Markham kids grow from Giving Tree

Markham Economist & Sun
By Amanda Persico 
Children of all ages can make a difference in their community.
That’s the message behind a new social justice group, the Giving Tree.
The goal is to encourage local youth to make a difference through action while learning about social issues, such as bullying , hunger and homelessness.
While the group of about 25 local youth learn about said issues, the focus is stirring up action.
“Everyone wants to do some good,” said group founder Shanta Sundarason.
“We all think it, nothing comes of it.”
(Sundarason, a mother of three teens, is also spearheading the anti-train whistle campaign.)  
Having grown up in Singapore, a democratic country but with heavy censorship, this local mom wants to put action in the hands of local youth.
“Kids can take ownership,” Sundarason said. “Nothing is impossible. No is never the answer.”
So far, the group has written letters to the new Prime Minister and Youth Minister, Justin Trudeau.
The Giving Tree is hosting a food and winter accessories drive, the We Scare Hunger and We Scare Away the Cold, Dec. 4 between 3 and 9 p.m. at the Bandstand on Main Street in Unionville.
The group is collecting non-perishable food items for the local food bank as well as winter accessories, such as hats, mittens and scarves for the local homeless shelter.
After the drive, the group plans to go to the local shelter to help give out the winter accessories to the homeless.
“We don’t just collect and drop off,” Sundarason said. “That’s not what we stand for. I want to encourage this group to talk to the homeless and ask questions. Ask if there is anything they can personally do.”
It’s one thing to set up a donation box, it’s another matter to make a connection to the cause, she added. 
“When you connect with an issue, that’s when you learn from the situation,” she said.
Along with the hunger and cold drives, the group is also looking at donating funds to help feed children in rural China, India or Ecuador for a year.
Each member of the group has signed a contract and promised to do chores around the house to earn extra pay that will go toward donations.
Without a contract, the funds will just come from the parents, Sundarason said.
To work for it will mean more to them, she added.
The group plans to host a fitness festival for the community in the spring.  
The youth social group meets every Monday, 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Stiver Mill in Unionville.

Let us not only leave a better world for our children,

              but leave better children for our world.

Dec 16, 2015 | Vote0   0

Markham's Toogood Pond skating ban melts



Several youth spoke at the meeting urging council not to ban skating on Toogood.

Here’s what they had to say:

• “I moved to Canada five years ago and one of my favourite memories of my arrival is learning to skate on Toogood Pond,” – Yasmine Mohajer, 12

• “Toogood Pond is a natural beautiful place for us to have fun in winter. Please find a way to keep Toogood Pond safe for skating and hockey,” – Gabe Abbruzzo, 8

• “Are we to silence the sounds of people having fun on the pond? The answer should be no,” – Holly Budgel, 10

• “Residents are let down by the city of Markham. Skating on Toogood Pond has been a tradition for decades. Don’t ban skating. Let us continue to enjoy one of the few remaining treasures in Unionville,” – Max Terp, 12

• “We don’t want a perfect skating surface. We love the humps, bumps and cracks. We love the feeling of freedom among nature,” – Ehsha Vig, 11

• “Thousands have skated on Toogood Pond. And those same thousands have enjoyed many memories. It’s a tradition that dates back before any of us lived in this community,” – Giovanni Abbruzzo, 12

• “I grew up playing hockey on Toogood Pond. Some of my best memories are of playing all day on the pond. We would even leave the nets there if we planned to come back the next day,” – Rhys Malisch, 14

• “Some of my happiest memories were formed on Toogood Pond. It has a legacy that must be continued. Let us skate, shoot and score,” – Zack Gratta, 13. 

— Amanda PersicoMarkham Economist & Sun
By Amanda Persico 

Skate at your own risk is the message to residents after this week’s city council meeting. 

And you can expect to see warning signs to that effect posted around Toogood Pond. 

Markham council voted in favour of keeping with old practices of not clearing or monitoring the ice on the Unionville pond. 

Council also voted in favour of liaising with other communities about shared costs for an ice engineer consultant for pond ice safety.

Last week, Markham’s general committee voted in favour of prohibiting skating on Toogood Pond and discussed how an outright ban would be possible. Since then, more than 1,000  signatures were collected on an online petition to allow skating to continue on Toogood Pond. 

Local residents, including several youth, came out to this week’s meeting pleading with council to keep the treasured tradition of skating on Toogood alive for the next generation. 

“We want skating. Don’t make the unpopular decision to end the fun,” said Jaden Kwan, 9.

Some urged council members to remember when they were young, where they skated and asked why the current generation of skaters and hockey players were not given a chance to do the same. 

“What could possibly be more Canadian?” asked Olivia Voulgaris, 8.

Skating on Toogood Pond is also a needed tourist attraction for the area, some residents argued. 

Residents also spoke in favour of establishing a formal working committee with a proper framework and goals. 

One of the goals should be to re-establish skating on Toogood Pond under safe conditions, said Reid McAlpine, president of the Unionville Villagers Association. 

Last week, Markham’s general committee was faced with two options, either to clear the ice or to ban skating. 

McAlpine argued there was no middle ground and the city’s staff report was biased from the beginning by not exploring other options.

“There were no problem-solving options brought to the situation,” he said. “There is a reasonable way forward.” 

Establishing a working committee is the first step. 

But safety and stability of the ice still are a concern. 

As a result of salt, urban runoff and increasing silt at the bottom of the pond, Toogood does not make for safe ice, said the city’s director of operations, Barb Rabicki.

Not to mention winters with fluctuating temperatures can make any ice surface unpredictable. 

There have been numerous close calls of breaking through the ice on Toogood Pond even under ideal situations, Rabicki said. 

Risks of drowning or hypothermia for anyone who falls through the ice, be it a skater or a city worker, are concerns. 

Ice safety is a complex science, she said. It takes into consideration the depth of the water under the ice, weight on the ice, size of the pond as well as the flowing current. 

“Many people believe ice safety is as simple as measuring the depth of the ice,” Rabicki said. “That is not the case. It is a complex science.”

Without proper ice safety training, reverting back to a flag system is in effect fooling the public, argued Mayor Frank Scarpitti. 

But residents pointed to other municipalities where pond skating is allowed and asked why not Markham. 

The Skateway in Ottawa is one example. There is also the annual Canadian National Hockey Pond Championship in Haliburton. 

Skating is also popular on Mill Pond in Richmond Hill.

Last month, Toronto endorsed a $50,000 ice monitoring program for Grenadier Pond in High Park, which will start next year. The program entails training Toronto city staff as ice engineers and will monitor the depth and safety of the ice each day. 

It’s estimated the artificial ice at Markham’s Civic Centre costs between $50,000 to $60,000 a year to put in and maintain. 

A staff report outlining how to make pond ice skating safe as well as costs associated with ice safety and monitoring training is expected back in the new year.Type your paragraph here.