Bursaries - Programs for Ontario's Youth
As stated in last year’s Annual Report, the Board of Directors of the Foundation resolved to discontinue the annual bursary program effective April 1, 2012. This decision was not made lightly and followed several years of declining participation by many post-secondary school educational institutions.
The annual bursary program, established in 1965, was the first charitable outreach program undertaken by the newly established Masonic Foundation of Ontario. It was instituted to provide non-repayable financial assistance to enable students to complete their post secondary education when unforeseen financial difficulties might otherwise have compelled them to give up before graduation.
The annual bursary programme was the Foundation's major charitable outreach, being especially unique as the only Foundation activity involving local members, from all Masonic Districts, who personally met and presented bursary cheques to students who came from towns and cities throughout the Province.
In 1997 the Foundation participated in a special endowment bursary program under the Ontario Student Opportunities Trust Funds and involved a matching of bursary funds donated by the Foundation by the Government of Ontario. In one case funds were also matched by the institution’s alumni. This program was terminated by the Province in 2012. Contributions a mounting to several thousands of dollars were made by the Foundation over three years in all.
The University of Toronto in Toronto, Mohawk College in Hamilton, Seneca College in North York, and Fanshawe College in London, now have endowed bursaries that are awarded annually to a number of students. These endowed funds and bursaries will continue in perpetuity.
A resolution by the Board of Directors this year approved establishing endowed bursary funds in each of the community colleges within the Province. This program will be funded at the rate of $100,000 per year for ten years. Each year four colleges will be chosen, geographically selected within the Province, until a Masonic Foundation of Ontario Endowed Bursary Fund exists and is operating in every community college within the Province, thus providing full exposure and equal opportunity for all.
This year, Endowed Bursary Funds have been established at Cambrian College in Sudbury, Algonquin College in Ottawa, Loyalist College in Belleville and George Brown College in Toronto. These funds, like those mentioned earlier, will provide bursaries in perpetuity to needy students. While the Province has terminated the matching plan, two of the schools selected this year were able to obtain matching funds, increasing the total amount invested by 50%. Efforts continue to work with the colleges within the Province in supporting the education and development of our leaders of tomorrow.
Autism Services - Giant Steps
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or autism, is a complex, lifelong neurological disorder that typically appears within the first 3 years of life. Although the cause is unknown, it is believed that autism is a result of both genetic and environmental factors. With a tenfold increase in the prevalence of autism in the last 40 years, an alarming 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys now have autism. There are now more children affected with autism than by diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and Down syndrome combined.
Autism is characterized by a wide range of communication, social, learning and behavioural challenges. Many individuals with autism have difficulty responding appropriately in different environments and social situations, display repetitive behaviours and have difficulty coping with changes in routines. While some children are highly verbal, many cannot speak; some need constant assistance with basic life skills. With compassion and acceptance, early and intensive structured support, and specialized therapies, children with autism can gain many new skills and function as contributing members of their families, schools and communities.
Established in 1995 and affiliated with the York Region District School Board, Giant Steps is a school & therapy centre for elementary school age children with autism. Giant Steps’ mission is to build the skills and abilities of children with autism through specialized programs of academics, therapies and life skills, and to foster their meaningful participation in their families, schools and communities.
Giant Steps is dedicated to improving the lives of children with autism through intervention and integration. Students receive individualized programs of academics, speech, play/social skills, music and occupational therapies, life skills and behavioural intervention. After a period of attending Giant Steps full-time, children spend parts of their school week in their local schools with typically developing peers. Their successful participation there is facilitated by the one-on-one support of a Giant Steps Program Assistant and the consulting services of the full Giant Steps team.
Services that support Giant Steps’ core academic and therapy programs include their Teaching the Teacher program, a Sports & Recreation Club, and a siblings support group. Giant Steps’ long-term goal is to integrate children with ASD into their local schools full-time.
The Masonic Foundation supported Giant Steps this year with their largest single grant. This grant funded their hands-on speech therapy and play/social skill programs, enabling their expert therapists to work directly with children with autism and build critical communication and social skills. Through these therapy programs, children with autism learned to speak or communicate with technology, to interact with others, and gain new life skills. A special focus of therapy was facilitating their students’ use of the iPads and SMART Boards the Masonic Foundation funded last year. With its specialized software and apps, voice output and unique visual impact, this technology has given non-verbal children a voice and all children with autism new tools and opportunities for learning. Giant Steps’ therapists also worked with teachers and families, giving them strategies to foster learning and coping with the challenges of autism at home and in their local schools.
From Giant Steps: “Being able to communicate ensures that we can meet our most basic needs and connect with others. Speech therapy combined with technology is our best strategy for giving children with autism a voice.” Elana Magder, Speech & Language Pathologist
“The SMART Board is an exceptional teaching tool that has transformed my classroom, enabling me to engage my students every day in new and expanded learning activities.” Laurie Taciuk, Special Education Teacher
“Our iPads are giving my students a voice, and enabling me to provide them with unique and exciting learning experiences.” Stacey Shuster, Special Education Teacher
“Funded by The Masonic Foundation, our SMART Boards and iPads are enabling our kids to communicate and learn via the latest technology, and new resources in our academic and therapy departments allow us to use best practices and really engage our children. Your support of our therapy programs ensures that highly skilled therapists are working with our kids. It is this combination of expert therapists and the latest tools that has the greatest impact on children with autism, enabling them to gain new skills in every developmental area. Thank you to everyone at The Masonic Foundation of Ontario!” Giant Steps Toronto/York Region
The Masonic Foundation of Ontario further demonstrates its interest in the welfare of young people by supporting youth groups who, by their interest in mankind, will be at the forefront in making the world better for future generations - young citizens of today actively working for a better tomorrow for everyone, such as Scouts Canada, Girl Guides of Canada, Canadian 4-H clubs and DeMolay. In this manner, it is the Masonic Foundation's goal to assist young persons to be the best that they can be.