Students at St. Benedict Catholic High School in Cambridge Ont., show their appreciation on the soon-to-be upgraded sports field for the $100,000 awarded to it by the Aviva Community Fund to help pay for those improvements. Photo courtesy of Anton Millardovic

School’s grant goes to the ‘Heart of the Community’

  • February 21, 2015

A Catholic school in southwestern Ontario is hoping to foster a culture of fitness within its community with the $100,000 it was awarded from the Aviva Community Fund.

Cambridge, Ont.’s St. Benedict Catholic High School received the top award from the Aviva Community Fund, a grant program through Aviva Insurance that provides financial assistance to local initiatives that will have a positive impact throughout the entire community. So far the fund has donated about $1 million to projects across Canada.

“It is pretty fantastic actually,” said Dan Witt, principal of St. Benedict, after receiving the award. “We are trying to develop that culture of a healthy school and active living.”

Dubbed The Heart of the Community, St. Benedict’s winning idea was to improve its outdoor sports facilities, specifically by adding a large scoreboard to the athletic field as well as fitness obstacles around the stadium’s six-lane track.

Once completed these upgrades would be for the use of both the students and the broader community for many years, said Witt — which was key to the school’s winning proposal.

“What we hear back from Aviva was that the community-based nature of it, the potential for sustainable change over time and the broader reach to the community, was really what helped us succeed,” said Witt.

To be eligible for the grant, the school put forward a proposal to Aviva which Witt credits to Tamara Johnson, a local parent with children attending St. Benedict’s.

“She works with a seniors home which had a successful bid for a $50,000 installation of a fitness centre,” he said.

“She was the inspiration for it. She really saw how the fund could enhance our facilities.”  

The proposal, which appeared on the Aviva Community Fund web site as of Sept. 27, was subjected to internal approval before being put forward for a number of rounds of 10-day online voting. After three rounds of public voting the proposal found itself in a group 10 projects from which St. Benedict’s was selected number one by a panel of judges.

To help raise awareness of their initiative and to garner votes, students from the school lobbied local residents for support.

“We put a lot of work into it,” Sevanna Ghazarian, a student at the school, said. “It’s great to see it paying off.”

Local businesses such as Stevenson and Hunt Insurance Brokers also got behind the project by partnering with the school.

“It truly is making the whole community better,” said Tanya Diehl, a spokesperson for Stevenson and Hunt.

Those kind of community connections will be critical going forward with the project, said Witt, as he estimated an additional $30,000 will be needed to complete the project.

“The overall budget is in excess of $100,000 so we will have to continue to do some work to bridge some of the funding gaps between the total scope of our project and the $100,000 that we have,” said Witt.

“Giving back to the community, connecting with the community, being able to make a tangible difference in the community really is consistent with our vision and it is not just something that is words to us.”

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