Guest Speaker Susan Morris from City Kidz spoke at our October 29th Meeting.
 
Rotarian Milena Balta presents Susan Morris with a personalized copy of the 'Hamiltons of the World' Rotary Book.Susan Morris from CityKidz returned to update us on the awesome things going on at CityKidz and the challenges that are being faced in bringing joy and hope into the under privileged youth of Hamilton.  Susan has been a volunteer and a fundraiser for this Non-Profit Charity for 16 years. 
They are preparing for the Big Dreams Banquet on November 19th, 2015 celebrating 22 years serving Hamiltons Youth.  They are getting out the Elf hats to reopen Santa's workshop for the Gift of Christmas annual Christmas event to make sure that they get a gift under the tree for over 4500 underprivileged children in the Hamilton area.  This is while they are still running the Saturday Theatre program for 2000 youth every week, visiting families on Wednesdays in th big red buses running a successful weekly youth leadership program for 250 plus 12-16 years old registered future leaders.  As impressive as the stats are, the story of youth member Craig is what drove home the need for www.CityKidz.ca with those in attendance.  Please read the letter from Craig below.
 
After another transformational year, they are excited to spend an evening with you
celebrating stories of hope! Featuring a special performance by Juno Award Winner
Diana Panton, testimonials from our inspiring youth, and a tremendous silent
auction to boot!
Details:
Thursday November 19th at The Hamilton Convention Centre
5:30pm - Silent Auction Room Opens
5:30pm - Doors Open and our Jr. Leaders arrive by limo!
6:00pm - Dinner starts promptly
7:30pm - Performance by Diana Panton, followed by our evening program
9:00pm – Evening Concludes
The evening is black tie optional.
Please contact micheline@citykidz.ca or 905-544-3996 ext 210.
Tickets are $75 and a table of 10 is $750. A portion of your ticket is tax deductible.
We hope to see you there!
Thank you for making a difference in our children’s lives!
 
TESTIMONY BY CRAIG, A CITY KIDZ “LONG-TERMER” (MAY, 2015)
My name is Craig and I am 18 years old. I first started attending City Kidz with my older brother when I was 3 years old. City Kidz was the perfect opportunity for my brother, sister and I to connect, as we were all in separate Foster Homes and weren’t able to see each other often. When I turned 12 I started attending the Junior Leadership program at City Kidz, and have been involved as a volunteer—and now a bus captain--at City Kidz for 6 years.
Before joining City Kidz, my home life was filled with chaos and turmoil. My father is an alcoholic and is also involved in drugs. My family still lives pay cheque to pay cheque, struggling to make ends meet. Because of this instability my family has moved around several times. At many points my family has lived in a family shelter, but has been kicked out several times because of my dads behavior.
I started attending City Kidz when I turned 3 years old. What initially drew me to City Kidz was the positive atmosphere that I got, the kind of loving and nurturing feeling that I got from the team captains and that I kind of wasn’t feeling at home. It’s kind of hard to explain, but they take that time to get to know you, they understand you when you’re hurt, they cuddle you when you need cuddling, they just have that whole hearted, whole rounded kind of feeling that makes you feel included. And they go out of their way to make you feel important.
I really loved the atmosphere of the City Kidz playhouse theatre. It was always go-go-go and I enjoyed that there was never a dull moment. I really liked how all of the City Kidz staff and volunteers tried to get every kid involved in the games as much as possible. The excitement and the inclusively created a “friendship atmosphere”, which I loved. As a child at City Kidz, the songs, memory moments and lessons were the highlights for me because I was able to have fun while learning something.
When I became a Junior Leader, my goal was to bring to City Kidz the best attributes that I saw in those that were my leaders when I was a child at City Kidz. I wanted to be a volunteer in the program so I could take the opportunity to make a difference in another child’s life.
My experience with City Kidz, both as a child and a leader, has had a great impact on my life. Consistently hearing the messages that City Kidz conveys, such as “with God you can” and “God has a plan for your life”, I developed a renewed hope for the future. In the City Kidz program, they gave me those bright lights that kind of made me who I want to be and showed me that through anything, no matter what, you know I can be who I want to be and nobody can stop me from doing that.
My family is not of a particular faith background, so City Kidz was the first time I heard about God. Every week during the theatre presentation there would be a message about God along with a moral lesson. I started to think more about God and the messages conveyed - “God loves me” and “God has a plan for my life” - started to have an impact on me. Through my involvement with City Kidz, I developed a desire to attend church. City Kidz staff connected me with a church in my area. As the only person that believed in God in my family, it required extra effort to go to church and learn about God. A family sponsored me so I could attend Great Lakes Christian High School.  I was baptized when I was 16 years old.
I believe that through volunteering with City Kidz I have developed a sense of self-worth. I definitely think that I have gained a lot more power for myself. I know that a lot in elementary school, I felt kind of low being bullied, like low self-esteem, and I think that going to the City Kidz program kind of built me up as a better person. I also think that they just teach you morals and values that you should use in your everyday life that kind of make you who you are.
Through City Kidz I have a heightened understanding of God’s purpose in my life. My City Kidz involvement has given me a sense of belonging and sense of purpose.  Through my volunteering with the Junior Leadership program, I have been able to impact the lives of many kids, just as my own was impacted.
City Kidz’s consistent messages about God increased my understanding of God’s love for me. The consistency and care shown by the City Kidz staff and volunteers tangibly showed me that I was loved and that I mattered. Through my interactions with City Kidz, there was always people in my life that I knew cared deeply for me and I was always reassured that God cared for me as well.
I feel like my family life was directly impacted through my involvement with City Kidz by creating an environment where healthier family dynamics thrived. Not only did City Kidz provide positive opportunities for my family, but the City Kidz staff was also there to provide support for my family when times were difficult. One time, City Kidz gave our family tickets to see a Hamilton Tiger Cats game. As a family, we were able to watch the game, meet the football players, and then have a pizza party on the field after.  Experiences like this gave us opportunities to be closer together as a bigger and brighter family, and just kind of took us away from the bad that has happened and stir us into the good.
There certainly have been some tough years for me and my family. But I think definitely being around children at City Kidz, seeing the children, seeing the impact that it has on the children---all of that definitely has kind of opened my mind to seeing how God wants me to make a difference in children’s lives or in situations of poverty or homelessness or something similar to that.
Overall, I have really valued my time with City Kidz. I think it’s just been an overall amazing experience that definitely has shaped my life and has given me a positive outlook into life. 
 
Craig’s accomplishments that he was too humble to put in his testimony:
Grade 8:  Craig won the Citizen of the Year Award out of 200 public schools in Hamilton area; a Kiwanis Award for leadership; a “Shine” Award from Me to We and was class valedictorian.
Great Lakes Christian High school: Craig was the first person from his family to graduate from high school; won a Lieutenant Governor’s Award; and went on a mission trip to Detroit three times, then started a ministry here at home called “Spread the Love” which provided sandwiches for the homeless in Hamilton
Craig’s story isn’t over. As of May, 2015 he was accepted to and is attending Mohawk College for Business.  Craig is currently living in a shelter with his mom and sister due to domestic violence that occurred while Craig was at home. Craig is the captain and is responsible for the weekly home visits and City Kidz Saturdays for the children on route 12-3.  He is also volunteering at the 541 café on Barton St.
Craig is a perfect example of the resilience we are instilling in children’s lives so they can thrive, not just survive, within their challenging circumstances. We are investing in children’s lives from when they are 3 until they are 18, building leaders who will give back, not take from their community.