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Leafs Dreams gives Kids a Chance

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Many kids have no idea how talented they are. Their parents can't really know how special their kids are either, and may not have the means to help them even if they did.

Teachers often come across students who have a special talent for music, drama, dance or the visual arts. They think, "If only he could take some extra courses. If only she could get some extra help." But the reality for some students is that often he or she can't. Today, that dream is a possibility.

Leafs Dreams, a program sponsored by the Toronto Maple Leafs, will provide scholarships to students who show promise in the arts, but don't have the means or the opportunity to pursue their goals.

"Most of us at some key moment in our lives have received a life-changing break," said Ken Dryden, President of the Toronto Maple Leafs. "Often, it's because someone took special notice of us. They saw some talent and drive, and opened windows for us to a different world. It happens all the time in hockey. It can happen more often in the arts."

About two years ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs approached the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board with the idea of creating a program to help these talented students. The Ontario Principals' Council Learning Foundation also became involved, including arranging for up to 40 volunteers a night to sell 50/50 tickets in support of the program at each Leafs home game. Last year, over $250,000 was raised. A similar 50/50 Draw is in place this year as well.

The money raised will be used to develop a program for students in grades seven and eight, offering them enriched instruction/experiences for one year or longer depending on their need, interest and progress. Last spring, the school boards helped to identify 14 students to take part in the initial pilot program for Leafs Dreams. By next spring, more than 60 students will be involved.

"By identifying a learning barrier and working to eliminate it, this program is providing our students with a chance to pursue their goals. We are pleased to have been a part of getting this initiative off the ground," said Ted Whiteland, Chairman of the Ontario Principals' Council Learning Foundation.

Just as in minor hockey, most of the kids involved in Leafs Dreams will not make the arts their career. But even if they don't, if none of them ever makes it to the stages of Roy Thomson Hall or Hummingbird Centre, the experiences they will have through Leafs Dreams, the lessons they will learn, the discoveries they will make about themselves, will last them a lifetime.

GoKidsGo! The Leafs Fund is the charitable fundraising arm of the Toronto Maple Leafs and is committed to supporting children's charities and important community initiatives throughout Toronto. Each year, GoKidsGo! raises over $1.5 million in support of local charities.

The Ontario Principals' Council Learning Foundation (OPCLF) is the charitable arm of the Ontario Principals' Council. The OPCLF is dedicated to supporting the development of healthy learning environments for children and youth up to 20 years of age through the identification and removal of social, economic, and physical learning barriers.
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