Students Darius Facey and brothers Jelani and Amari Ishmael were excited on learning that they would be allowed to miss morning classes so they could attend the Toronto Police Service United Way campaign launch September 14.
They were thrilled to represent the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Club – a United Way member agency – in a five-minute stationary bike race against three 51 Division officers as part of the festivities.
Not only did they beat the officers, but they were presented with the bikes, helmets and other riding accessories.
“This is sweet,” said seven-year-old Facey. “I wasn’t expecting this.”
To kick start this year’s campaign, Superintendent Scott Gilbert presented $500 on behalf of the Senior Officers' Organization and Toronto Police Association chair Mike McCormack made a presentation of $5,000 on behalf of his organization.
“Just like policing, United Way is part of the social fabric that makes this a great city,” said McCormack. “Having experienced working in at-risk neighborhoods, I know we are giving people an alternative to lifestyles that can be detrimental to them.”
Susan McIsaac, the United Way Toronto & York Region President & CEO, graciously accepted the cheques.
Noting that the TPS kick-off is often filled with enthusiasm and fun, she said it’s what the Service does year-round that truly builds a livable city.
“When I think about the programs we fund across the city and so many individuals whose lives are impacted by the investment you make in us, I would say to you that my colleagues working on the frontline are constantly talking about the benefit of working in partnership with Toronto Police,” she said. “You are on the frontline working in the same communities we are in and you are our partners making a difference in building the communities that we all want to live in… You are truly an extraordinary group of people and you make our city a better and safer place.”
Recognizing he has some of the most charitable men and women working for him, Chief Mark Saunders is confident the Service will make another significant donation to United Way this year.
“We as a police agency understand the importance of those agencies that help people that are in need,” he said. “Nobody knows that better than us because each and every day, that’s what we do. We go to calls and help people daily…. Even though some of us are struggling, we know that there are those who are struggling even more than us. And so it’s so important to contribute.”
Toronto Police has contributed nearly $5 million to the United Way over the last 10 years.
“That’s a major donation, but we have got a long way to go,” said Saunders. “That’s why this year is going to be an even more exciting year. United Way is not just about the money. It’s about re-instilling hope and self-worth, which is important to any person.”
This year’s United Way theme is Build up the Person, Build up the Community.
“By supporting individuals, providing them with much needed social resources as well as encouragement and most importantly hope, we will truly strengthen our neighbourhoods,” said Toronto Police Services Board chair Andy Pringle. “…We are committed to the importance of building, strengthening and empowering the neighbourhoods in our city in order to increase crime prevention and create safer communities right across the city. I believe that the efforts by our Service and Board are very much aligned with the work of United Way.”
Last year, Toronto Police raised $503,400 and the 99 leadership donors brought in $136,000.
“I think this is a strong testament to the generosity of our Service members and their commitment to our city,” added Pringle. “I am also confident that it sets a bar to challenges for this year and I am confident that by working together, we will do even better.”
Staff Superintendent Rick Stubbings, the chair of the Service’s campaign committee, has set this year’s Service fundraising goal at $500,000.