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Land developer pitches in to help hungry students in Langley | Vancouver Sun

By GERRY BELLETT

The story was hardly in the paper when Rick Johal was sending out an email offering to adopt Langley Secondary School’s troubled breakfast program.

About 120 students a day arrive hungry and in need of food at the school but a lack of funding had placed the program in jeopardy.

“I always read The Vancouver Sun and I was shocked to see that Langley Secondary needed help. I was not aware there was a problem there,” said Johal, president of Zenterra Developments Ltd., a land development and construction company that works extensively in Surrey and Langley.

“When I saw the story I thought ‘Oh my God’ we have to help them.”

Johal is one of the major donors who have responded to The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School (AAS) campaign, which this year has received almost $1 million in requests from schools desperate to feed hungry students.

Johal’s company supports a multitude of charities — its website is a who’s who of good causes helped — and he has put more than $170,000 into feeding needy Surrey children through the school district’s Surrey Meals Program. (Surrey’s school district is asking AAS for more than $300,000 this year to feed, clothe and care for hundreds of impoverished children and families including refugees.)

Other companies and individuals and foundations have offered help this year as well as private donors.

Vancouver Sun editor-in-chief Harold Munro said the number of applications have far exceeded anything “we have seen before.”

“We are being asked for double what we normally see in requests. It’s daunting, but we hope our readers will respond,” said Munro.

The requests have come from many parts of the mainland and schools on Vancouver Island.

Vancouver-based property developers PCI Developments have come forward to help one of the schools — Britannia Secondary — as did CIBC Wood Gundy, who have been supporting emergency breakfast programs in Vancouver schools for years.

“The reason for us helping was that it caught our attention,” said PCI Developments president Andrew Grant.

“We want to support young people and we have donated to Adopt-A-School before,” he said.

“It’s important for us to give children a good start to the day and we want to support that.”

Among those also helping is The David Sidoo family which has helped AAS from the beginning, likewise Vancouver lawyer Irwin Nathanson’s family and a number of foundations such as the McGrane-Pearson Endowment Fund, Peter Young’s Hearts of Gold Foundation, the Lohn Foundation and a number of foundations that have asked to remain anonymous.

Telus has helped the campaign from the beginning.

There are other organizations which help AAS as well such as Metro Theatre which donates a pantomime performance to students attending Downtown Eastside elementary schools.

This year children and families will be welcomed by the cast of King Arthur’s Court, on Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

Writer and producer Catherine Morrison said the pantomime which runs from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5 is a combination of Camelot and Monty Python and the Holy Grail with all the usual on stage antics.

“We just love being able to do this for Adopt-A-School and these children,” she said.

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Vansunkidsfund.ca

How to Donate

1. MAIL: Complete the donation form printed here. We accept Visa, Mastercard or a cheque or money order payable to The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund Society. Mail to: The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund Society, 400-2985 Virtual Way, Vancouver, B.C., V5M 4X7.

2. PHONE: To pay by credit card, call 604-605-2264.

3. ONLINE: Donate online using Visa or Mastercard at vansunkidsfund.ca/donate

Donations are tax deductible

ADOPT-A-SCHOOL APPLICATIONS

For information about applying for funding from our Adopt-A-School project, go to vansunkidsfund.ca or contact Cathy Lange, fund administrator, at [email protected].