Care Never Stops When a Community Steps Up to Serve

In 1893, with a growing population, our community was in need of a genuine advance in medical care. The Seagram family came forward to offer 95 acres of land upon which a hospital could be built, but only if our community members could fully fund the cost of building the hospital before the first brick or beam was laid.

Our community rallied, and an incredible number of supporters each made modest gifts of 25 cents to 50 dollars to collectively raise $12,000 for this new hospital. Together in 1895, our predecessors built what has become Grand River Hospital out of their generosity, philanthropy and belief in each other and in this remarkable community.

Now more than 125 years later, we are counting on our community to come together once more in support of Grand River’s vision of a world class health system supporting healthier lives: one that is among the best in the world in terms of experience for the people we serve and our teams, health outcomes, and sustainability as a system.

This vision is bigger than just our hospital as we are only one of the many contributors to health care that serve our community. Our health system is interconnected, so to reach world class, every one of us will need to rise to the occasion, and our aspiration is to, once again, rally the members of our communities to bring forth much needed advances in health care, infrastructure and innovation.

Our vision may be ambitious, but when we come together, we can accomplish so much more than we ever could alone—that’s why, as a part of this goal, we aspire to create meaningful partnerships with service clubs of all kinds that are aligned with supporting our community’s health and wellness. With a shared passion for and commitment to creating positive, long-lasting change in our community, service clubs and their members are exactly the type of partners we want working alongside us as we make this vision a reality together.

We truly count on dedicated supporters like our local service club members to give their time as fundraisers, volunteers and champions for our cause, and with communities responsible for funding all of the equipment in our hospitals along with a significant portion of construction and capital costs, we each have an important role to play and a responsibility to one another to ensure the highest quality of care right here, in the places where we work and live, for everyone who needs it. Our health system ultimately impacts all of us, and we want our health system to be shaped by the people it serves so that it reflects the diversity and meets the needs of our community, not only for all of us but for all of the generations yet to come.

To get involved and learn more about how you can support our vision for a world class health system right here, led by Grand River Hospital, Grand River Hospital Foundation and our Care Never Stops Campaign, please visit our website at

Editor’s Note: The Optimist Club of Waterloo North was fortunate to have representatives from the Grand River Hospital Foundation speak at a recent dinner meeting. The work that the foundation and hospital are doing in preparing for the future are truly inspiring. In alignment with the Optimist International motto “Friend of Youth,” we would like to highlight how they care for the younger members of our community (see Please consider supporting them to make the vision a reality.

Helping Dreams Come True

At a recent Optimist Club dinner meeting, we were fortunate to hear the story of the Sunshine Foundation of Canada. As a club we are happy to support their mission.

For more than 30 years, The Sunshine Foundation of Canada has been a pioneer and innovator in helping children and youth living with severe physical disabilities look past barriers and reach for their personal goals by making dreams come true. A Sunshine Dream is an individual experience, dreamed by a Sunshine dreamer and fulfilled by a dedicated DreamTeam. These experiences are as unique as the kids who dream them and often include family members in the celebration of this once-in-a-lifetime customized dream.

Before the pandemic, the children and youth that Sunshine served (ages 7 – 17) were at a 51% greater increase of developing mental health challenges. The pandemic has only worsened this statistic and now more than ever, these kids need a special event or experience to look forward to. These events often boost a dreamer’s self confidence, self esteem, and physical health and give a new sense of independence. Some dreams have even contributed to a vision of a career optimizing their new skills.

Last year alone, Sunshine was able to complete 51 dreams and change the lives of children and youth across the country. These dreams ranged from adaptable bikes and off-road wheelchairs, virtually meeting celebrities, bedroom makeovers, new gaming consoles, laptops and phones, language learning opportunities to so much more!

For 2022, Sunshine plans on fulfilling over 52 dreams to change more lives. For more information about Sunshine, completed dreams, upcoming events, and how to donate, please visit their website at

Congratulations to our 2020 Youth Appreciation Award Recipients!

Since 1957, Optimist Clubs have recognized youth for their talents in the arts, athletics, academics, and for contributions to community. These individuals demonstrate qualities such as exceptional leadership, selflessness, courage  and sincere devotion to the welfare of others. 

The Optimist Club of Waterloo North has had the pleasure of hosting Youth Appreciation events for over 25 years. Well over 250 youth have received recognition from our club for the personal and/or community achievements. Typically, family and friends are invited to participate in the celebration; however, this year due to the need to socially distance, Certificates of Acknowledgement along with gift cards were personally delivered to our deserving young leaders.

We congratulate the recipients of their 2020 Youth Appreciation Awards. We also thank our sponsors for their nominations. Allow us now to introduce you to these 10 outstanding youth!

Abby B. is a grade eleven student attending Resurrection Catholic Secondary School. She is passionate about volunteerism, advocacy work and helping others. At school she is involved in various clubs including: DECA, student council and the grade 9 transition program. In her free time, she enjoys teaching dance to children, and baking. Abby is hoping to become a teacher in the future to further pursue her love for education.  – Abby was sponsored by Jennifer Fletcher (Send’em Off Smiling)

Manaisha R. is in Grade 6 at Sandowne Public School and is a kind-hearted, sensitive student who goes out of her way to quietly help others. Manaisha works hard in all subjects and is a role model in the classroom, and the school community as a whole, putting forth her best effort on a daily basis.  Manaisha’s positive energy is infectious and she takes pride in all her responsibilities; staying organized with her schoolwork and excelling in her extra-curriculars, which include soccer, track, sprinting and piano. Manaisha also advocates for others in the classroom, sharing her kindness and good-will on a consistent basis with all peers and adults she works with. – Manaisha was sponsored by Danielle Holden (Principal – Sandowne Public School)

Logan G. is a highly dedicated grade 12 student at Grand River Collegiate in Kitchener. Logan has been involved in the Kindred Credit Union’s Peace Innovators Scholarship and Mentoring program, wherein she designed and launched a project that addresses awareness of physical disabilities in Waterloo Region. In addition to the Peace Innovators program, Logan is co-leader of GRCI’s Debate Club, French club and Blue Crew and is a participant in St. Paul’s GreenHouse Youth Innovation program.  She plays sledge hockey for the Woolwich Thrashers, is assistant coach to the Waterloo Women’s Field Hockey team and is also attending TORCH (The Operation Challenge in Waterloo).  Next year, Logan plans to attend the University of Windsor and Detroit Mercy University to study VABE (Visual Arts and the Built Environment) and hopes to open her own architecture firm with a focus on accessible design. – Logan was sponsored by Katie Gingerich (TREE-The Ripple Effect Education)

Sam G demonstrated his devotion to the welfare of others when last year, as part of a school assignment, he was inspired to make a presentation to City Council to ensure pedestrian safety in his community.  He urged Council to consider a pedestrian safety solution that had been used in Nova Scotia, where coloured flags are provided at the intersection for pedestrians to use when crossing. It was a low-cost option that improved traffic yielding by up to 8% and had a mostly positive reaction from the community. He advocated for this same traffic calming measure to be used at the Lincoln/Mayfield intersection in Waterloo. As a direct result of his thoughtful presentation, staff were directed to explore the opportunity of using pedestrian crossing flags at selected locations within the City of Waterloo.  It is a clear display of his outstanding leadership qualities that Sam was able to maintain his good grades at school while dedicating time towards improving his community. – Sam was sponsored by Jen Vasic (Councilor – City of Waterloo)

Matthew K. is being recognized for his courage in the face of adversity.  In 2017 he was diagnosed with cancer.  Throughout the long hospital stays in London, never-ending tests and grueling treatments to battle the cancer, Matthew fought hard and demonstrated significant courage.  In September of 2019, he graciously shared his inspiring story with our Club. As soon as he was able, he was back to playing hockey and getting involved in extracurricular activities at school.  He has not allowed the disease to be what defines him and continues to be a positive role model for those around him. – Matthew was sponsored by Ross Robertson (President – Optimist Club of Waterloo North)

Caroline S. is a grade eleven student attending Resurrection Catholic Secondary School. She is passionate in areas of business, English, and wellness and participates in many school activities in these fields. Outside of school, Caroline enjoys skiing and riding horses. She hopes to continue her hobbies and studies throughout university on her path to study law. – Caroline was sponsored by Jennifer Fletcher (Send’em Off Smiling)

James R. is a grade 10 student at Bluevale Collegiate and has maintained an excellent academic standing while playing on his high school basketball team.  He also volunteers his time giving back to Wildhawk Basketball where he helps with their skills camps and is a House League head coach in their Atom Boys Division. His help is not only greatly appreciated by the Wildhawk organization, but also by all the boys that he has impacted as a positive role model. – James was sponsored by Dave MacNeil (Wildhawk Basketball)

Nicole A., a grade 10 student at Bluevale Collegiate is a vital member of the African Caribbean and Black identifying student group, rallying other students and encouraging them to participate. She recently helped to organize the Black History Month Assemblies and volunteered to be one of the MCs for the event. Nicole is also a part of the Equity Team at Bluevale offering insight and concerns regarding equity issues and solutions to both peers and staff.  She has been involved in activities through Bluevale’s Choose to Lead Program (C2L) which is focused on the development and enhancement of leadership skills throughout high school. Nicole is also involved in her church and other youth groups where she serves in different leadership roles and works with youth. She has already completed her 40 volunteer hours required for graduation. – Nicole was sponsored by Christine (Madame) Harnack (Teacher – Bluevale Collegiate).

Kate B. is a grade eleven student at Resurrection Catholic Secondary School. She participates in lots of extracurriculars that cater to her passions of sports, wellness, and helping others. At home, Kate can be found playing with her “puggle” (pug/beagle), Rosey, and hanging out with her sister, mom, and dad. She hopes to continue her educational career by applying to university in the fall, as a student who values learning and isn’t afraid of a challenge. – Kate was sponsored by Jennifer Fletcher (Send’em Off Smiling)

Samantha “Sa5m” L. is an 11-year-old grade 6 student from Waterloo.  The determination, devotion and dedication toward reaching her goal of excelling at the drums, while her family deals with an emotional ordeal, is an admirable display of courage in the face of adversity.  Sa5m wanted to learn to play the drums for her sister Abigayle, who has Neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive childhood cancer. Drumming has allowed her to bring joy to her sister and up-lift those around her as well. Twice, Sa5m has competed and placed well in the international “Hit Like a Girl” contest and she continues to practice hard to improve her skills. This year she will dedicate her song choice, performance and entry to Abigayle. Sa5m’s intention to bring happiness and positivity to those around her and her dedication to her sister, represent a generous, unselfish character that deserves recognition. – Sa5m was sponsored by Jen Vasic (Councilor – City of Waterloo)

Congratulations again to these deserving young leaders!

One Youth on the Street is One Too Many

See the person first – then their circumstance.

See a young person. See a fellow human being. See someone who would like a smile.

This powerful perspective was given to us by Bonnie Kropf, Fund Developer of oneROOF Youth Services at our January dinner meeting.  oneROOF Youth Services helps youth, ages 12-25, in the K-W community who find themselves living on the street.  Youth can become part of the “street culture” for a variety of reasons – escaping a dysfunctional home situation (which may involve abuse – mental, physical, sexual); financial (e.g. a parent’s job loss); mental health issues; or as a result of a poor personal decision that they have made (remember – they are just kids who have not had positive role models, guidance, support, rules and consistency from early childhood on). 

oneROOF Youth Services provides support for the youth’s essential needs (food, clothing, shelter) and what can be even more important, their emotional needs – interacting without judgement, accepting the youth for who they are as a person not their situation and letting the youth know that they are not worthless – that they matter.  Support is also provided through prevention and diversion by assisting with housing and job searches.  The oneROOF Youth Services staff meet the youth where they are at in their journey, whether it is on the street, current living arrangements or at OneROOF Youth Services.

Our club is happy to provide financial help for oneROOF and our members will strive to see the person first when we encounter a young person living on the street.

For more information about oneROOF Youth Services and how you can help support their work (financial or other items), click here.

Supporting the youth of our community.

Christmas Toy Drive

Our Optimist club is happy to be partnering with the Salvation Army to once again staff a toy collection site at Conestoga Mall in Waterloo.

The teenager quietly dropping some loose change in the kettle. New parents starting an annual tradition with their newborn. Families sharing what they have. Individuals continuing a decades long practice. And representatives of teams and office groups who have organized their own collections. It warms our hearts to witness the generosity of our community.

Club members are accepting new, unwrapped gifts from noon to 6 pm on Saturdays up to Dec 21. Other local Optimist and Kin clubs will be there on Sundays (noon to 6 pm) and weeknights (5 to 9 pm).

The drop-off site in the mall is located outside Lindt Chocolates (near American Eagle and Indigo). Look for the big drop box decorated in red and green to look like a present.

Need gift ideas? Consider different age groups (infants, older children, pre-teens and teens). Perhaps Play-Doh, Games, Puzzles, Crafts, Lego, gift cards, bath bombs. Or stop by the drop-off site while it’s staffed and ask if there is a particular age group in need.

Need assistance? Waterloo Region residents needing Christmas Assistance can get more information from The Christmas Bureau by visiting or by calling 519-742-5860.

Sending Them Off Smiling!

September can set the tone for the entire school year, often including new clothes, new backpacks and new school supplies.  Unfortunately, not every family is so fortunate as to be able to provide these for their children. 

Twenty-five years ago, a small group of women decided to make a difference.  They provided a backpack filled with new clothes and school supplies to 27 students at one school.  Send ‘em Off Smiling (100% volunteer run) has since grown to helping 1,000 kids per year at schools throughout Waterloo Region. 

During the year, volunteers shop the sales to assemble a warehouse of clothes, backpacks and school supplies.  In the spring, teachers identify students who may benefit from receiving a filled backpack, and with the parent’s approval and input (such as sizes and colour preferences) volunteers prepare a personalized backpack.  Other volunteers deliver the backpacks in late August.  And the receiving students and their families — their smile says it all!

As a testament to the impact of this program, Send’em Off Smiling tells of former backpack recipients giving volunteer time and financial support to pay it forward to the next generations.  What a great community we live in!

How you can help

If you would like to help Send’em Off Smiling, you can volunteer your time, donate money, or participate in their “Shop and Drop” program.  Check out their website for more details.

A Story of Courage

We don’t develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.

Barbara De Angelis
Matthew and family with Optimist Club President Ross

Matthew is undeniably a very courageous teen and our Optimist Club was blessed to have him share his story with us at our September dinner meeting. He is a Childhood Cancer patient in the maintenance phase of his treatment. To demonstrate the steps of his journey over the past 2 ½ years, he pulled string after string of bravery beads out of a specially made wooden bowl. The strings just kept coming! Over 30 feet! Each bead represents some activity in his journey – every blood test, every treatment. The bowl is big and Matthew commented that “bowls are meant to be filled.”

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and Matthew and his parents gave us a glimpse into what it means to live the Childhood Cancer journey. Two 6 week stays in a hospital an hour away from home. Away from school. Away from work for parents. Not only is there the physical impact on the patient, there are emotional and financial impacts on the entire family. Fortunately, medical staff and hospitals around the globe share information and ongoing research which is improving outcomes.

Locally, there are supports to help families and patients cope, including:

Please  consider supporting one of the organizations helping Childhood Cancer patients in our community.  In honor of Matthew’s courage, our Optimist Club has made a donation to the Children’s Health Foundation to support the Music and Art Therapy programs.

If your group is youth focused and you would like to be a guest speaker at one of our dinner meetings, send us an email.