South Pole trek aids Hamilton Catholic schools

  • April 6, 2009
{mosimage}A trek to the South Pole helped raise $101,595 for schools within the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board.

Four Hamilton, Ont.-area businessmen — Peter Turkstra, president of Turkstra Lumber, Steve Stipsits, owner of Branthaven Homes, Fred Losani, CEO of Losani Homes, and Mark MacLennan, director of manufacturing for The Econo-Rack Group Inc. — set out on their South Pole for Kids adventure in December in support of 35 charities that would provide help to underprivileged children. They raised $550,000 to support local causes.

Losani said they chose charities where they knew the money would go directly to helping the children. The Catholic school board had been particularly pleasant to work with after the group’s 2006 fundraising trip to the North Pole which Losani, Turkstra and Stipsits had completed with two other men, raising a half-million dollars.
The men say they love extreme sports and decided there was no better reason to tackle these geographical challenges than for the children.

“I knew Peter through business and one day at an event, he crossed the room and said ‘Fred, do you want to go to the North Pole?’ The whole thing just made sense,” Losani said.

The trip didn’t come without its difficulties. MacLennan had to leave the South Pole early because of frostbite and bad weather caused the other three to be stuck there over Christmas.

But with a live feed, the men kept in touch with not only family, but many students in the Hamilton area. Since the trip, the team has spoken at more than 30 schools and done presentations for companies interested in their efforts.

“You engage them (the children) in the excitement of the adventure,” he said. “But I find the questions they ask are much more informed than the CEOs we present to.”

Losani said he and the other men recognized that children in Hamilton are hit especially hard when it comes to proper nourishment, as the average person in Hamilton is closer to poverty than most Canadians.

“These guys had to be in top shape, first of all, and then raise the funds,” said Ed Bradica, principal of Special Projects/Equal Opportunities, the program in the Catholic school board that leads the nourishment program for its 10 identified schools in need.

He said the expedition got 29  Hamilton Catholic schools involved in the fundraising efforts. Despite fundraising in the past, they have never come anywhere near the amount generated by the North Pole and South Pole expeditions.

“Prior to Top of the World (the North Pole trip) we had received very limited and inconsistent funding on a school per school basis,” he said.

The money received in 2006 stretched well into last year.

“We know that kids learn when they are fed, and in a time of economic downturn, Hamilton has been hard hit,” he said. “It was sure to be an exciting event but it (also) became part of the curriculum. Geography lessons, lessons in direct communication, reading the newspaper and more all tied to the adventure.”

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