Fundraising has just closed for the Scotiabank Charity Challenge at this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Virtual Race with a remarkable CAD $2.97 million raised for 163 official charities. This represents 85% of the usual total realized in previous, real-life editions.
“Many of our partners are small, mostly-local charities,” said Race Director Alan Brookes. “Their commitment and determination in the face of adversity has been truly outstanding and arguably the success story of the virtual experience.”
“We can’t thank and recognize the resilience of our charity runners and walkers enough,” added Brookes. “In a normal year they represent about one-in-five of our total participants. This year one-in-three of those on our virtual start lines were running to help others and keep our community whole.”
Behind every dollar raised there’s a story. Whether it’s a runner completing their first marathon for a worthy cause, or a single fundraiser raising thousands of dollars for their charity of choice, everyone has their own reason(s) to participate.
And behind every dollar raised there’s a beneficiary who is depending on the services provided by these 163 charities for survival, their health, and their mental well-being. For some, during this pandemic, it’s the peace of mind knowing they can count on a daily meal provided by their local organization. For others, it’s access to mental health support. Funds raised through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge provide much-needed access to these resources.
Among the 163 charity partners, Fountain of Love & Life, Lumenus Community Services, Amistad Canada, and the Anishnawbe Health Foundation shared their experiences fundraising in a year like no other.
Here are their stories.
Lumenus Community Services
Lumenus offers a broad range of high quality mental health, developmental and community services for infants, children, youth, individuals and families across Toronto.
“The challenges of COVID-19 remain prevalent in the media, social conversations, and the thoughts of many Torontonians,” the group said. “For those who experience worry, anxiety, and other mental health challenges, Lumenus steps in.”
Lumenus and its separate organizations have participated in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge for more than 10 years, raising funds to support youth mental health. This year, Lumenus, an amalgamation of Adventure Place, Griffin Centre, Skylark Children, Youth & Families, and The Etobicoke Children’s Centre raised $70,702 towards supporting mental health, developmental and community services for individuals and families in the Toronto area.
One of the many highlights for Lumenus during the Scotiabank Charity Challenge includes a story from a teenager named Tre.
“I’m a Grade 12 student, and the support during COVID-19 has been incredible,” said the 17-year-old. “During this time I’ve been having so many issues and the amount of support I have gotten from Lumenus has been very helpful. The youth outreach worker and my therapist are awesome. I love them all and I can’t wait for more!”
Mental health issues are at an all-time high and through the marathon, those like Tre are able to realize their full potential.
Given the challenges of fundraising remotely, Lumenus adopted several innovative ways to engage their community: online contests, providing around the clock peer-to-peer support by phone, and launching a series of email blasts that included safe running and fundraising tips.
“Despite being socially apart, we came together as a united team,” the charity said. “Where there are gaps, participants and supporters have helped Lumenus create seamless connections. Where there are obstacles or barriers, participants and supporters have helped Lumenus to improve access. And where there is worry, participants and supporters have helped Lumenus create hope.”
Amistad Canada works to improve the lives of Mexicans-in-need through health and education Projects delivered in partnership with 14 Mexican NGOs.
“Our Mexican project partners are active in the areas of Health and Education. During a pandemic, traditional food donations (school programs, church lunches, restaurant and hotel donations) were no longer available,” Amistad Canada said. “Therefore, while funds continued to be directed towards health and education programs, a significant portion of the funds raised were diverted to buying basic food necessities, so people could count on one daily meal.”
In 2020, their first year participating in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, Amistad Canada raised over $38,000. Thanks to the virtual component of the STWM, seven of Amistad Canada’s Mexican project partner NGOs were able to raise funds in a new way, allowing them to avoid crowd-gathering and virtually reach out to many more donors.
“It has been such a rewarding experience, many of our Mexican Project Partners are now leveraging their virtual marathon learnings to create their own virtual fundraising events. We had a lot of fun! As one Amistad Canada participant observed: In a virtual marathon you can run or walk. Or lie. But the final results tell the truth. All the runners, supporters and volunteers are champions and their hard work generated meaningful benefit for many Mexicans in this time of extra need. True teamwork.”
Anishnawbe Health Foundation
First-year charity partner Anishnawbe Health Foundation doubled their fundraising goal in 2020, raising more than $10,000 for improving health and healing for First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in Toronto. These funds will help build a new home for Anishnawbe Health, which breaks ground in 2021.
“Due to the pandemic, we had to cancel our annual fundraising events in 2020,” Angela Miller of AHT said. “We’ve also not had as many opportunities to interact with donors and the community.”
With the help of two local volunteers, AHT provided a unique fundraising experience for participants. All team members participated in a curated self-guided Don to Downtown Walking Tour in Support of Anishnawbe Health.
Participants not only accomplished a goal of completing 5 km, team members soaked in the sights on route including public art, history, and how the land has transformed over time in Corktown, St. Lawrence, Esplanade and the Canary District neighbourhoods. All of these areas are normally part of the STWM course as well.
The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon offered a new and unique way to engage volunteers and donors, and given the history of the race and the fact that Scotiabank covers all the fees associated with online fundraising, the Anishnawbe Health Foundation was able to participate with a limited budget and have every dollar raised go towards the charity.
Fountain of Love & Life
Fountain of Love & Life has participated in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge since 2010.
This year, they were the top overall fundraising charity, raising $622,063.95.
“Our team of over 120 walkers and runners were very enthusiastic both in fundraising and going the extra mile, literally, in the distance we cover together,” the organization said. “We had walked and run a total of 2,143.76 kilometres! The spirit of our team also inspired a few donors to provide matching funds to encourage other donors to support our team and FLL to reach our fundraising goal. We are super grateful to all the participants in doubling their effort so that we could raise more than what we did in previous years, which is an extraordinary blessing from above.”
Close to $150,000 of the initial funds raised were used to purchase PPE’s for the frontline healthcare workers in Ontario, mainly in the Greater Toronto Area. The other funds raised will help sustain their operations in 2021 and allow Fountain of Love & Life to develop capacity in offering more online Catholic spiritual resources and meaningful events for the Chinese community around the world during and after the pandemic.
“The STWM both saves us from having to put in lots of resources to organize a walkathon/fundraiser ourselves and provides us with a very effective fundraising platform,” they said. “Being able to join a world-class marathon event brings much excitement among our participants every year. The support that the STWM organizers provide to the charities is exceptional. We are very grateful for the opportunity to fundraise through STWM over the past 11 years, without which it would be impossible for us to raise this amount of money through our normal channels.”
The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will return as a virtual race October 1st – 31st 2021. Tentative plans are underway for an in-person event on Sunday October 17th, 2021, but that is subject to confirmation based on COVID-19. For updates, visit http://STWM.ca