Autism Transitional Classroom Receives $5,000 Donation from United Way of Chatham-Kent in partnership with Chatham Christian High School

Do you remember the questions asked of you on your Grade 12 English exam? If you do, do you remember feeling like you made a difference?

Last night, twelve Grade 12 students from the Chatham Christian High School, made a presentation to a panel of judges and to the general public about some of the incredible work being done in our community by nonprofit organizations funded by the local United Way.

Amy Bergsma, a teacher at Chatham Christian High School, partnered with United Way of Chatham-Kent and the Chatham-Kent Nonprofit Network to create a unique opportunity for her students to work on an hands-on experiential learning project in place of their final exam – a project that would raise awareness of charitable programs in Chatham-Kent, encourage volunteerism in youth, allow students to meet Ontario curriculum requirements in a meaningful and purposeful way, all while encouraging a pride in, and love for, Chatham-Kent.

The students each selected a charity to research and their assignment was to publicly present and advocate for funding for each of these charities to a panel of community volunteers. At the end of the presentations, each of the students was assigned a grade and the charity represented by the presenter with the most votes was slated to receive a $5,000 donation – approved by the United Way Board of Directors from their Community Impact Grants.

The winning charity was the Autism Transitional Classroom with Chatham-Kent Children’s Services, based on the presentation that was made by student Patrick Hindmarsh.

“I designed this project to not only matter for Grade 12 marks, but to alter the course of their lives”, said Bergsma. “Imagine the impact of these students having a deeper sense of community, greater capacity for empathy, and the empowerment to know how to step outside of their comfort zones and make change happen.”

The Autism Transitional Classroom is planning on using these funds to purchase enhanced learning materials for their classroom.


United Way Chatham-Kent raises $1,687,048 to invest in Chatham-Kent

United Way Chatham-Kent announced today that their Annual Campaign has wrapped up, raising $1,687,048. The announcement was made this morning by the 2017 Campaign Chair, Elizabeth Downey-Sunnen, at the Campaign Touchdown Breakfast hosted by the Links of Kent and presented by Solomon Roofing, Advanced Realty Solutions, Ross Insurance Brokers, Inc., 94.3 CKSY FM, 99.1 CKXS FM and YourTV.

The majority of funds raised are donated by individuals in the community or employees who give through a workplace campaign. The rest is raised through corporate gifts and 25 special events such as Blenheim’s Art in the Garden, Harvest Run, Red Feather, 99.1 CKXS FM’S Radio Hostage and Starlight Movie Night.

The United Way serves approximately 40,000 people in the Chatham-Kent area through its 30+ funded programs and services.

In her speech to a packed house, Downey-Sunnen said the campaign team worked together to reach a common goal: to help the community.

“It was an honour to be a part of the United Way campaign. I am very proud of what our community was able to accomplish, thanks to an amazing team effort”, said Downey-Sunnen. “It was an incredible experience and it really opens your eyes to the hardships people in our community face each and every day. I also realize how lucky we are to have organizations like United Way making a difference in the lives of the people living right here in Chatham-Kent. They really do help to bring Hope, Strength, Joy and Belonging to our community.”

Four stories of lives changed were shared – stories of Hope, Strength, Joy and Belonging. Those individuals and families that were featured in the videos received a surprise this morning as local organizations stepped forward to present a special gift in their honour.

Marian Redford, Manager of Community Investment at Union Gas Ltd., presented a $500 cheque to the Solid Rock Café Youth Centre in Tilbury. The donation was made in honour of Rylee Harmsworth who was featured in the “Belonging” video, and will be used for needed centre enhancements and furnishings.

Chris Ovecka, Commercial Account Manager at Programmed Insurance Brokers and a Campaign Cabinet Member, announced the dedication of the Training Room at the United Way Centre for Community Innovation (The 425) as the “Samantha Labute Training Room”. Samantha was featured in the “Hope” video.  This is the first room at The 425 to be named in honour of a Chatham-Kent citizen who is helping to make a difference in the lives of others through small and courageous acts of kindness.

Jason Heuvelmans, Dealer Principal for Blenheim Chevrolet Buick GMC, announced that they will be partnering with the New Beginnings, ABI and Stroke Recovery Association to distribute free bicycle helmets to children on Family Day 2018 to help prevent acquired brain injuries. These helmets are dedicated to Shelby Emery who was featured in the “Joy” video.  What an awesome way to give back to our community.

Spencer Antaya, Marketing Coordinator with TekSavvy Solutions, presented a gift to the VON Kids’ Circle Program which helps children deal with the loss of a loved one. Spencer presented two fully-loaded iPads with art apps, which will allow the program coordinator to use art therapy as a means of helping children to better understand and cope with their grief. The iPads were donated in memory of Pauline Little-Rupert, whose children have benefited from the VON Kids’ Circle Program.

If you haven’t seen the stories of Hope, Strength, Joy and belonging, they can be viewed at

The funds raised during Campaign 2017 will be distributed, locally, almost immediately to  improve lives and build community right here in Chatham-Kent.

Wanna have some fun? The United Way is looking for volunteers to help with Red Feather & Harvest Run!

United Way has a special opportunity for residents of Chatham-Kent to help give back through volunteering their time and talents to help support two of our community’s largest fundraising events this season: the youth-driven Red Feather and the ever-popular Harvest Run.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: As per school board regulations, all volunteers must be 1) over the age of 18 and 2) have been out of high school for at least one full year.

Here’s when and where you can lend a hand:

Tuesday, September 19
What: Dodgeball
Where: St. Clair College Healthplex
Time: 3:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Available Volunteer Duties: Chaperone

Wednesday, September 20
What: Red Feather Trivia
Where: UCC Cafeteria
Time: 3:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Available Volunteer Duties: Chaperone, Score Keeping

Thursday, September 21
What: Red Feather Football Double Header
Where: CK Community Complex
Time: 4:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.
Available Volunteer Duties: Chaperone, Fence Watching, Parking Lot Patrols

Friday, September 22
What: Red Feather Dance hosted by United Way Chatham-Kent
Where: W.I.S.H. Centre
Time: 6:00 p.m.-11:30 p.m.
Available Volunteer Duties: Chaperone, Parking Lot Patrols
TICKETS are available online at:
DISCLAIMER: This event is not a school board affiliated event.

Sunday, September 24
What: Harvest Run
Where: John McGregor Secondary School
Time: 7:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Available Volunteer Duties: Water Stations, Route Marshalls, Registration

To find out more information or to get involved, please contact Michelle Robbins at or Erica Kitchen at Both Michelle and Erica can also be reached at the United Way office by calling (519) 354-0430.

United Way Campaign Goal set at $1.725 Million

At the 2017 Annual Campaign Kick-Off tonight, Campaign Chair Elizabeth Downey-Sunnen announced a goal of $1,725,000.

The United Way’s Mission is “to improve lives and build community.” Donations to and through the annual United Way campaign are invested in programs that help people cope with the numerous challenges of daily life – those associated with poverty, addiction, mental illness and physical disabilities. In 2016, over 40,000 residents turned to a United Way funded program in search of hope – hope that their life situation could and would get better for themselves and for their families.

Those on hand to pledge their support at the Kick-Off Event included Union Gas, the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, Service Canada, Lanoue Chevrolet, the Chatham-Kent Labour Council, the Christian Labour Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, InTouch Connection, the University of Guelph – Ridgetown Campus, Community Living Chatham-Kent, MC Business Solutions, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Shirley Davies, Councillor Brock McGregor, Municipality of Chatham-Kent and many of the agencies who administer United Way partner programs. The United Way staff also pledged their contribution of over $15,000 in support of this year’s campaign.

“The community support displayed tonight is beautiful.  We have received over $300,000 in pledges throughout the course of this evening. My team, along with other United Way volunteers and staff, will work tirelessly over the next three and a half months to achieve – and hopefully kick the heck out of – our goal,” said Elizabeth Downey-Sunnen.

“Setting this year’s goal was an informative process for our team. In our hearts, we all wanted to ensure that each of our partner programs would be fully funded and available to anyone in Chatham-Kent who needed to use those services. In order to do that, we would need to raise close to three-million dollars. We really did our homework this year, consulted and collaborated with our community leaders and key stakeholders, and the goal we felt we could realistically achieve while ensuring no further cuts to currently funded programs and services would be 1,725,000”, added Elizabeth.

Help spread more hope in our community by donating to this year’s campaign by calling (519) 354-0430 or by visiting  to make a confidential, secure on-line donation.

To pledge your support or get involved in the 2017 Campaign please contact Tom Slager at (519) 354-0430 or at