There's a popular saying that goes, "The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, and the second-best time is now."
In the midst of the ongoing challenges and uncertainties of our times, I recently had a heartening reminder of the remarkable efforts of our local business communities in nurturing our youth. It filled me with a renewed sense of optimism and hope for the future, something that is in high demand these days.
I had the privilege of attending a meeting with Sport Central, an organization with a profound focus on providing sports gear to children aged 3 to 17 who may need a helping hand. Sport is the vehicle, but character development is the ultimate goal. They also collaborate with groups like Kidsport to ensure that financial barriers don't stand in the way of these kids' participation in sports. Last year alone, Sport Central assisted 10,300 young individuals. Their most significant fundraiser is a golf tournament generously supported by local business leaders.
A grateful mother recently sent a heartwarming message to them, saying, "I just want to say thank you, again for everything. Today I am sitting here in happy tears because my son is so happy. And so proud of his gear. It has been a while since I have seen him smile so big. He has not stopped telling me the awesomeness of his gear. Your foundation truly is a blessing. We are so grateful for all you did and how above and beyond everyone there went to help us out. Sincerest thanks from all of us to all of you."
Later in the week, there was a celebration organized by Junior Achievement (JA), bringing together 750 entrepreneurs. We listened to stories from participating students, graduates of the program, and businesses that have been supporting this event for an impressive 43 years. JA engages with 28,000 students annually, thanks to partnerships with the business community, educators, and volunteers. As they passionately claim, "We ignite inspiration within youth, empowering them to grasp their aspirations and unlock their potential."
The list of leaders who have played a role in this endeavor reads like a "who's who" of Alberta's business pioneers, from the Poole family to the Winspear's and the Allard's. Each year, they honor a few laureates. Witnessing the business community's unwavering support for the development of our next generation is truly remarkable. These businesses, deeply rooted in the fertile soil of Alberta, can be likened to the salt of the earth, as one leader aptly suggested.
Recently, the 120 members of T8N100Men convened to select a charity to support. They chose to back the Outreach High School program, led by two impressive young men who were featured in the Gazette last week. Retired/reserve RCMP officer Geoff MacKay and principal Jo-Ann Blachford have been exceptional mentors to many, including Cole Garrity and Jeric Macdonald. Organizer John Farlinger shared, "Cole and Jeric blew us away. They were very impressive as young men, and with their plan to serve four communities up north." T8N100Men pledged $10,000 to support their mission of delivering 600 gift boxes to four communities: Behchoko, Sachs Harbour, Tuktoyaktuk, and Yellowknife. The Rotary Club of St. Albert, under the leadership of President Doug Webster, also extended their support to this noble cause.
In these challenging times, we all have the freedom to choose our course of action. We can spend our time on social media, reading about the turmoil in the world and becoming disillusioned, or we can follow the inspiring example set by so many business leaders in our community—planting trees of hope and fostering a brighter future for our youth.