November 15, 2012

Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-a-School program has inspired unexpected positive side-effects and quiet acts of kindness

Last year’s Adopt-a-School campaign officially ended on Dec. 31, but four and a half months later, on April 19, two gymnastic instructors arrived unannounced in The Vancouver Sun’s newsroom with a thick bundle of $20 bills, a couple of cheques and a hefty bag of rolled-up coins.

All told, $1,749.

It had been raised quietly during March at Vancouver’s Phoenix Gymnastic Club on Clancy Loranger Way.

Karina Ho, 23, and Siovhan Williamson, 26, had promised to do a flip for every Adopt-a-School dollar contributed by friends, family and customers.

And on April 1, they flipped out.

There were 100 people watching in the gym while the pair and eight other coaches went head over heels for Adopt-a-School.

“It took us about 45 minutes to do all the flips,” said Karina.

Didn’t it make them dizzy?

“We were definitely tired,” said Siovhan.

For Vancouver Sun staffers who had worked on the campaign, the gymnastic instructors’ heartwarming arrival was further proof of the unexpected effect the campaign is having.

Although The Sun raised more than $700,000 last year for underprivileged children in inner-city schools, we have no idea of the overall effect of the campaign.

Gymnastic instructor Siovhan Williamson watches her fellow coach Karina Ho flip at Phoenix Gymnastics Club. They raised $1,700 by flipping for each dollar with the money going to Adopt-a-School. (Gerry Kahrmann / PNG staff photo)

On a number of occasions, we have only found out by accident that some quiet act of kindness had taken place to make life a little better for these children.

For instance, it was only a chance conversation with a school principal that disclosed that Jim Duggan, the manager of a Vancouver forklift company, had committed to providing fresh vegetables and fruit to a number of inner-city schools for distribution to families in need each month and had even donated his income tax refund to help start a food co-op to provide cheaper food for these families.

Until Karina and Siovhan arrived, we had no idea what they had been up to.

They had been reading Adopt-a-School stories on the needs of children in the Downtown Eastside.

“We read all the articles The Sun published about schools and we decided we should help,” said Karina. “The article on Strathcona elementary made us realize that one of the things kids need was access to field trips.”

(The story she referred to concerned funding cutbacks to inner city schools that resulted in students being denied the opportunity to go on field trips as the general poverty in those areas made it impossible for their parents to raise money to cover expenses.)

“We’re all ex-competitive gymnasts and we wouldn’t have been able to compete without field trips. We think all kids deserve to have all the experiences we had. We understand the importance of learning outside the classroom. That’s why we did it,” said Karina, who was a student at Lord Kitchener elementary in Dunbar. Siovhan attended Langley Fine Arts.

Field trips are sometimes the only opportunity children living in poverty have to escape the confines of their neighbourhood.

The Vancouver Sun has found there are First Nations children in Vancouver who have never seen a forest; poverty-stricken children in Burnaby who have never been to a beach.

The money from the gymnastics club was targeted to Mount Pleasant elementary.

“We looked at the Adopt-a-School website to see what schools were in need and we chose Mount Pleasant because it is in our area,” said Siovhan.

“We talked to the school and the money is going to be used for a snowshoeing trip,” she said.

Mount Pleasant vice-principal Sue Stevenson was delighted at the unexpected gift.

“They came in and said they wanted the money to go to something outdoorsy,” Stevenson said.

“A lot of inner city kids don’t get a chance to get out of the city so we’ve decided to go snowshoeing on one of the local mountains. I have 165 kids in the school and we want them to all go.

“Without their flips-for-trips this wouldn’t be possible. What they did was awesome.”

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