Long-distance donation boosts space camp campaign
Developer donates $50,000 to push fundraising effort closer to its goal
Friday, Apr 11, 2014 03:00 pm
A fundraising campaign to send a group of St. Albert students to space camp got a $15,000 boost from an organization in Virginia on Friday, less than 24 hours after receiving a $50,000 kickstart from Melcor Developments.
The two donations put the group within about $15,000 of its goal of $130,000,” said Tim Der of the Save Our Space Camp group.
“Wow, this is just amazing to have reached somebody in Virginia,” Der said. “It must have touched somebody's heart down there.”
Last month the St. Albert public school board cancelled a space camp trip that had been planned for Ontario and Quebec after the tour company behind the trip folded. Local families were out a total of nearly $250,000. A group of parents quickly rallied to try to save the trip.
The Virginia organization, the SYTA Youth Foundation, had been sending emails to the St. Albert group for a couple of weeks, Der said.
“We were kind of ignoring their request," he said. "It was such an odd thing. We thought it might be a scam."
It wasn't. The group turned out to be legitimate and finalized a fund transfer on Friday.
The SYTA Youth Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Student & Youth Travel Association, a non-profit, professional trade association that promotes student and youth travel.
The donation was made on behalf of “North American and international travel professionals who are dedicated to the belief that travel changes young lives for good,” said executive director Carylann Assante in a news release.
“We also want these students and parents to know that while this situation is very unfortunate, they can trust professional tour companies and organizations ... who work to ensure that member companies are professional and following best practices to support and protect student groups,” she said.
Developer delivers surprise
On Thursday, when the parent group met at Ronald Harvey Elementary School to assess where it stood, it was surprised when Sue Monson of Melcor Developments handed over a giant cheque for $50,000.
Parents shot up out of their seats and the room filled with applause and cheers.
“When we heard about this cause we thought it was really important to get involved. It was a great example of the community working together,” said Monson.
“Personally this story has touched my heart,” she said, noting she was once a student at Ronald Harvey Elementary and now her kids attend the school.
“I hope one day they will also have the opportunity to attend space camp.”
Last month Grade 5 and 6 students from the St. Albert Public School district learned that the tour company behind the annually offered space camp trip had folded, taking nearly $250,000 of their money with it.
The trip was to take students on a tour of Ontario and Quebec to visit places like Parliament Hill and the Cosmodome space camp in Laval, Que.
Days after the school board officially cancelled the trip, a group of parents rallied to save it.
Through the Save Our Space Camp Facebook group they have raised $50,000 – enough to ensure that 71 of the 91 original students will still be able to go to "Space Camp 2.0" with 22 chaperones.
Over the past week parents have negotiated new deals with Air Canada, Global Tourisme – a local travel company in Quebec – and Cosmodome.
The total cost of the trip has now dropped from the original fee of $2,500 to $1,830 per head.
“We have had lots of exposure in the east and people have been dropping their rates left, right and centre,” said group member Heather Kemp.
A new itinerary has been sorted and students are slated to leave Edmonton for Ottawa on April 26.
Bring it on
Organizers are confident they will be able to raise the remaining $30,000.
The next large instalment of $64,000 is due on April 16 to Global Tourisme.
"When they asked me a week ago, I would have given this cause about a 15 per cent chance of success," said Chuck Mulholand, committee member.
"Today I think it's 100 (per cent). What I have seen ... with this grassroots campaign has been truly phenomenal."
Parents haven't been the only ones putting in the hours to make Space Camp 2.0 a reality, noted Sandra Der, mom of another astronaut hopeful.
Several students logged long hours while handing out hot dogs at the Save Our Space Camp fundraising barbecue last weekend.
“They've done a tremendous amount of work,” Der said. “Our kids were working 12-hour shifts (last) weekend. They've never sold so many hot dogs!”
Jacob Tombs, 10, was one of several students who worked hot dog detail. And every month for the past year he's been putting away $20 of his allowance to pay for the space camp trip.
“I was very surprised that so many people handed us $10 and $20 bills for a hot dog,” he said.
Tombs added that he's positive that space camp will be saved and that he is “over the moon” with excitement.
“It's a trip of a lifetime,” he said.
Space camp parents said they have been floored by the amount of support they are receiving from community groups and businesses.
“We're not asking for a free trip, we just wanted the trip we paid for,” said Kemp.
“One girl (a student who's going to camp) had a $200 pair of headphones that she just won. She has now donated them back to the silent auction. It's an incredible show of support from everyone.”
Organizers said any excess funds will be donated to local breakfast and lunch clubs.
Those that have pitched in to aid in the students' plight include Andrew Grose, a standup comic and radio host for 630 CHED and St. Albert Dodge, which has been donating $500 for every car sold and 10 per cent of all its labour sales to the fundraiser.
O'Maille's Irish Pub and numerous companies have also stepped up to support the Save Our Space Camp silent auction.
Melcor was prompted to support the cause after Greg Christensen of Christensen Developments donated $5,000 on Wednesday and challenged other homebuilders to beat the donation.
Melcor's businesses partners include Sarasota Homes, Daytona, Reid Worldwide, Standard General, Eng-Con Group and Weinrich Contracting.
“We believe that building communities isn't just about assembling infrastructure,” said Monson, “it's also about unifying people and creating kinship.”