(Community Works is a monthly column highlighting business involvement in community and charitable programs.)
Connecting people is something Chris Leach knows all about.
An employee of Bell Canada, Leach could tell you all about how wires, lines and waves make distance communication possible. As a volunteer with the Bell Walk for Kids, Leach could also tell you about how this fund-raiser works to connect troubled young people to the information and resources they need through the Kids Help Phone.
Unique in Canada, the Kids Help Phone is a national telephone counselling, referral and Internet service for children and youth. Toll-free and bilingual, it operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and is staffed by professional counsellors.
“Some kids may not have the support structure others of us grew up with,” says Leach. “Whether it’s to ask the smallest question or talk about something deeper, I think it’s important they have somewhere to turn.”
In 2002, counsellors for Kids Help Phone and the subsidiary Parent Help Line answered more than 360,000 calls and online questions from children, youth, parents and caregivers from almost 3,000 Canadian communities. Of those communities, 281 were in Alberta, and generated more than 16,000 calls on issues ranging from sexual, physical and emotional abuse to bullying and dating violence. Anonymity provides callers with a safe environment in which to access information, and a database of over 30,000 children’s services allows counselors to connect callers to resources in their own community – wherever it may be.
“Last year, Kids Help Phone saw an increase of seven per cent in calls from children and an increase of 230 per cent in website traffic,” says Alberta regional director Diane Colley-Urquhart. “The only obstacle to our growth is lack of funds.”
Because the service does not receive funding from the United Way or ongoing government support, it relies on contributions.
Enter Bell Canada. With more than 45,000 employees, Bell Canada is one of the nation’s largest employers, and has taken a leadership role in corporate citizenship practices. Designated a Caring Company through the Imagine Program, Bell provides funding initiatives in education, health, community investment, arts and culture, sports and the environment.
“Our involvement with Kids Help Phone is another way for Bell to give back to the communities it serves across the country,” adds Bell spokesperson Gina Gottenberg.
Bell made a 13-year commitment to Kids Help Phone and was a sponsor of the inaugural walk last year, which attracted 15,000 participants from more than 20 locations and generated more than $1,000,000. With even more locations this year, Bell looks to build on that success.
“We are delighted to be the title sponsor this year, (and) are hoping to raise $1.5 million,” Gottenberg says.
Bell Walk for Kids happens May 4 across the country, with Alberta participants in Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge and Red Deer. Many of those participants will be Bell employees such as Chris Leach, who will walk as a team captain. He plans to further raise the bar on his participation by garnering more personal pledges than last year. “I want to help the best I can,” Leach says.
It is through the support of such people and programs that organizations such as Bell can literally walk the talk of corporate social leadership.
* Enerflex MS Super Cities Walk (Edmonton, May 25, Calgary, June 1)
* Calgary Int’l Children’s Festival, (May 20-24)
* Northern Alberta International Children’s Festival (St. Albert, May 27-29)
(Karen Ritchie hosts the Community File on QR77 Radio in Calgary. Send your corporate/community event listing to firstname.lastname@example.org)