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Walker Wood Foundation: Investing in the promise of the future

In 2023, the Walker Wood Foundation donated $100,000 to support the expansion of the Sun Life Centre for Healthy Communities at Laurier.

The Sun Life Centre for Healthy Communities (CHC), formerly the Sun Life Centre for Physically Active Communities, is an initiative of the Laurier Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, designed to connect undergraduate and graduate students to community organizations on and off campus.

“When we learned about the expansion of the Sun Life Centre for Healthy Communities, we were immediately drawn to this proposal as it aligns with our mission and values,” says Kate Wood, vice-president at the Foundation. “With a personal background in medicine, it has always been clear to me that in order to improve both mental and physical wellbeing, we need to remove barriers to accessing structured and unstructured programming, especially in our most vulnerable populations and communities.”

The Centre’s community outreach program seeks to improve activity levels and the overall health of youth within our community, providing free or low-cost physical activity programming for high-priority youth to prevent chronic illnesses associated with sedentary lifestyles, including type-2 diabetes. Building on the skills and enthusiasm of Laurier students, CHC offers diverse programming for children and youth in our community who would not otherwise have access.

“Support from the Walker Wood Foundation, and others, allows the Centre to keep our programming completely free to individuals who experience barriers to engaging in physical activity and healthy behaviours,” explains Pam Bryden, executive director of the Sun Life Centre for Health Communities. “Such support allows us to obtain excellent staff who have the expertise in a multitude of activities and sports to engage children, youth and adults. Equally, the support is important in providing the appropriate training for our volunteers to ensure they are ready and able to run physical activity programs that are safe and supportive.”

The Foundation’s support has afforded the centre the opportunity to hire a program lead to

  • begin programming in Brantford;
  • aid the program coordinator in establishing connections with various community groups within Brantford to explore how the CHC could fill gaps;
  • help the Centre to work with the City of Brantford to examine recreation use across the city;
  • work to find student volunteers at Laurier’s Brantford campus for our programming;
  • and develop a rich training program for our volunteers.

Thanks to funding from the Foundation, the Centre is also able to expand its staff complement, ensuring it can offer impactful programs on multiple days at multiple sites.

One of the Centre’s most popular programs, called Movin’ and Groovin’, has seen great success in both the Waterloo and Brantford locations. Even volunteers leave feeling inspired.

“I had an amazing time engaging with the kids and working together with everyone in the Movin’ and Grovin’ program. From the way the program is handled to the way the children loved our company, happy and playful moments, it’s an incredible, irreplaceable feeling,” said one volunteer. “The program was very well organized and there was a beautiful interaction between the volunteers and the kids. It was incredible to see how much could be done in a short time!”

While the Walker Wood Foundation does provide allocations of funding to broader community level projects, especially those that support the health of children, the Foundation’s central focus is education and its primary objective is to provide scholarships and bursaries in all areas of study. The Foundation believes in the transformational power of higher education, especially for those with the initiative and potential to make a difference not only in their own lives, but in the lives of others. The Foundation generously supports several significant bursaries and student awards at Laurier, including the newly created Walker Wood Foundation Equitable Futures Award.

“Education has always been our primary focus at the Walker Wood Foundation, in order to allow each individual to prosper in life, we feel that a solid basis in education is a requirement. We believe that the right to education should not be limited, it should be an innate right for all and should not be based on financial barriers,” says Wood.

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