City of Brantford Council has unanimously voted in favour of a resolution to fund facility fees for an upcoming SickKids Fun Fair fundraiser during the Committee of the Whole, Planning and Administration meeting on Tuesday, November 15, 2023.
After falling ill in January of 2023, Riley, a nine-year-old Brantford resident, was admitted to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) with a diagnosis of acute heart failure.
By the end of the month, Riley had undergone surgery to implant a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). The device is used to provide life-saving therapy for patients awaiting a heart transplant.
As of September, the youngster was still awaiting a donor, but had expressed her desire to give back to the hospital that saved her life by putting on a Fun Fair fundraiser at the Branlyn Community Centre.
During the meeting, Councillor Michael Sullivan moved a resolution to help fund the $1,200 cost of renting the facility for the event. He also announced that Riley had recently received her long-awaited heart transplant.
“The little girl reached out to me to do this fun fair for SickKids prior to her receiving her heart surgery,” said Sullivan. “This was actually going to come before council sooner, but when she got her heart, it delayed the process a little. She’s now out of hospital, she’s at home recovering, and she’s very anxious to get this put together and to help SickKids.”
Sullivan noted that the topic was important to him as his youngest child is also a heart surgery survivor.
“My son is also here because of SickKids, so it kind of hit me right in a good spot when she got a hold of me,” he said.
Councillor Richard Carpenter was emotional as he said that he was happy to second the resolution. The councillor noted that he also has a personal history of having a child admitted to the hospital.
“This young girl wants to do something for the community, and I can’t see us charging her $1,200 to rent one of our facilities so that she can have a fundraising event for SickKids,” he said. “I think it’s just a good notion for us with the Christmas season coming, to work forward and to say that ‘Riley, we support you.’ The little girl wanted to do this and so we should be supporting her on that.”
Councillor Dan McCreary commended Sullivan for bring the resolution forward, stating “it is compassionate, and there’s all too little compassion in the world these days.”
With Sullivan’s blessing, McCreary moved a friendly amendment to request staff to bring forward a brief report on how the corporation of the City of Brantford can facilitate future requests for items such as this.
“We do empower the Community Foundation to give money on our behalf, and perhaps there’s a report we can get which could outline a process whereby these things don’t have to come to us and become political,” he said.
Councillor Rose Sicoli said that she was in approval of McCreary’s friendly amendment and thanked him for bringing it forward.
“There’s the compassion side of this and then there’s the logical side of this. There are a lot of people who are in need in our community, and I fear that this might be a slippery slope if we start hand picking one child to support when there’s so many individuals within our community who have needs,” she said. “I do like the idea of having staff look into this a little bit more to see how we can do this without it becoming political. It shouldn’t have to come up here and we shouldn’t be hand picking one child to support, or one charity to support, I think there has to be a better way to do that.”
Kevin Davis, Mayor of the City of Brantford, noted that resolution has come with good intentions but agreed with Sicoli’s point.
“We have many requests that come to us where people want to be able to rent or use an arena or a park, and that could be for a charitable fundraising event, or it could be just an event that’s going to be community based. Generally, the policy of the City has been that whoever the person is and whatever the group is, they pay a rate for use of the facilities, which generally are set at recuperating about half the cost of running the facility for whatever the event is.
He noted once you start allowing the facilities, parks and arenas to be used without any charge for a charitable event, how would you determine who to say yes or no to?
“How do you distinguish between those that will receive a fee reduction, those that will pay the normal fee and those that won’t pay any fee? I think that’s the intent of councillor McCreary’s amendment, is for staff to look at this and maybe look at other municipalities. So I’m hoping the outcome of this will be some clarity, both for ourselves as elected officials and also for members of the public to know when there is going to be a fee reduction and when there isn’t, and why that’s the case.”
Councillor Greg Martin asked staff if the request to waive the facility’s rental fee should have gone to the Community Foundation, however Joelle Daniels, Commissioner of Corporate Services, said she believed this particular event didn’t fall under the existing criteria for the Community Foundation grant.
“I think that a report back would address options regarding whether there’s opportunity to expand the criteria there by removing restrictions from our procedural bylaw, and other options as well, so we could address that in the report,” said Daniels.
The vote to waive the $1,200 rental fee, as well as to instruct staff to create a report, was carried on a vote of 10-0, noting that Councillor Mandy Samwell was not present.