by Jill Kruse
The Canadian Hero Fund has announced the latest recipients of post-secondary scholarships for the children of fallen soldiers. The organization now in its second year, also launched a new fundraising campaign whereby supporters can donate $11 over the 11 days leading up to Remembrance Day.
Johnny Henderson, the Development Manager of the Canadian Hero Fund says they are hoping to surpass last year’s fundraising efforts which saw the Fund increase by $40,000.
“For me, the Canadian Hero Fund represents a commitment to our Canadian soldiers from Canadian civilians,” says Henderson. “It shows that we, as civilians, look after those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in looking after us, either at home or overseas. I’m incredibly proud of our scholarship recipients who are pursuing their dreams after such a loss – it’s certainly rewarding to know that our scholarships have helped them in these pursuits and allowed them to continue their studies at the post-secondary level.”
The Canadian Hero Fund is a student and youth-based organization that raises funds for post-secondary educational scholarships for the children of fallen soldiers. Founded in 2009, at the University of Toronto, students have raised over $200,000 over the last 24 months for the scholarship program.
“The men and women of the Canadian Forces exemplify an incredible sense of duty to their country,” says Henderson. “We must not forget that every time we lose one of these brave men or women, someone has lost a son, daughter, husband, wife, father or mother. We will not let their ultimate sacrifice in the service of Canada curtail the opportunities and hopes that they fought to keep for the people back at home.”
The Canadian Hero Fund has provided $5000 scholarships to four children of fallen Canadian soldiers this fall.
Milann Mitchell, daughter of the late Capt. Bryan ‘Mav’ Mitchell one of the Snowbird pilots who was killed when his plane crashed in 2008, is a second year student at the University of Saskatchewan studying nutrition in pursuit of a degree in medicine and a career in pediatrics. “The Canadian Hero Fund represents hope and a helping hand to those who need it,” says Mitchell. “I want to thank the Hero Fund for helping me pursue my goals.”
Matthew Mellish, son of the late WO Frank Mellish, is in his second year at the University of New Brunswick pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in psychology and history. Upon completing his studies, Matthew hopes to pursue a career in the Canadian Forces as a psychologist. He wants to help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder in our armed forces. Matthew remembers his father telling his mother, “If anything ever happens to me, make sure you send the boys to a good school.” He says he will endeavour to do his best to succeed and give back to his country, as it has allowed him this opportunity to make a difference for the future.
Gale Gillam, daughter of the late Sgt. Craig Gillam, is studying at the University of New Brunswick where she is pursuing a degree in nursing. Gillam says her scholarship gives her peace of mind knowing that she can concentrate on her studies and not on money. “This scholarship means that people do realize that behind every great soldier is a family, behind every man holding a gun, is a woman holding his children, and behind every casket going down the highway of heroes is the family following. This scholarship shows that our heartache, our lonely nights without our loved ones, and our lives still matter, and are still being remembered.”
Adam Naismith, son of Captain Kevin Naismith, is a third year student at the University of Saskatchewan studying Fine Arts. Adam’s father was killed in 2003 while flying a CF-18 during Exercise Maple Flag. Adam’s goal is to become a pilot in the Canadian Forces, following his father’s legacy.
In the new campaign “11 for 11”, the organization will be asking Canadians to go above and beyond for the families of the fallen by donating 11 dollars to the Canadian Hero Fund scholarship program. Canadians can donate online at 11for11.ca during this time.
Schools will be participating by holding casual wear-red Civies Days in support of our troops and the Canadian Hero Fund as well as singing The Trews’ Highway of Heroes song at their Remembrance ceremonies. Canadian businesses are also joining the cause with Canadians raising funds at work in support of the Canadian Hero Fund’s scholarship program.
An “11 for 11” campaign video will be airing on multiple TV networks across Canada over the course of the campaign. It was written and produced by Toronto firm DraftFCB, a major sponsor of the charity. “Canadian rock band The Trews, whose hit song Highway of Heroes supports the Canadian Hero Fund, will anchor the commercial while actor Paul Gross lends significant support as its voice,” says Henderson. “We hope all those who can will help us in our latest campaign to help the children of our Fallen Heroes.”
He says the central motivation for the student founders of the Canadian Heroes Fund in 2009 was seeing the soldiers coming back from Afghanistan, seeing the families that had lost a mother or father and realizing many were the same age as they were.
“As graduates of and students at the University of Toronto, they especially realized that these children were losing the (post-secondary) educational opportunity they all had access to because of their mother or father’s ultimate sacrifice in the service and protection of Canada. The Canadian Hero Fund does not believe that that sacrifice should curtail the opportunities available to those children.”
He says that everyone who does work for the Canadian Hero Fund is a volunteer. Roles range from the running of day-to-day operations to the Executive Director or Development Manager to others involved with the website, communications, and campaigns. Henderson says the organization works hard to keep overhead costs as low as possible to ensure that they do not have hired staff or rent office space.