I can still remember Dave Bennett holding up the cage of my hockey helmet as I ate a hotdog from the snack bar of Weston Arena during an intermission of a Weston Dodgers game. Stories like this one aren’t unique to me as a hockey-playing kid from Weston; I’m sure hundreds of other kids have similar stories about Dave’s compassion and patience at the arena.
From as long as I can remember, Dave has been a tireless volunteer both in the arena and out in the broader community.
Last week Dave was awarded the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education’s Parent Volunteer of Excellence Award for his dedication and advocacy efforts in getting a new school for the students of St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Weston. When I heard about this, I couldn’t think of a better person to receive the award.
Securing the new school has been a successful, but ongoing, fight for Dave and other members of the community for years. Dave had been involved in the advocacy work every step of the way—long before the construction crews broke ground in 2014. I often get Dave to give me updates on the project, and he can tell me every single detail from the nitty-gritty of the floor plan to what’s going on with the construction process. This is just another example of his attentiveness to the “little things” that are often overlooked in community advocacy work.
His patience, dedication, and service to the community is inspiring for Weston. Thanks for all that you do, Dave! Congratulations!
On March 11, the Weston Silver Band competed in the annual North American Brass Band Championships and were judged to be best of ten bands in the First Section (think divisions) winning a gold medal. WSB was the only Canadian entry out of 33 other bands. In 2013 the band placed top in the Second Section; the first Canadian band to do so.
The Weston Silver Band has an interesting history. Before immigrating to Canada, George Sainsbury, started a band in the U.K which survives to this day. Once he arrived in our neck of the woods, he formed what began as the Weston Boy’s Band in 1921 and has flourished ever since, keeping its Weston links by performing annually in the Weston Santa Claus Parade. Although at the present time there are no members who live in Weston, the band is very proud of its roots in the Weston community and keeps extensive archives of its history. Practices are still held locally every week at the Salvation Army’s York Community Church on 1100 Weston Road in Mount Dennis. The band began to draw musicians from further and further afield from Weston beginning in the late 1970s.
Band Manager Theresa MacDonald kindly sent me some archival photos of WSB that illustrate its proud Weston heritage.
Theresa tells me that when the band played in Gravenhurst last year, George Sainsbury’s grandson approached them with a music case belonging to the founder. This treasured item is now stored with the many trophies and other memorabilia gathered over the years.
Rainy afternoons in October usually call for hot chocolate and Halloween movies; however, this October 1st, the Falstaff Community centre, and Urban Arts hosted a spectacular event. For almost a year, thirty dedicated youth from the York South-Weston area gathered together to create a phenomenal mural that is now covering the outer walls of the Falstaff Community Centre, located at 50 Falstaff Avenue. October 1st, 2016, was the official unveiling.
Over the course of over eight months, thirty students from the area worked with Adobe Photoshop, photography, silk screening, and even got trained to use a scissor lift, all to create a masterpiece that would soon become a landmark in the area.
I was told by Shah Ashraf Mohamed, a program manager at UrbanArts (and one the people who ensured this program did so well) that “the best part of this whole project was watching the youth transform from knowing so little about art, to finding passions and loving the work they did.”
All the students involved began their artistic journeys differently; Italia Santoyo and Dylan Kitchener, who were both involved in the mural’s creation, found out about the program from their art and photography teachers, whereas Jerlie Thorpe, who is extremely interested in the arts, was encouraged by the girl’s group club at her school. (which is also run by UrbanArts). Despite coming from different backgrounds, all the young artists were brought together by one thing: a love and passion for art.
“I’m so grateful for UrbanArts. I love art and all the time people tell you that art is so hard to get into and you’re never going to get a job if you want to study anything in the arts. But Urban Arts helped me see that it doesn’t matter if people don’t believe in you. If art makes you happy, make art” –Italia Santoyo.
The mural is composed of visual art, photography, silk screen and Photoshop work, all comprised into the masterpiece that is now complete. Students worked with various groups including Gallery 44, a non-profit center committed to photography, who taught them skills about their passions, which they then used to create the artwork.
UrbanArts is a community group dedicated to bringing arts programs to communities in the city of Toronto. Every program run by the group involves professional artists and helps develop and engage culture into communities in need. With partners including the Ontario Arts Council, Microsoft, TELUS, UrbanArts has been making a difference in the lives of many kids since they started.
With art being one of the most highly criticized and toughest paths anyone can take, many young people feel intimidated and scared about pursuing their passions. UrbanArts is changing that. From speaking to the young people involved, and seeing how passionate the program organizers were, I could tell that this project has made a difference. Being a creative person, I know how intimidating and worrisome perusing my passions can be. Seeing fellow creative people flourishing and doing something they are passionate about gave me hope. I am proud to say I live in a community that hosted such an amazing event, and I hope any aspiring artists that see all the amazing work that went into this project will be motivated to keep perusing their dreams.
This post was brought to you by: Maureen Lennon, who loves Weston and great writing.
Best Buddies is a Canada-wide program that pairs up the same-aged students of differing abilities. These partnerships grow into friendships and are mutually beneficial. On Thursday, February 11, an assembly at the school demonstrated the strength and depth of those relationships.
Executive Director of Best Buddies Canada, Steven Pinnock was there to honour Weston Collegiate Institute‘s successful implementation of the program over the past six years. Program buddies are paired for each school year and contact each other weekly and meet socially at least twice a month. Larger meetings of the whole chapter are held to discuss issues and to plan events.
W.C.I. was also honoured for being in the top 25 programs out of 450 chapters nationwide in Canada. Youth worker, Nancy Marshall co-ordinates Best Buddies at the school and thanked the many members of staff who lend their time to supporting the program as well as events and field trips. Pinnock thanked Ms. Marshall for her leadership and the staff for their hard work in making the program run so successfully at the school. Best Buddies Special Events Director, Emily Bolyea–Kyere spoke glowingly about the outstanding work done at W.C.I. and how well the school is regarded throughout the organization.
Students spoke movingly about the program and the impact it has made on their school lives; many calling the friends made through the program as close as family members. Having sat through many an assembly in a former life, I can attest to rarely being as impressed (and moved) as I was today. Well done to Ms. Marshall and participating staff and students at W.C.I.
Simon Chamberlain and Guy Ruggieri, the coolest guys in Mount Dennis (they’re ice cold), got a nice mention in the House of Commons this week. Mike Sullivan said:
In York South—Weston, this cold, harsh season was made warmer and brighter by a dedicated group of volunteers who for the third year ran the Mount Dennis outdoor community skating rink in Pearen Park.
I was delighted to host a Family Day skating party there. Over four hundred individuals learned to skate at the rink this past season. Nearly nine hundred used the free skate loan program. The rink continued its fine tradition of making a positive difference in the community — one smile and one skating lesson at a time!
With a tip of my toque, I’d like to congratulate rink coordinator Simon Chamberlain, who received a Volunteer Toronto Award for his outstanding efforts, and ice master Guy Ruggieri and his over 40 volunteers who gave generously of their time to make this grassroots initiative a smashing success.
Reverend Denise Gillard had some celebrating to do last night. After years of using older instruments for her youth based organization, The Hopeworks Connection, the Trillium Foundation approved their grant application and came through with a $14,100 grant towards the purchase of musical instruments. With this purchase, HWC is able to support the youth-led organization ‘Soundcheck’ in the Weston community. Through HWC, SoundCheck’s youth mentors are able to offer “Hear Me Play“- a program which provides personal development workshops and the opportunity for youth to work with experienced musicians and learn to play an instrument.
‘In the past, SoundCheck had to use HWC’s older equipment and rent instruments and it really cut into our fundraising for youth programming’, said Gillard. ‘This grant will allow us to do more with our donations.’