2018 was an incredible year for CityKidz by any measure. There were challenges, of course, but there were even more smiles, inspirational moments and joyful memories. As far as we’re concerned, the whole year was a highlight. But we also know not everyone will be as excited about a new KinderKidz puppet as we were. So here’s our shortlist of 2018’s many highlights!
CityKidz Turns 25
2018 marked CityKidz’ 25th anniversary.
Our history reminds us of both the challenges and accomplishments that have defined us, and that empower us to grow and adapt for the next 25 years. Our anniversary provided a jubilant moment to bask in the warm glow of nostalgia. This milestone also motivated us to set our course for the future and continue striving to reach one more child.
For 20 years, the Playhouse Theatre on Sherman Ave. held our hopes, dreams and stories. The old theatre had served us well. However, it was time for a change that would empower us to reach a new generation of Hamilton children. In February, we sold the Playhouse to Princess Cinemas as we wrapped up construction on a new home for our CityKidz Saturday program.
When people in the pews partner with CityKidz, miracles happen. Winter ended with dozens of local churches hosting one-day local mission initiatives that built transformational connections with the lives of thousands of Hamilton children. Congregations came together to support children with prayer, financial support and volunteer time. These ‘Miracle Sunday’ celebrations helped bring the miracles of faith, hope and love into hundreds of homes across our city.
CityKidz Saturday Enters a New Era
The highlight of the first CityKidz Saturday of 2018 was definitely watching each child’s unique reaction and interaction to the new Studio Theatre. One boy intently counted the number of twinkling star lights. Others stared in awe at the treehouses or bent down to touch the mock stone floor. Everyone was excited to tell us about their favourite part.
The new Studio Theatre was designed to preserve the wonder and magic of the Playhouse, while empowering us with the technological and logistical resources to deliver our message of faith, hope and love in a way that is meaningful and inspiring to a new generation of children.
The Future is Bright
Nothing inspires more hope for the future than a child. They are bursting with so much potential, hope, compassion and kindness. In all the busyness of running the CityKidz and KinderKidz Saturday programming, reflections from our kids like the one above help ground us in the moment of why we do what we do and the incredible love the Hamilton community pours into its children.
CityYouth and Roadmaps Graduation
Graduating from CityYouth doesn’t require the passing of exams, submission of book reports, or completion of a Phys Ed. course. It’s far more demanding than that. CityYouth requires honesty and advocacy, courage and leadership, vulnerability and empathy. It requires faith, hope and love for yourself and for others.
The CityYouth and Roadmaps graduation felt like a big family reunion. It was filled with joyful noise as the teens reminisced and lay out their plans for the future.
A Summer to Remember
Summer 2018 was filled with happy campers. Thanks to hundreds of generous supporters, over 500 kids went off on summer camp adventures. They learned to canoe, play new sports and zip-line. They met goats and rode horses, slept in tents and made slime. Kids who had never ventured beyond their immediate low-income neighbours got to see a world of possibilities and a place for themselves in it.
Education can open doors. But with post-secondary tuition costing nearly $7,000/year on average, higher education is a tremendous financial burden for many bright young people. Fortunately, the good folks at the W. Garfield Weston Foundation have partnered with CityKidz to provide yearly financial support to promising CityKidz participants to help offset the costs associated with continuing education.
To date, the Weston Family Scholarship has been awarded to 23 ambitious and hard-working youth. These young people are now studying everything from nursing to political science to building renovation. This August, we had the distinct honour seeing 10 new scholarship recipients off to college and university to make their big dreams a reality.
CityKidz Saturday is Better than Ever
Just like kids, the CityKidz team can’t sit still. The amazing cast, crew and programs team are always innovating and experimenting to make the programs we deliver as fun and impactful as possible. It’s no small thing to keep a couple hundred six to 11-year-olds engaged for 75 minutes but all eyes were on the stage during our fall programming.
Saturday after Saturday, we were blessed to witness the Studio Theatre filled with children laughing, singing and dancing together. For a little over an hour every Saturday, kids could unwind and have fun in a safe and loving environment made possible by the unrelenting support of our volunteers and community.
Hamilton Shares a Meal
At CityKidz, we know a meal is more than just a caloric necessity. It’s a powerful means of nurturing relationships and growing community. That’s why all of our programs start with a meal. This meal is only made possible through the generosity of the wider Hamilton community.
At every weekend program, youth helpers, volunteers, staff and supporters came together to provide hundreds of children with a meal before our interactive show. Everyone worked together to prepare and deliver food and snacks to each and every child in attendance.
Breaking bread with our CityKidz children and youth, the community reminds them that they belong and are part of something bigger than themselves. They are part of a community that loves them, cares for them and believes in them.
The Big Dream Showcase
On November 7th and 8th, we at CityKidz were blessed with the opportunity open our doors and invite hundreds of wonderful people from our community into our home and celebrate our 25th anniversary with a series of Big Dream Showcase events.
Volunteers, supporters, friends and family, faces both fresh and familiar came to mix and mingle, learn about the CityKidz story and share their own. They met our exceptional youth and saw our magical theatres. Together, we shared delicious food with sparkling cider, and savoured joyful conversation.
Christmas Wishes Come True
Thanks to wonderfully outrageous support from the Hamilton community and beyond, over 4,000 local children received special gifts for Christmas. Children whose homes Santa may have otherwise missed got to share in the magic of the season. Hundreds of toy drives and thousands of donations made for countless squeals of excitement as children’s wishes came true. It was the perfect close to a beautiful year.
Thank you to everyone who was part of the CityKidz story in 2018! Your support, your passion, your faith, hope and love – these are the things that make our work possible. These are the things that give children in our community the opportunity to dream big, to thrive and to reach their full potential. Thank you!
Here’s to 2019 and all its beautiful possibility!
Serena the Parrot
We couldn’t resist. This is Serena. She joined the KinderKidz cast this past year and became an instant favourite.