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 www.ChangingLivesCK.ca.

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