Over the past two years, Ontarians have experienced everything from lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, temporary business shutdowns, and isolation orders, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions in response to it.
Given the substantial amount of time that Ontarians collectively spent cooped up at home, outdoor activities have been a way of getting out of the house and helping to improve both mental and physical health, as recommended by a doctor in this CTV news article.
Portage Ontario—an Ontario youth treatment centre—is offering the opportunity for both adventure and plenty of fun outdoors for a great cause, in the form of a fundraising event called The Great Portage.
The Great Portage is an event that will be taking place in July and August, and the event will give interested participants the opportunity to go on either a canoe or kayak adventure and explore the beautiful backcountry in the province of Ontario.
The event, according to the webpage, will also give participants the opportunity to “fundraise and challenge themselves while in the backcountry to help create awareness and support for youth suffering from mental health and substance dependencies”, which is a rather fitting objective, given the line of work Portage Ontario specialises in.
“Portage is a Canadian non-profit organization that was established in 1970. The organization helps people suffering from substance abuse-related problems to overcome their dependencies and live healthy, happy, and productive lives”, as mentioned by Ashley-Ann Maginnis, the associate director of development for Portage Ontario.
Portage Ontario—which is a Portage centre based out of Elora, Ontario—is Canada’s first ever adolescent residential treatment facility, in which it specifically supports youth between 14-18 years of age.
While Portage Ontario is based out of Elora, the organization prides itself in being a free treatment centre that is available to help youth all across Ontario who are suffering from substance abuse issues.
Among the many helpful programs and services that Portage Ontario offers to youth who stay at the facility includes the Adolescent Program (overall treatment program for adolescents dealing with substance abuse and addiction), Portage Academy (on-site schooling), Cultural and Recreational Activities (offering team sports, art, music, community events, etc.), Aftercare and Continuing Care (continued support for at least two years after drug addiction treatment), and much more.
Ashley-Ann says that, while the Ontario government provides ample funding for the non-profit organization, there are also crucial programs and services that are not covered by the government, which motivated the youth treatment centre to utilize fundraising as a method of being able to continue delivering their robust program to the youth that it aids.
“The overall program that we offer here, it is a very expensive program for us to cover. Although, we do receive funding through the Ontario Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services,” Ashley-Ann said.
“But, we do this additional fundraising to help pay for certain things that the government does not cover, such as our aftercare, bursaries that we offer for our youth, as well as outings that develop leadership, among other things. The average cost for each youth that comes into our program is upwards of around $50,000. And so, every dollar really helps.”
Because this will be the first year that The Great Portage event will be run, Ashley-Ann says that there will be some special rewards for both participants and donors.
“We have a family scavenger hunt planned, where families will receive a scavenger list and they can go exploring in the provincial parks and create lovely memories together,” Ashley-Ann said.
“We also have some great sponsors on board as well, and they are going to donate really cool gift items that individuals can win if they are either a top fundraiser, simply completing challenges, or also winning challenges. The prizes will be geared towards hiking, camping, and pretty much anything related to the outdoors. I am really excited about it!”
And while this is the exciting inaugural year for The Great Portage fundraiser, it is far from the first fundraiser that Portage Ontario has organized and ran.
“We started a golf tournament fundraiser called the Freedom From Addiction Golf Classic just last year,” Ashley-Ann said. “As well, for the last five years, we have held a really successful cycling event called the Pedal For Portage.”
“We are really proud of our fundraiser events, because not only do they give us the opportunity to bring the community together for fun and social events, but the money we raise from these events go towards a great cause in supporting Portage Ontario and helping the youth that we assist every day.”
Ashley-Ann also says that Portage Ontario is incredibly appreciative of such a supportive community that has helped both the treatment centre, as well as the youth the centre assists, through past and present fundraiser events. And she says that she is looking forward to help organize even more events for the community in the future.
“The amount of support and love people have shown for the youth that we have is absolutely amazing. It fills my heart to know that we live in a community here, and that there are communities right across the province that want to help our youth succeed, and it is absolutely fantastic to see.”
If you would like to learn more about The Great Portage fundraiser, or if you would like to participate or donate to the cause, you can visit the fundraiser page here.
And for more information about Portage Ontario and the services that they offer to help Ontario’s youth who are dealing with substance abuse-related issues, you can visit their website.