Start2Finish says, “Thank you!”

Marie Dennison, Regional Director of Guelph’s Start2finish Running & Reading Clubs, says “Thank You!”

Thank you 100 Women Who Care for inviting me here this evening. My name is Marie Dennison, Regional Director of Guelph’s Start2finish Running & Reading Clubs.

We at Start2Finsh, would like to extend our deepest gratitude to 100 Women Who Care Guelph whom so generously donated to the Running & Reading Clubs of Guelph. The money you have donated was allocated to the launch of our new Running & Reading Club at Westwood Public School, equipping an additional 60 children living in poverty in Guelph with the building blocks to graduate and succeed.  The funds will go towards running shoes, t-shirts, fitness equipment, books, and the year-end 5K Running & Reading Challenge in May where the children will have the opportunity to achieve the goals they have been working so hard towards over the past months.

Our mission at Start2Finish’s is to break the cycle of child poverty by providing ongoing educational support to Canada’s at risk children throughout their school years, nurturing mind, body and social health so they are empowered to succeed and become role models for change.

Marie Dennison from Start 2 Finish displays the backpacks that our donations helped to purchase.

In 2000, Brian Warren, former CFL All-Star and Grey Cup Champion, founded the Start2Finish program by distributing backpacks filled with quality schools supplies and books to children in at-risk schools, and hosting literacy festivals. In his broad survey of research and through many years of experience working with kids both in the USA and here in Canada, he knew that a weekly component to the program was critical to seeing meaningful change. Supporters like retired Olympic marathoner Silvia Ruegger, Alison Rochon, and others were very crucial in helping put together a comprehensive 32-week program of fitness and running. The reading portion was combined with the physical activity as a critical complement to help kids address low literacy, an accurate indicator as early as grade 1 of those prone to dropout in high school (Children living in poverty are 50% more likely to drop out before their high school graduation). Putting these two unlikely components together, the Start2Finish “Fitness Literacy Model” was addressing what he coined as the “BIG 7” – seven factors that correlate with students’ success and are tied to socio-economic status.

These factors are:

  1. Health
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Effort & Energy
  4. Cognitive-Capacity
  5. Mind-Set
  6. Relationship and
  7. Stress

Some quick facts to share:

  • 1 million Canadian children, or 1 in every 6, lives at or below the poverty line. 
  • Regardless of the community, the average low income family in Canada lives on only $24,458 per year (family of 4)
  • The cost of poverty to the Ontario taxpayer is $13 billion a year when looking at health care, criminal justice and lost productivity. 
  • The Start2Finish Fitness Literacy Model is a comprehensive, strategic approach that produces long-term social change
  • We have a $17 social return on investment for every $1 donated. The benefits of this investment in human development accrue to the individual over a lifetime. 
  • Start2Finish has empowered 100,000 Canadian children and families living in poverty since 2000. 
  • Our Running & Reading Club Fitness Literacy Model is currently operating in 38 diverse communities of complexity nationwide, including 4 schools in Guelph. 
  • Evaluations done at the Running & Reading Clubs by our Scientific Advisory Group volunteers and school administrators have shown the following results:
    • 62% improvement in fitness
    • 87% of children achieving grade level literacy scores and/or improving in literacy by 1-2 grade levels
    • 85% improvement in non-cognitive character development* (qualitative data)

          through the combination of physical activity, learning and mentorship, participation in the Running & Reading Club program is resulting in:

      • Less absenteeism
      • Less bullying
      • Better behaviour and performance in school
      • And  76% lower potential of children dropping out of school

“I struggled in school, I struggled with my confidence, I struggled to develop discipline, I struggled to set goals for my life because I couldn’t see beyond the community that I lived in; I couldn’t see beyond the poverty that was such a reality to me. It seemed at the time that there was no other way for me to go and no other doors that were open to me. I had no idea what I was capable of doing and what I was capable of being. Start2Finish played an important role in my life because they helped me re-shape my future. They helped me carve out a plan for myself, and they motivated me to succeed.

Now they have inspired me to change my country for the better. Today, I am a university graduate, I recently graduated from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Training Academy, and I have been posted to British Columbia as a Constable. Now I’m advocating on behalf of other kids who can’t speak for themselves. Thank you, Start2Finish, for paving the Pathway of Hope and helping me build my cycle of success.”

Start2Finish Scholarship Recipient and Program Graduate

Thank you again for inviting me to join you this evening and you’re supporting our children in Guelph through Start2finish Running & Reading Clubs.