Written by Colin Withers on August 12, 2015
in Giving Back

Last holiday season we embarked on our biggest charity drive ever, donating $25,000 to ten different charities across the GTA in our Ariad Gives Back campaign. We decided to check in on some of the charities in order to find out where the donations went and how they helped make a difference. Here are some stories from a few of the charities we selected. Stay tuned for more updates in the weeks to come!

Blessings in a Backpack

Blessings in a Backpack is a unique program designed to support schoolchildren who simply do not have enough to eat on weekends. Families who struggle with hunger or who are ‘food insecure’ rely on food banks and other resources during the week, but many cannot satisfy weekend needs. This is where Blessings in a Backpack steps in.

The program works like this: kids take home a backpack filled with nourishing food every Friday and return the backpack empty on Monday, ready to start their week. How does this simple act help? The benefits and impact are immediate: attendance and productivity soar; students report greater attentiveness and improved energy; teachers see improvements in study habits and demeanour; parents feel relief and support for their own family. Above all, communities grow – and lives are changed.

Here is what a representative from Blessings in a Backpack told us when we asked them for an update:

We asked some of the children in our program: What does Blessings in a Backpack mean to you?

  • Grade 3 student: “Helps me. Gives me food when I don’t have it. Helps my family have money left over to buy gas.”
  • Grade 3 student: “Makes me feel special and not lonely.”
  • Grade 3 student: “Makes me feel happy because I know I’ll have food on the weekend.”
  • Grade 4 student: “Helps my family have enough food to eat on the weekend. I feel very happy when I get my food bag.”
  • Grade 5 student: “Makes me feel like someone cares about me and wants to help me. It really helps my family because we don’t have a lot of money to buy food.”
  • Grade 5 student: “Helps me worry less about food and money and how we are going to all have enough to eat on the weekend.”

Blessings blessings-in-a-backpack-thunder-bay Moncton

As you can see, the children are extremely appreciative of the support Ariad has given and understand the importance of kindness, even from strangers.

Blessings in a Backpack is currently in 63 schools across Canada feeding over 2,250 children each week. In the last year, they added 218 children and 13 schools to the program. They continue to add new regions to the program and expand the programs that are already up and running.

This fall they will be increasing the budget per kid to $120 due to increases in food prices. Continuous support from donors will enable the charity to make this change so the kids will receive the same standard of food items.

This year, they also participated in a program called Kindness Week where students from around the city were encouraged to perform deliberate and random acts of kindness. Students in Toronto created inspirational notes that were included in some of the backpacks to let the children know that they are not alone and that others in the community care about them.

Camp Oochigeas

Camp Oochigeas (Ooch) is a privately funded, volunteer-based organization that provides kids affected by childhood cancer with unique opportunities for growth through challenging, fun, enriching and magical experiences. Cancer changes a child’s life. So does camp. That’s why Ooch offers a wide variety of year-round camp programs for kids with cancer, their siblings, and their families.

Here’s what a representative from Ooch told us when we asked them about the impact of Ariad’s $2,500 donation:

$2,500 = 10 days of camp for Ooch Muskoka summer campers (at a cost of $250 a day) and Ooch never charges a camper’s family for any programs.

Here is a testimonial from an Ooch camper: “Ooch is there when we need it most, it’s a place where we can grow, love and learn. Ooch is a place where we can express ourselves and not be judged or feel like we aren’t good enough. Ooch is there when we need a shoulder to lean on and where friends stay in our hearts forever. Ooch is not just a camp; it is a home, a family.”


After 30 years, Ooch now provides year-round social and recreational programs for kids and families affected by childhood cancer in multiple locations in Ontario. They now meet every child diagnosed with cancer at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and support over 1,200 families a year, 365 days a year, through In-Hospital programs, Downtown Ooch programs and Ooch Muskoka residential camp programs.

Covenant House

As Canada’s largest homeless youth agency, Covenant House Toronto changes lives by providing the widest range of services and support under one roof. A national leader, Covenant House educates and advocates for change to help at-risk and homeless youth by influencing public policy and delivering prevention and awareness programs. About 3,000 young people turn to them annually for support.

Here’s what a representative from Covenant House told us when we asked them about how Ariad’s $2,500 donation was used:

  • What does $2,500 provide Covenant House?
    • $2,500 provides food for one day at the Covenant House (CH) Toronto location (this includes 3 meals and snacks).
  • How has the donation made an immediate impact on Covenant House and its members?
    • On average, almost 92 youth stayed in the CH shelter every day compared to last year’s average of 88. This was likely the result of the harsh winter and the continued need to provide more support to youth to help them move forward. Food is one of CH’s largest costs – costing about $0.5 million annually. CH relies on private (non-government) funders for 80% of the $21.8 million annual operating budget.

Matthew House

Matthew House welcomes newly arrived refugees by providing safe shelter, settlement assistance, and bridges into the community while inspiring others through its replicable model and advocacy. Since opening in 1998, over 1,200 refugees from 87 different nations have been warmly welcomed by caring volunteers and staff who provide the residents help with all their settlement needs, including dealing with confusing paper work, preparing for the refugee hearing, orientation to Canada, connection with social services and finding and furnishing apartments with donated furniture. Matthew House receives very little direct government support but exists simply through the generosity of individuals and foundations that care about the plight of refugees.

Here’s what a representative from Matthew House told us when we asked them how Ariad’s donation helped:

  • The donated funds went toward Matthew House’s (MH) Settlement Program which helps with the practical aspects of refugee reception at the shelter including providing a clean warm bed, home cooked meals, and orientation to life in a new country.
  • Here’s a photo of new born baby Nathan, born to an Eritrean mother:


  • Ariad’s donation helped to make transition into life in Canada for a newly arrived pregnant mother from Eritrea much smoother as MH was able to provide her with all the support she needed in terms of her pregnancy and birth. She was given excellent support in finding medical and midwife help, a labour coach volunteer, special dietary supplements, baby supplies and a loving “family” which embraced her and her newborn upon arrival back from the hospital. She has now settled into one of MH’s transition homes where she continues to receive ongoing support for her baby.
  • Matthew House continues to provide welcome and support to newly arriving refugee claimants in need, thanks to the support of groups such as Ariad.

Colin Withers is the Brand & Communications Manager at Ariad Communications.

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