," she said, as she cheered on the Community Living Chargers team that crossed the finish line in just under 36 seconds.

    Hugo Troccoli, a Chargers team member and CLO support worker and transition planner, said his agency’s partnership with UWO allows the agency, and others, to support a more inclusive community.

    "I want families to see the people we support are out there and having meaningful opportunities in the community," he said, as CLO clients also cheered on their team, waving signs and filming the action.

    "We've got a really supportive and tight community here and any opportunity we have to get out into the community and participate, we do."

    Other participating teams included the Halton Regional Police, Oakville Fire Department, Oakville Town Council and Oakville Transit. Oakville Hydro, Levitt, local banks and Manulife, the latter being presenting sponsor, also took part.

    Although the Oakville Fire team edged that from Halton police with a time of 23 seconds in their first match-up, the police team took home bragging rights in a rematch during the finals. Halton police finished with 21.80 seconds.

    For more information or to donate to the UWO campaign, visit uwoakville.org.

    Link to the full article: wym-1477699715445