Ronald McDonald House: offering a home when it’s most needed


Hydro employees (L-R) Darlene Hancock, Rob Henderson, Annette Higdon and Diane Shears celebrate their volunteer achievements and Hydro’s corporate support with Ronald McDonald at the Helping Hands Awards in 2014.

Annette Higdon has been a committed volunteer all her life, and has a particular passion for projects that benefit sick children and their families. When she heard Ronald McDonald House planned to build in St. John’s, joining the campaign was a “no-brainer.”

“There was a great need for this, so many in this province have to travel long distances when their child is ill … to be able to provide this comfort, a place to live when they most need it, is so important,” says Annette, a maintenance planning clerk at Hydro’s Holyrood plant.

Ronald McDonald Houses are a home away from home for families of seriously ill children while the children are being treated at the province’s children’s hospital. There are Ronald McDonald 14 Houses in Canada; the one in St. John’s welcomed its first family in 2012.

Annette has personally worked with Ronald McDonald House Newfoundland and Labrador for four years, and she’s proud her employer is as committed to the cause as she is. One of the organization’s key fundraising ventures for the year is the annual Red Shoe Crew–Walk for Families, of which NL Hydro is the presenting sponsor.

In the fall of 2014, over 3,500 people in 36 communities across the province took part in the walk. The latest figures show almost $300,000 was raised—enough to run the St. John’s house for more than a third of the year. Annette is obviously delighted to say the walk in her home community of New Harbour raised close to $30,000—the most of any walk in the province.

Hydro has supported the Ronald McDonald House at all phases, through a donation to the capital campaign for construction and the employee giving program, along with the Red Shoe Crew Walk.

“Our partnership with Ronald McDonald House has been incredibly rewarding, and we look forward to its continued success,” says Rob Henderson, Vice President of NL Hydro. “We believe in supporting organizations, like this one, that have a deep and positive impact on children and families in our province.”

As is the case for many Hydro employees, Annette’s work for Ronald McDonald House carries on year-round. She leads a “cereal drive” for groceries around Christmastime, holds ticket draws throughout the year, and even held a themed tea party as a fundraiser. Other employees have donated household items, prepared meals, and delivered baked goods to families staying there.

The house itself, says Annette, exceeds even her high expectations. “It’s warm, comfortable, and lets families be together in a place they can make their own,” she says. “Walking in there, it warms your heart to know you’re helping people when they most need it.

“I have never been as proud as I am now, knowing that when I go to a Ronald McDonald House event, that I represent not only myself, but also Hydro, the company I work for—it’s a place we all believe in.”

Kids Eat Smart and Hydro: 15 years as partners in nutrition and health education

Hydro’s partnership with Kids Eat Smart Foundation reaches an important milestone in 2015, marking 15 years of working together to provide nutritious food for school-aged children—with a healthy side order of education—across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Kids Eat Smart sm

Jason Tobin, Supervisor of the Energy Control Centre at Hydro, has been an active volunteer with Kids Eat Smart (KES) since he was introduced to the program through a Hydro-KES partnership initiative in 2011.

“We take great pride in our long-standing commitment to Kids Eat Smart. But, more importantly, we deeply admire the work they do,” says Rob Henderson, Vice President, Hydro.

“There is no better way to ensure a bright future for our communities than by supporting a group that works with such enthusiasm and dedication to promoting education, healthy living and wellness for children. I also appreciate the commitment of Hydro employees to this worthy cause.”

A registered charity, Kids Eat Smart supports volunteer-run nutrition programs in schools and community centres. Kids Eat Smart Clubs, operating in 75 per cent of all schools in the province, serve over 22,000 meals every school day to children across Newfoundland and Labrador.

The guiding principle is simple, and important: children need a healthy and balanced breakfast to fuel their bodies and minds, get the most out of their school day, and have the energy to learn, explore, and look toward a bright future. There are many reasons why a child may not regularly eat a nourishing breakfast—and Kids Eat Smart volunteers do not ask. The food is provided, free of charge, for everyone.

Over the past 15 years, Hydro employees have volunteered countless hours to help serve up energy-rich breakfasts in schools; a number of employees have also decided to donate to Kids Eat Smart directly, through pay cheque deductions (resulting in approximately $5,000 donated annually).

For its corporate support and employee contributions, Hydro is recognized as a Platinum-level sponsor for Kids Eat Smart.

“Our Kids Eat Smart Clubs are so grateful for [Hydro’s] support,” says Celina Stoles, Kids Eat Smart Executive Director. “Their financial and volunteer commitment helps us provide nutritious food for all school-aged children in Newfoundland and Labrador, so they are ready to learn and be their very best. Together we are making a difference!”

Heart and Stroke Foundation: visionary child & youth programs partnership

MaryAnn Butt, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, still gets “a shiver” when she remembers her first discussion with Hydro about developing a partnership between the organizations.

Exploits NL Hydro team stands in front of the 30-seat bike they peddled to raise funds for the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Exploits NL Hydro team stands in front of the 30-seat bike they peddled to raise funds for the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Newfoundland
and Labrador.

“I was quite delighted when we met initially with Hydro and found that their mission priorities around investing in children and youth were perfectly matched with ours,” she says. “It was the first step forward that we made toward our new objectives, to get out into the community in this way. They were so excited to be part of it.

“Hydro provides us with the funding and we’re out there putting a lot more investment in children and youth than we would ever be able to do on our own.”

The visionary child and youth partnership that stemmed from that meeting was first launched in 2013. In less than two years, it’s already had a healthful impact on thousands of school-aged children, through several new school and community programs.

The inaugural Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro JUMP Rope for Heart JUMPFest was held in February, bringing almost 1,000 students to the Techniplex in St. John’s. The students honed their skipping skills while learning about the importance of active living and healthy eating – and having fun.

Hydro also sponsored the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Fall 2014 “I Heart Fruits and Veggies” program, which put a new reusable lunch bag – packed with a reusable lunch container, a tomato plant (to raise “garden-to-plate” awareness) and a booklet of easy-to-make, healthy and affordable snacks – in the hands of every Grade 4 student in the province. As part of that program, Hydro volunteers spent a memorable September day packing some 5,000 lunch bags.

Hydro has also contributed to the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s efforts to place AEDs in schools and community gathering places and has supported the organization’s awareness campaign around sugar-sweetened beverages.

MaryAnn points out that provincial child obesity rates are rising steeply and serious health issues are increasing in step. Changing habits and attitudes at a young age is crucial to a healthy future. “We really have to turn this around,” she says. “And only through partnerships with forward-thinking organizations like Hydro can we hope to do it.”

Lori Coffin, Support Service Provider at Hydro’s Exploits generation facility, is one of many Hydro employees to volunteer with the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

In October, for the fourth year in a row, Lori organized a ride on the Heart and Stroke Big Bike – she and over a dozen colleagues collected pledges and climbed aboard the 30-seat bike. The bicycle is a major fundraiser for the Foundation: in 2013 over $8.4 million was raised across Canada that was used to install Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)
in public spaces, for research and to invest in the HeartSmart Kids program.

“It’s something we can do as a group, it’s fun… and Hydro has agreed to match the funds we raise – it’s a great fit,” Lori says. The message of healthy living is one we can all learn from.”

MaryAnn would certainly agree. “We
look forward to a long and fruitful partnership with Hydro,” she says. “Together, we can impact the health outcomes of future generations.”

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