Over 800 friends of CityKidz gathered at the Hamilton Convention Centre on November 10th, 2016 to share a meal together, to share stories, to bid and win in the silent auction room, to be reminded of and be moved to respond to the mission of CityKidz.
Everyone was welcomed by Andrew, a Saturday program leader and Gloria, a City Youth who served as masters of ceremony for the evening. They kept us laughing, and waiting for more fun.
A favourite voice from Ti Cat games – Fern Viola, asked us to rise for the National Anthem after a moment of silence filled with thoughts of “Lest We Forget”.
Ash and Bloom, who have become a powerhouse of incredible harmonies and brilliant songwriting filled the room with music. They reminded us of how to make dreams can come true as they sang “ if you want to start a fire, be the spark.”
Hands together and a standing ovation for Rosie whose dream of singing on stage happened when she and Ash and Bloom shared the mic and asked the crowd to “Wake me up when it’s all over”.
A powerful video testimony underlined the power of CityKidz. Many of Kaylee’s dreams have come true but as she was taught at CityKidz she’s still dreaming. Now married with a beautiful daughter and living in wisdom she wants to become a make-up artist. Bullied as a child she came to CityKidz on Saturdays and was bathed in acceptance and love. “As the teen years went by CityKidz kept investing time into me and showed me God’s love through their actions. CityKidz changed my life. CityKidz gave me the gift of hope”.
CityKidz really can change lives and help children to eventually rise above their less than advantageous circumstances. The W. Garfield Weston Foundation’s generous grant supports the dreams of our CityYouth as they go beyond the walls of CityKidz to higher education. Last year’s recipients Craig, Maya and Sherhibane are now successfully starting their second year supported again by the CityKidz Education Fund. Breah, Courtney, Sade and Jeremiah are the 2016 recipients of the education bursary and are all starting their studies at Mohawk. With this support they can continue to dream big and hope for more successes in the future.
No Big Dream banquet is complete without hearing the dreams of Todd Bender the founder and Executive Director of CityKidz and no one could ignore the excitement and passion in his heart and voice. There are so many dreams being lived today: young lives transformed, Christmas wishes fulfilled, 600 children in Summer to Remember adventures, over 2000 children given unconditional love each and every week. There are more dreams held for tomorrow: the desire to make the current relationships with our “kidz” even deeper and more meaningful, the creations of new and exciting programs, designing consolidated space for all of the programs. These big, new dreams are unfolding. The theatre on Sherman has been sold and a fifteen year lease signed for 30.000 square feet at the current location at 601 Burlington Street. This lease and an expanded partnership with The Hamilton Port Authority is equivalent to a gift of $1.5 million dollars. As successful as CityKidz is today Todd knows that the need is great. There is always one more child who needs CityKidz to give them hope and transform their life. He dreams of the day when we’ll find them all.
The Big Dream Banquet reminds us that together we can be strong, together we can impact lives, together we can put hope into young lives, together we can dream big and together we can make those big dreams come true.
THANKS to everyone who supports us, who believes in our mission, who, like us, wants every child to have an equal opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. See you next year, November 9th, 2017!