(Community Works is a monthly column highlighting business involvement in community and charitable programs.)
When a child with spina bifida gets to go to camp for a couple of weeks, or a youth with cerebral palsy learns to swim, it might not change the world, but it can make a huge difference to that person’s quality of life.
Most often, it’s a difference that’s only made possible by the contributions of small business to small programs.
The Paralympic Sports Association provides sport and recreational opportunities for people of all ages with physical disabilities. Matthew Korobanik is the marketing and fund-raising co-ordinator.
“Because the big money tends to follow the big charities, we’ve found that most of our money is coming from the community. It’s small business that makes the biggest difference nowadays,” he says.
It’s an opinion echoed by Suzanne Jackett, executive director of Between Friends Club for Youth with Disabilities, when describing how a small business such as Alberta Computer Cable (ACC) has an impact on the Skate-a-Kid to Camp program.
Now in its 10th year, Skate-A-Kid to Camp is a three-hour team relay that raises funds for children living with disabilities to attend a two-week summer day camp.
“I think ACC probably fund-raises an average of $10,000 a year for us – and Louise is definitely the driving force.”
The reference is to Louise Nesterenko, co-owner of Alberta Computer Cable. Fuelled by a passion that stems from having a parent with a disability, Nesterenko’s association with Between Friends began several years ago when she first looked into organizations that helped people with disabilities.
She was impressed that 100 per cent of the funds raised for Skate-A-Kid to Camp goes to the children, paying the way for many who might not otherwise be able to attend.
“I didn’t want kids to go through what my mom did,” she explains.
Adopting the program as her own, Nesterenko took her cause to work.
With a staff of 65 employees, Alberta Computer Cable now raises funds year-round.
In addition to gathering teams and pledges for Skate-a-Kid to Camp, employees contribute to bottle drives, cookie sales, barbeques, 50/50 draws and silent auctions.
All the money individuals raise is credited as that employee’s donation to the cause, and the resulting competition contributes to an invigorating work environment.
“It’s a great community-builder inside our company. It’s very positive. Even our customers know you can’t walk into ACC and not know we’re supporting Between Friends.”
If an impact can be made with the enthusiasm of many, small businesses also do much with the power of one. Approached two years ago by an employee with a daughter in the swimming program of the Paralympic Sports Association, orthodontist Terry Carlyle of Edmonton discovered several of his patients also participated in the program.
Recognizing the value of and need for such recreational opportunities, he’s since covered all the costs associated with running the program, including pool rental one hour each week from September through April.
“Its important,” says Korobanik. “Programs like these give people opportunities to get out.”
Martin Luther King Jr. said the greatness of a person should be measured in service. If we looked at business that way, no doubt many small businesses in Alberta would make the Fortune 500.
Nesterenko simplifies the payback.
“Take away everything else, and it’s fun. And you’re doing good.”
To register a team in the Skate-A-Kid to Camp relay, call 403-269-9133. For more information on the Paralympic Sports Association programs, call 780-439-8687.
* Ski for Heart: Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge (March 14-16). Call 780-451-4545.
* Shrine Circus: Skyreach Centre (March 7-9); Pengrowth Saddledome (March 14-16).
(Karen Ritchie hosts the Community File on QR77 Radio. Send your corporate/ community event listing to firstname.lastname@example.org)