St. Marys Journal Argus
Family members of all ages will be able to get behind the wheel of their dream vehicle, as the Hope for Haiti and Evan’s Touch the Truck charitable organizations have once again intentionally chosen the same date for the 2014 versions of auto-themed fundraisers.
A highlight of the twin-action attraction on Saturday, Sept. 13 will be a performance in downtown St. Marys at 11 a.m. by the Golden Helmets, a precision motorcycle troupe from the Ontario Provincial Police, who have accepted an invitation from Evan’s Touch the Truck organizer Ashley Agar.
Evan’s Touch the Truck will mark its fourth year of supporting the Childcan organization for patients and families of patients with childhood cancer from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on The Flats. It features a wide array of specialized machines and vehicles, graciously provided for the day by various emergency service providers, local businesses and individuals, available for youngsters to explore.
Hope for Haiti’s “Test Drive 4UR School” — being given a slight renaming this year in recognition of two factors: the destination of Hope For Haiti’s portion of the proceeds; and the organization’s new partner in the second annual event — takes place, meanwhile, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. across Trout Creek from the big machinery, on the south side of the historic Water Street Bridge in parking lots owned by the Town of St. Marys and McLean-Taylor Construction.
Organizers of the Test Drive 4UR School sat down with the Journal Argus last week to provide details of their event.
The “Test Drive” concept comes from the Ford of Canada corporation, and is offered through Ford dealerships across the country. Last year, in what Hope for Haiti member Murray Mitchell said was described to him as “one of the best-organized Test Drives in the country,” the St. Marys Ford dealership partnered with Hope for Haiti and the Rotary Club of St. Marys to put on the very first “Test Drive” in the Stonetown.
For the event, one resident of each household can sign up to take a short, five-minute test drive of a new Ford vehicle, a range of which will be on display and available to be driven at the McLean-Taylor parking lot. For every test drive taken, Ford of Canada donates $20 to the charitable cause.
Last year, the Rotary Club and Hope for Haiti split a $6,000 haul. Mitchell notes, however, that the one-person-per-household limit is strictly enforced by the automobile company; drivers’ licenses are checked before the person is handed the keys, and if two people from the same address end up in the Test Drive database from that day, Ford will only make its donation for one.
This year, in place of the Rotary Club, the outdoor “Forest School” program at Little Falls Public School in St. Marys has stepped in as the co-organizer of the event. That gives the 2014 event a distinctly educational theme, given that this year’s Hope for Haiti proceeds are also destined to make things better for students.
“Our money is going to be used to help build a high school on the outskirts of St. Marc, Haiti,” explained Mitchell. “Construction will get underway as soon as we get title to the land.”
Hope for Haiti, as the name of the organization suggests, has been active for many years in the Caribbean island nation. Its main project started out as an immunization and healthcare clinic in Gilbert, about a half-hour walk (sometimes longer if you go by car, due to the poor condition and circuitous nature of the road) from St. Marc — one of Haiti’s largest cities. That “clinic” has since grown to include a nurses’ residence, dormitory and other structures, and the clinic has since been upgraded to a hospital.
The group is also active elsewhere in the world, including in the central African nation of Uganda, where a high school was one of its projects. But this is the first secondary school project for the group in Haiti.
“It will cost around $35,000 to build,” explained Mitchell. “It will be five classrooms and an office, cement block with metal roof and cement floor, plus latrines. We have 200 students who have signed up.”
Mitchell expects, however, that this will be one of the last buildings the organization will construct in Haiti, since they’re being forced into a shifting of resources towards the operation of the hospital and its associated facilities. The planned school, he notes, will be self-sustaining through tuition (the Haitian government currently only funds elementary education), but Hope for Haiti is losing its Canadian International Development Agency support for the hospital. So it looks like, in the future, they’ll be on their own to make sure it continues to receive ongoing funding.
“They vaccinated 3,000 kids there last year, and it supplies around 10,000 people in the area with adequate healthcare,” Mitchell stressed.
Families in other countries aren’t the only concern for Hope for Haiti members, who come from across Ontario but with a significant proportion living here in St. Marys. That’s why, when the Rotary Club suggested that another partner be found for the Test Drive event, the international aid organization looked for something that would benefit local families. And, since this year’s proceeds are going towards a school, it seemed appropriate that this year’s fundraising partner should also be school-related.
The Forest School program at Little Falls is expanding this year from one class to three. Last year, one of the school’s Grade 2 class spent almost every single Wednesday — rain or shine; sleet or snow — at the Wildwood-area farm property of Steve and Cobi Sauder. Cobi Sauder, who worked with the classroom teacher to deliver curriculum, was hired through a provincial government grant secured for the school by the Avon Maitland District School Board. Parents, through a democratic process that included the option for some families to anonymously pay more than their share to cover for anyone who couldn’t afford it, agreed to fund the cost of busing.
This year, one Kindergarten class and an additional Grade 2 class will join Forest School.
“The money that we raise will go towards maintaining the site and paying for Cobi, as well as professional development for the teachers and whatever materials we need,” explained Little Falls Kindergarten teacher Fran Vanderschot, who’s helping with this year’s Test Drive organizing committee.
Participants in the Test Drive 4UR School fundraiser are encouraged to sign up in advance by contacting Vanderschot at 519-284-1133, Mitchell at 519-284-3625, or Ron Aitken at 519-284-2110.