More than 300 La Ronge children receive school supplies from grant
- Chelsea Laskowski | October 02, 2017
For years, Ron Woytowich has been applying for an Royal Bank of Canada grant that would allow him to buy back-to-school items for La Ronge-area kids: this despite him knowing it was a long shot since La Ronge doesn’t even have an RBC outlet.
Applying for grants - and the rejection that often comes with it - is part and parcel with Woytowich’s work at the Kikinahk Friendship Centre in La Ronge, so it didn’t bother him when he applied for the RBC grant only to be turned down. “I’m always looking for grants, that’s just me,” he said.
This year, though, applying for the RBC grant wasn’t on Woytowich’s mind until he received a phone call from an RBC representative Patrick Dinsdale, who encouraged him to sign up. By the end of August, Woytowich received word that not only had his application been granted but the $11,200 grant would be able to provide school supplies for more than 300 children attending elementary school in the tri-community area. Gordon Denny Community School in Air Ronge, Pre-Cam Community School in La Ronge and Bell’s Point Elementary on Lac La Ronge would all be recipients.
“I’m happy we got it. Putting it bluntly, the fact that RBC gave it to us even if they don’t have an office here is pretty nice,” Woytowich told Eagle Feather.
Woytowich’s original plan was to have Kikinahk’s summer students make up backpack kits for the schoolkids and hand them out on the first day of classes. However, he said “we only had like three days from the day we got the cheque” until school started and the students had already finished their last day of work by then.
After consulting with RBC and school principals on what school supplies were most needed and how to best distribute them, Woytowich then went to a longtime friend who manages a Staples in Saskatoon. The store generously packaged three identical palettes with more than $11,200 in bulk notebooks, markers, pencils, scissors, rulers, looseleaf, and pencil cases to be picked up and delivered to the three schools.
“I went down with my truck to Saskatoon to get this stuff. He says ‘your truck’s not gonna work.’ They had three full huge pallets, 4,500 pounds,” Woytowich recalled.
“You wouldn’t believe how much stuff they got.”
They instead hired a transport truck, and teachers were ready to take the bulk items off their hands when school staff arrived the Friday before school started. On the first day of school, staff distributed the supplies to students “who are in desperate need of them,” said Principal Dawna Olsen at Pre-Cam Community School, and they’ll be able top up supplies for kids throughout the school year.
“Any of the new kids that have been arriving without any supplies, we’ve done them up a little backpack and sent them on their way with the new school supplies that have been donated so it’s been wonderful for some of our new parents.”
She said it’s a huge help to have all kids start the school year on the same footing, regardless of any financial troubles or family troubles they face back home.
“It is hard for kids who come and they don’t have anything,” she said. “Sometimes it’s because there’s been a split in the family situation or maybe some conflict or many number of things that have happened through the summer. And so it’s just one less trigger for them. It’s already hard enough being the new kid.”
Kikinahk ended up spending about $500 on top of the grant to get everything in place, and Woytowich said many of the kids who will end up receiving the supplies have already been through the organization’s HeadStart/PreK program for kids, which has helped 60 preschool kids per year for almost 20 years.
“I can guarantee you that the kids have been through Kikinahk and it’s just like we’re helping them in their other grades now. It feels good you know. It’s like a Christmas hamper. It’s not for us, it’s for the community, it feels good,” he said.
This year, Tamara Roberts was sending off her five-year-old to Bells Point for the first time, and found out about the donation through a Facebook post and said “it’s pretty good and helpful” to not have to get supplies for her daughter’s first year of school.