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  • Valley Park Go Green Cricket Field Now Open

    After 5 years, the Valley Park Go Green Cricket and Sports Field is now open! The environmentally sustainable outdoor not-for-profit sport and recreational facility, offers accessible programming for at-risk youth in Toronto. Go Green’s free programs will protect youth aged 7–18 years old from harm and/or victimization by providing safe and supervised programs and activities outside of school hours at their outdoor recreational facility, as well as inside Valley Park Middle School. The opening ceremony on Thursday June 5, 2015, consisted of a full day of fun activities funded by the City of Toronto’s Pan Am & ParaPan Festivals Grant program and supported by Jays Care Foundation, MLSE Foundation and Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities. Our beyond 3:30 students from Valley Park Middle School joined Premier Kathleen Wynne at the grand opening ceremony of Canada’s first illuminated cricket field. Above: ​Premier Kathleen Wynne at the inaugural celebration of the Go Green Cricket Field, receiving a thank you card from a beyond 3:30 students. Above: Premier Kathleen Wynne batting in the newly opened Go Green Cricket Field alongside our nutrition coordinator, Julie (left). Beyond 3:30 students waiting for the cricket tournament to begin (right). Above: Beyond 3:30 students excited to play baseball with the Jays Care Rookie League.

  • Kids, Frogs and Fun!

    East York, Ont. – There’s something magical that happens when a child discovers tiny creatures living in a wetland or watches in wonder a great blue heron flying gracefully overhead. But for urban children, experiencing nature up close is often a rare event. On Tuesday, May 12, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), Go Green Cricket & Sports Field and Toronto and Region Conservation joined together to help a group of Toronto students experience the natural world first-hand. With support from DUC’s ongoing education program sponsors Ontario Trillium Foundation, TD Friends of the Environment and State Farm® Youth Advisory Board, today, this education partnership took the classroom outdoors. More than 100 students from Valley Park Middle School (VPMS) and Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute (MGCI) dropped by the Go Green Cricket & Sports Field Wetland where they took in a guided nature walk, identified wetland critters, spent time on the viewing platform with binoculars and even made native wildflower seed balls that they can plant in their gardens at home. Through today’s activities, students had the opportunity to better understand wetland habitats and their importance to wildlife, people and their local community. “We recognize that many urban children have few opportunities to interact with nature within their own communities of high-rises, roads and shopping malls,” says Lynette Mader, manager of provincial operations for Ducks Unlimited Canada. “The teachers and principals of Valley Park Middle School and Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute understand this reality and are committed to getting kids outdoors through the Wetland Centre of Excellence program.” Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute is one of nine secondary schools across the province engaged in DUC’s Wetland Centre of Excellence program – a program where students tackle hands-on wetland action projects and are becoming advocates for the environment. In an effort to raise awareness about the value of these local habitats, students participating in today’s workshop also learned about native and invasive plant species from the experts at Toronto and Region Conservation. “Teaching today’s youth the value of preserving our natural world has never been more crucial,” Brian Denney, CEO of TRCA said. “Even young people who aren’t exposed to it as frequently as others can benefit by discovering what can be found in a wetland, a forest or a stream and how to protect them. In doing so, even urban students become stewards of nature and these priceless lessons can last a lifetime.” Teaching children about nature and the great outdoors has never been more important in this province. Ontario is home to more than 40% of Canada’s population with the vast majority living in our rapidly expanding urban communities. As more and more people move into cities, Ontarians are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature and wildlife. Wetlands are one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth – second only to rainforests. Besides providing habitat for hundreds of wildlife species, they naturally filter and store water, mitigate floods, droughts, storm surges and the effects of climate change. They provide enormous benefit to society yet we continue to lose them. “Educating youth about wetlands and waterfowl is a big part of our mission at Ducks Unlimited Canada,” adds Mader. “We need to make sure all Ontarians, including young people, understand the conservation concepts and practices that will protect and sustain the health of precious natural resources like wetlands. Ontario needs an Action Plan to reverse the trend of wetland loss. About Ducks Unlimited Canada: Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUC partners with government, industry, non-profit organizations and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment. To learn more, please visit ducks.ca. About Go Green Cricket & Sports Field: The Go Green Cricket & Sports Field is a $1.5 million not-for-profit community project led by community activists, students and parents from VPMS, MGCI and the Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park neighbourhoods. The name “Go Green” reflects the project’s storm water management focus with the field’s surface and underground storm waters draining to a demonstration bioswale and wetland, emphasizing the site’s location within the Don River Watershed. About Toronto and Region Conservation: With more than 55 years of experience, Toronto and Region Conservation helps people understand, enjoy and look after the natural environment. TRCA’s vision is for the Living City – a cleaner, greener and healthier place to live, for you today and for your children tomorrow. For more information, call 416-661-6600 or visit www.trca.on.ca. Contact Information Joanne Barbazza Communications Specialist, Ontario Ducks Unlimited Canada (705) 721 4444 ext. 240 j_barbazza@ducks.ca

  • Annual Tournament Supports Cricket In Toronto Neighbourhoods

    While the annual Premier Cup cricket tournament brought Ontario Ismaili Muslims together in April, it was also part of a wider effort to build cricket pitches and support programming in Toronto neighbourhoods that are home to large South Asian immigrant communities. The Ismaili Council versus Mukhi-Kamadias was a showdown that no one had expected, but everyone revelled in. It was the most popular match at the Premier Cup cricket tournament held earlier this spring. More than 100 players aged 16–75 and representing 13 Jamatkhanas across Ontario came to Brampton with their families to participate in the cricket event that took place in April. The annual tournament has been organised since 2012 by the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for Ontario (AKYSB), and while it brings Ismailis together, it is also part of a wider community effort to support families in Toronto neighbourhoods that are home to large South Asian immigrant communities. “This was an excellent opportunity to expose this sport to other Canadians who may not have tried it before,” says Abdulsultan Madhani. Four years ago, Madhani and a committee of parents and students from the Valley Park Middle School started the Valley Park Go Green Cricket Field project to offer youth opportunities to engage in healthy activities through the sport. Now a community-led not-for-profit corporation, the initiative delivers free programming and funds upgrades to local fields that serve the community in Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park neighbourhoods - among Canada's top destinations for South Asian Muslim immigrants. Roughly one-third of Thorncliffe's population is from Pakistan, with another 10 per cent coming from Afghanistan. The area is also home to a large number of Shia Ismaili Muslims, many of whom put down roots when they arrived in Canada in the 1970s. The Premier Cup tournament raised CAD $10 000 in support of the Valley Park project, but the Ismaili community has also facilitated significant longer-term partnerships for project. With the help of Bahadur Madhani, former chair of the Ontario Trillium Foundation's grants review team, Valley Park received $500 000 in funding from the Foundation. Cricket Canada community coach Nizar Moosa has helped Valley Park to train coaches and youth. “Your community's efforts to assist us truly reflects His Highness the Aga Khan's emphasis – as displayed through the Aga Khan Development Network – on civil society and the importance of philanthropy to heal the world,” said Lisa Grogan-Green, co-chair of the Valley Park project, speaking at a gala dinner celebrating the Premier Cup. “The AKYSB's efforts will improve the lives of youth and families living in Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park,” she continued. “It also exemplifies your leadership in embracing diversity and plurality, not to mention in raising cricket's profile as Canada's fastest growing sport.” While the Ismaili community and Valley Park work together on a large-scale to improve the quality of life of youth and families, the Premier Cup was about having fun for one weekend. Back on the cricket pitch, the Ismaili Council won the match against the Mukhi-Kamadias, but in keeping with Jamati tradition, unity and sportsmanship prevailed. “It was a pleasure to see our Jamati leadership come out, participate, and support the event,” says Shehzad Patel, Premier Cup programme manager for AKYSB. A smile and a wink hint at the possibility of a rematch next year. Organised by the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for Ontario, the Premier Cup cricket tournament was part of a wider community effort to support the development of the sport in Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park, Toronto neighbourhoods that are home to large South Asian immigrant communities. Courtesy of Ismaili Council for Ontario

  • Valley Park Go Green Cricket Field project Is Definitely A Go

    BY DANIELLE MILLEY | EAST YORK MIRROR AUG 19, 2011 Kanchana Batta, left, and Shamiza Baig help Guna Batta, 5, on with his helmet before a cricket demonstration at Valley Park Middle School, following the announcement Thursday of a $500,000 Trillium Foundation grant to the Valley Park Go Green Cricket committee. The group plans to create a regulation cricket pitch at the site. - Staff photo/CHLOE ELLINGSON The Valley Park Go Green Cricket Field project is definitely a go. With the announcement Aug. 18 of a $500,000 capital grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the committee has raised two-thirds of the money it needs to redevelop the school yard at Valley Park Middle School. The $1.5-million project would turn the yard of portables and asphalt into an oasis with a butterfly meadow, an outdoor amphitheatre, herb and vegetable garden, interpretive marsh, and facilities to play cricket, soccer, baseball and basketball. The new space will bring the Don River valley onto the school grounds for the 1,200-student middle school. "Not only is it a cricket field, but it's a multi-purpose field. It will be a great learning experience for our young people to learn about the environment...Kids are going to have hands-on experiences where maybe they wouldn't have been able to before," said John Carey, the executive director of Flemingdon Neighbourhood Services, of the project that will also include environmental elements such as rainwater harvesting and a bioswale. FNS, as well as the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, are two of the committee's partners in the project. The grant has been awarded to FNS on behalf of the project. Lisa Grogan-Green is the project's co-chairperson. She said the committee started off as a small group within the school and has grown to include many partners from the neighbouring community who are helping to make this dream a reality. "The whole community will benefit and learn at the same time as they enjoy," she said. The community could see a ground breaking as early as the fall or the spring. "With this Trillium donation there is no stopping us," Grogan-Green said. "We just feel very comfortable moving forward that this is a go." Don Valley West MPP Kathleen Wynne made the happy announcement. "I can't tell you how proud I am that we've been able to support this project and how pleased I am that current and future kids and community members will be able to use this project," she said. "It goes way beyond school kids." Julie Dasoo has lived in the community for 20 years. She is the chairperson of the school council at Valley Park and was one of the first people to get involved with the cricket project committee. "Today is the day I've been waiting a long time for," she said. Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park are two neighbourhoods lacking in community space and resources so for some the project could have seemed ambitious, but Dasoo said she was optimistic this day would come. She said her dream - and that of so many others in the community - was finally coming true. "This is really needed. This is for the community, not just the school," she said. "This is a great day. You see how excited the kids are."

  • Valley Park Go Green Cricket Field Gets Another Boost In Support

    Kiwanis Club of East York makes financial contribution BY DANIELLE MILLEY | EAST YORK MIRROR JAN 28, 2012 Kiwanis Club of East York current past-president George Rowell, centre, presents Valley Park Go Green Cricket Field committee co-chairs Lisa Grogran-Green, left, and Nick Stefanoff with a cheque recently in support of the project being built at Valley Park Middle School. - Photo/COURTESY The Valley Park Go Green Cricket Field received another boost of support last week. The Kiwanis Club of East York (KCEY) came out as an early supporter of the project at Valley Park Middle School in Thorncliffe Park, but last week it backed up that endorsement with a financial contribution. "It's fantastic. It was really personally touching that the members would dip into their pockets like that," said Lisa Grogan-Green, co-chairperson of the project committee. At the Jan. 17 meeting, KCEY's current past president, George Rowell presented Grogan-Green and Nick Stefanoff, fellow co-chairperson and principal of the school, with a cheque for $12,880. That amount consisted of individual member contributions together with a matching donation from past president Mary Ellen Trimble. The co-chairs were also presented with a second cheque from the club itself for $4,000. While the money will help the project reach its fundraising goal of $1.7 million (of which it has raised $1 million), it's the club's belief in the project that is most valuable to the committee. "What they've done for us is huge, not only have they come forward with a financial contribution, but they came out really early as a supporter and that helped with other donors," Grogan-Green said. The club's current president, Ross Hillis, said while the club already had a presence in the Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park neighbourhoods through the key club at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute, they wanted to have a greater presence in those communities. Don Valley West Councillor John Parker told Hillis about the Go Green project and he thought it was a good fit for the club. "We latched onto the Go Green project as something special," Hillis said. The project would transform the school yard from the small play place it is today with a concrete basketball court, 11 portables, and a small field used for soccer and other sports, to an oasis with a butterfly meadow, an outdoor amphitheatre, herb and vegetable garden, interpretive marsh, and facilities to play cricket, soccer, baseball and basketball. The KCEY is also planning a fund raiser in the spring where it would go into a local shopping centre and use a kilometre of double sided sticky tape to collect donations of loonies and toonies. When the Kiwanis Club of Barbados did the fund raiser it raised more than $50,000. The Go Green committee also has hundreds of thousands of dollars in outstanding grant applications it's waiting to hear back about and it's competing to receive a grant from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) Team Up Foundation Fund. The new fund provides grants totalling $200,000 to Ontario charities for sports and recreation programming or facilities. The grant will be decided on by voting at http://mlseteamupfoundation.org/giving//team-up-foundation-fund/ Voting opens Monday, Jan. 30 and runs until Feb. 20 to determine the top 20; then a committee will determine the top 10, which will be revealed for another round of public voting in March to determine the four recipients.

  • Priority Area Thorncliffe Park To Get Fresh Hope In Form Of Cricket Field

    DAVE MCGINN PUBLISHED MARCH 18, 2011 Kids playing cricket at Valley Park Middle School FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL On any given day, stand at the corner of Overlea Boulevard and Don Mills Road at 3 p.m. and watch the flood . Twelve hundred kids will come streaming out of Valley Park Middle School, which sits on the intersection's northwest corner, just south of the Ontario Science Centre. Across the street, another 2,000 kids emerge from Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute and another 2,000 from Thorncliffe Park Public School. About 700 walk out of Gateway Public School, and between 600 and 700 pass through the doors of Grenoble Public School . "You've got a good-sized town of kids leaving school at 3 o'clock, just kids, not their parents, " says Jason Hayter, vice principal at Valley Park Middle School. He asks, "Where do they all go?," although he already knows the answer . Odds are, they go home to one of the many large apartment towers that populate Thorncliffe Park, one of 13 "priority areas" identified by the city of Toronto, neighbourhoods marked by high levels of low-income residents and low levels of public investment. Along with neighbouring Flemingdon Park, they are two of the densest neighbourhoods in Toronto: 68 per cent of the residences are high-rise apartment buildings, with more than 60,000 residents, many of whom hail from South Asia, living in 11 square kilometres. But a group of community activists and staff at Valley Park Middle School are working on a $1.7-million plan to give the children of this neighbourhood somewhere else to go . Led by principal Nickolas Stefanoff, they plan to transform the school's playground into a community hub that will include a regulation-size cricket field, an attraction sure to draw residents out from the towers . Cricket isn't just a sport for many of the neighbourhood's residents, Mr. Stefanoff says. "It's a religion. " "If we need drivers for a field trip, you might get one or two. But a cricket tournament? Everyone has their own driver, " says Mr. Hayter, who is also coach of the school's cricket team . The pitch may be its centrepiece, but the plan for the Valley Park Go Green Cricket Field project also includes an amphitheatre, butterfly garden, public gardens, a system that will divert rainwater from the school's roof to be used for irrigation, a bioswale (a landscape feature that traps pollutants) and much more green space covered by a generous tree canopy, all occupying three hectares (7.5 acres) of land . "It's going beyond a schoolyard, " says Arifa Hai, the landscape architect who is working on the project . Right now, the playground behind Valley Park Middle School is hardly an enticement to get in an elevator and make the trip outside . Eight metal poles with backboards attached rise from the asphalt, all of them facing the same direction. Not one has a hoop, so basketball isn't an option. Much of the grass field beyond is taken up by 11 portables, one of them so close to the small baseball diamond that whoever is playing third base never has to worry about getting tired - they could just lean against the portable . But by moving the portables and leasing a hectare of adjacent brownfields from Hydro One, those involved in the project say there will be room to forge a community hub . "The whole point is that we want to bring people outside of these apartments, " says Jehad Aliweiwi, executive director of the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, an organization that provides a range of social services and that has partnered with the school to help with the project. "This is going to be a showcase place that brings together the many worlds that make up the residents of Thorncliffe and Flemingdon and surrounding areas. " Thorncliffe Park in particular is a case study in the failings of a previous generation's idea of urban planning, said the ward's city councillor, John Parker . "The buildings are designed to provide a haven for people to retreat into. They're not designed in a way to bring people out into the neighbourhood where they would mix with one another, " he says. "[The Valley Park project]is all about doing the opposite. It's about getting people out into the fresh air, bringing people together, giving them a chance to mix with one another and giving them a chance to connect directly with the ground. " There are several parks in the community, but, as Mr. Aliweiwi says, "It's ample green space, but very little of it is useful and useable. " Much of Flemingdon Park, for instance, is a vast expanse of grass with nothing more than four soccer goalposts underneath buzzing hydro towers - no swings or slides for children to play on, no benches for people to sit on and no trees to provide shade to anyone who might venture in to the park on a blazing summer day . "You would bake, " says landscape architect Ms. Hai . There is plenty of shade in the green space down in the Don Valley, "but the community tend not to use it, " Mr. Stefanoff says. There is very little, if any, wide-open space there where people might throw a ball around, he adds . Julie Dasoo, co-chair of the Valley Park Middle School parents' council says the planned space behind the school would be a natural home for things like the Friday-night bazaar that takes place in nearby R.V. Burgess Park in the summers . "It's going to be a gathering place for everyone as a family, " she says. "This is going to be a dream come true. Every single family in the community is going to benefit from it. " Mr. Stefanoff says they hope to break ground on the cricket-field project in July, with the bulk of the construction getting under way this fall, and complete the project by fall 2012. It's "ambitious, " but still possible, he says . Funding for the project will not be coming from the Toronto District School Board . "We have a $3-billion backlog in school renewal … so this kind of very significant capital investment in a school field that will serve the school but also serve the community, we don't have board funds to be able to do that, " says Sheila Penny, director of strategic building and renewal at the TDSB . Still, those behind the project say they are confident they will be able to raise the $1.7-million needed . Funding is beginning to pour in, says Lisa Green, co-chair of the Valley Park Go Green committee. The group expects to receive about $1-million in various grants in the next three months, and has received donations from several organizations, including $50,000 from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and $25,000 from the Live Green Toronto's stormwater management program . The Kiwanis Club of East York has approached the group and has told Mr. Stefanoff it should be able to raise between $75,000 and $150,000 for the project. As well, companies ranging from Canadian Tire to Tremco, a roofing company in the neighbourhood, have promised supplies and equipment . After the March break, a group of students will be making the rounds to several companies in the hope of finding more corporate sponsorship, Ms. Green says . To raise awareness about the project, the school is planning a "Crazy for Cricket Sleepover " on April 1 that will feature Bollywood dancing, indoor cricket and games rooms in the school. Organizers expect up to 1,500 people to attend, although they say many of them won't sleep over, opting instead to come back in the morning to watch the Cricket World Cup . "It's not a fundraiser. We're calling it a 'Friendraiser,' " Ms. Green says . And in the coming weeks, the school is also planning to pit kids against their parents in cricket games in the gymnasium in order to help boost excitement for the project . Of course, the school doesn't have to go very far out of its way to excite students about the plans to transform the playground, especially members of the cricket team . A full-size cricket pitch will be a revelation for them . Most of the fields they're used to playing on are small, and these are very, very good teams, both of which won their conferences last year . Mr. Hayter recalls a tournament last year in which 10-year-olds from the school were playing on the "tiny " field made of Astroturf at Thorncliffe Public School . If it wasn't clear to him that day that the neighbourhood needed a full-size pitch, it certainly was midway through the tournament. "You hit a four or six, which is almost like hitting a home run in baseball, and they were doing it every second hit."

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