Motivated by eight young student ambassadors and Chief Mark Saunders, who joined him down the homestretch, Superintendent Heinz Kuck pushed and pulled a steel sled that reached 400 pounds to help his community.
The Push for Literacy, which began at 11 Division, where he’s the unit commander, took a three-kilometre route to the Dovercourt Boys & Girls Club on June 16 to raise money to buy books for their refurbished library.
Pushing his body to the limit for nearly two hours in sweltering heat, Kuck raised $10,611.30.
Starting off with 100 pounds, he added weight plates every 0.5 kilometres and allowed young club members to speak about the challenges youth face in the city.
“It was their speaking and words that inspired me along the way,” he said. “Hearing them speak about the trials and tribulations of inner city youth and how valuable reading, writing and literacy are was the spark for me to add weight to the sled to show vicariously the weight that’s on young people.”
Kuck said the event was a good way to build and solidify police and community relations.
“The city has its challenges and we as a Service can do one thing in regards to enforcement,” he said. “But of equal importance is what we do together as a community not only in how I can earn your trust, but also your respect so that we can bring books into the hands of young people and not guns and weapons. Those books become a factor in raising leaders and ambassadors.”
Javier Vasquez was one of the student ambassadors that encouraged Kuck along the journey.
“I believe literacy is good and fun for everyone because it can be a great way to spend your time,” said the 11-year-old. “Reading books can be very good for your vocabulary and grammar and it helps you to communicate easily with others.”
Chief Saunders joined the journey during the final push towards the club centre on Westmoreland Ave.
“When we talk about heroes, I look at this man and the amazing things he does,” he said. “All of his events are about others first. He fully grasps the importance of investing in our young people… He and all of the other officers understand the importance also of developing relationships.”
Davenport Member of Parliament Julie Dzerowicz and Member of Provincial Parliament-elect Marit Stiles were at the finish line to greet Kuck who spent several months preparing for the rigorous event.
“He’s such a champion in our community,” said Dzerowicz. “He is someone who has done some wonderful outreach and he never stops at coming up with creative ways to support and create a better community.”
Stiles acknowledged Kuck’s innovation and tenacity and the community benefit derived from his fundraiser.
“This is near and dear to my heart as my own child has made use of this club over the years,” she said. “I am very familiar with the important role it plays for so many of our families and kids. As a former school board trustee, I know how important it is going to be for the library to be refurbished and for our children to be able to access books.”
City councillor Ana Bailao was at 11 Division for the start of the event.
“The police go beyond just their daily duties,” she said. “What they are doing today is more than just raising funds. They are building our community, getting to know our community, getting the trust and saying we have a role in the growth of this community. For that, we really need to thank them because that is the kind of policing we want in Toronto.”
Kuck did a similar fundraiser for the club two years ago that raised over $10,000 to buy music instruments.
He completed the distance with a sled weighing 300 pounds.
“Both times were difficult and the rewards are the same,” he added. “I will do it again.”
Student ambassador Shania DaSilva watched Kuck push and pull the sled.
“I was with my mom and seeing the weights on that sled reminded me of books,” said the youth ambassador. “He is like Santa bringing books for us.”
Dr. Sheldon Taylor, the club’s executive director, thanked Kuck for his contribution.
“This Push for Literacy is geared at boys and girls between the ages of two-and-a-half years and 17,” he said. “We are shaping the future and ensuring that our community remains truly democratic, thanks to Heinz and Toronto Police who are always here for us. They are part of what we call the Dovercourt Family.”
Learn more at the Push For Literacy Fundraising Webpage