Originally published by Ryerson Athletics & Recreation (September 2019)
As a social institution, sport has the power to inspire greatness — to promote opportunities for individual successes that can change lives both on and off the playing field.
Sports also have the power to bring people together, and to inspire change in a community.
Ryerson's Department of Athletics and Recreation has always believed its responsibility to cultivate human potential through sport extends far beyond the borders of Ryerson's campus. The 2018-19 season saw many community successes; from team initiatives to department fundraisers, Ryerson Rams Care programs thrived and both student-athlete and community engagement reached an all-time high.
A staple of Rams Care's yearly programming, the department raised $31,000 for the I AM Ryerson Kids-to-Camp campaign through various fundraising efforts, including the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon. Runners walked or ran in the 5K, half-marathon or marathon events and participated in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge to raise funds for the I AM Ryerson Kids-to-Camp campaign.
Money generated from the Charity Challenge helped cover the registration and enrollment fees of I AM Ryerson campers, children hailing from families in need who are sent to summer camp at no charge thanks to Rams Care donors.
The I AM Ryerson campaign helped deserving children experience the joy of Ryerson Summer Day Camps at no cost in 2018. This year, the department is aiming to double last year's fundraising target, aspiring to raise $75,000 to cover summer camp fees for hundreds of kids in need in the local community.
"$75,000 is a big goal for this particular initiative," says Suzanne Fenerty, the Rams' Community Engagement Coordinator, "but we are aiming high and will engage the Rams Care team members to do their best to increase our impact."
For over 30 years, Ryerson Summer Day Camps have hosted children from across the GTA in a fun and safe environment. In collaboration with the Rams, Ryerson Day Camps offer specialty sport sessions in collaboration with the school's varsity basketball, soccer, and hockey teams, as well as various other programming options such as architecture, engineering, science, digital media, and business.
Numerous past and present varsity athletes have found themselves involved in Ryerson Day Camps as counsellors or sport programmers. These student-athletes have experienced first-hand the impact of the I AM Ryerson donations on children in the local community.
Take Cara Tiemens, for example.
A five-year varsity athlete at Ryerson, Tiemens has been working for Ryerson Summer Day Camps for the last four years. She began her journey with Ryerson's women's basketball team back in 2014 and got involved with Ryerson Day Camps the following summer.
Tiemens started off as a basketball counsellor and eventually grew into her current role as the Sports Camp Lead, overseeing the basketball, soccer and hockey camps for the 2019 summer season.
"The thing I love about Ryerson is that there are so many camps to chose from," says Tiemens. "The sports camps are special because they get to work with Ryerson varsity athletes and coaches. The kids love it."
For the last three years, Tiemens has seen the I AM Ryerson funds put to good use. She's experienced the smiles, the ups and the downs in the life of a subsidized camper. As Tiemens explains, the program has given many deserving kids the opportunity to experience the joys of camp when they otherwise may not have been able to.
"It's a great program and it has an extremely positive impact on the lives of the children," says Tiemens. "Basketball camp has had a lot of I AM Ryerson campers in the past. We were at capacity most weeks this summer. It's great to see that the program is truly making a difference in the lives of children."
Current men's hockey student-athletes Mathew Santos and Mark Shoemaker have served as counsellors at Ryerson Day Camps for the last two years. Though hockey camps haven't been subsidized in the past, both Santos and Shoemaker have had the opportunity to work with kids across all camps, echoing Tiemens' remarks about I AM Ryerson's impact on the community.
"It's a great initiative to give kids the opportunity to experience summer camps here at Ryerson," says Santos. "Being around kids your age in the summer and in such a positive environment is an ideal situation for these children. They get the opportunity to have that childhood experience that every kid should have at their age."
Santos became involved at Ryerson Summer Camps a year after his arrival at the university in 2017. Making a difference in the local community has always been important to him; a recipient of the 2016 North Bay Battalion Humanitarian of the Year award, Santos has prioritized volunteer projects throughout his experiences in the hockey world. Now, Santos has shifted his sights to the local Toronto community as he continues his community outreach work in and around Ryerson.
Another second-year camp counsellor, Shoemaker began his work at Ryerson Day Camps prior to his first year at Ryerson in 2018. He has also had the opportunity to experience the joys of working as an instructor, and, through it all, Shoemaker says he has enjoyed seeing both the subsidized and unsubsidized campers thrive in the camp environment on a daily basis.
"Though we didn't work with I AM Ryerson campers on-ice, we worked with many when we would go down to the gym to play games with kids from the other sports camps," says Shoemaker. "The campers were always so happy. The program is incredible and the opportunities afforded to them by Rams Care are something that all of us involved in the work are proud of."
Across all sports, all camps and all departments, the general consensus remains the same: the I AM Ryerson Kids-to-Camp program has had an incredibly positive impact on a vulnerable population of local youth.
"They're getting an opportunity that they may not otherwise get without the program and the funding," adds Tiemens. "You can really tell that the kids are so excited to be here, to see the facilities and work with the athletes, and learn something from counsellors that they really look up to."
Ryerson student-athletes have been at the forefront of the department's drive to make a difference in the local community, and the Ryerson Rams Care program affords all athletes and members of the school community the opportunity to get involved and directly impact the lives of local children in need.
"As a team and as a school, we always want to get involved in the community," says Santos. "We want to be role models to kids in the surrounding community, and having a positive impact on their lives in any sense is extremely important to all of us."
As Ryerson's Community Engagement Coordinator, Fenerty is heavily involved in both student-athlete and department initiatives. The Scotiabank Marathon fundraiser is a key focus of her energy around this time of year, and she says she wouldn't have it any other way.
"The run initiative brings folks together from different departments and faculties across campus for a common goal and a fun experience," says Fenerty. "It is a great community builder but at the end of the day, it's about the impact on the families and children that benefit from our fundraising efforts.
"Providing children with the joy and benefit of attending summer camp can have a lasting impression — that's what it's all about."
The 2019 Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon will take place on Sunday, October 20, 2019. Runners of all skill levels are encouraged to sign up and help raise funds to send kids to camp in 2020. The registration deadline on October 11 is fast approaching, so don't delay and sign up today. More information on the run and all Ryerson Rams Care programs can be found here.