Say Yes! to Kids campaign goes annual, inspires hope for youth ministry

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The Say Yes! to Kids Board Game-a-thon at St. Aidan Anglican Church in Moose Jaw, Sask., diocese of Qu'Appelle helped raise funds for youth programs. Photo: Contributed
By on June 29, 2022

Allie Colp remembers the wave of emotion she felt in 2021 seeing the fruits of the Anglican Foundation of Canada’s Say Yes! to Kids campaign—a national fundraising effort to support child and youth ministry, now in its second year.

“When I saw the list of grants that were awarded to our diocese last year, it genuinely made me cry,” says Colp, youth and family ministry coordinator for the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

She describes a sense of hope the grants gave at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic had interrupted diocesan youth programs, or even thrown their future into question.

“It was so inspiring to see after… a year and a half of so many things being put on pause, and lots of things being up in the air, that so many parishes here had an idea and put in some work to get some money to make it happen,” she adds. “I think I’m not the only person who felt that.”

Say Yes! to Kids and Sing Benefit Concert at St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church in Napanee, diocese of Ontario. Freewill offerings helped support the Heard Youth and Morningstar Relief Mission high school lunch program. Photo: Contributed

Strong response from Anglicans across Canada was a major factor in the foundation’s decision to transform Say Yes! to Kids from a one-time effort into an ongoing annual campaign, Anglican Foundation of Canada (AFC) communications and development consultant Michelle Hauser says.

Hauser traced the change to last November’s meeting in which the AFC board of directors pondered how to respond to the “overwhelming” amount of funding for youth programs that Anglicans applied for in 2021.

“We got a lot of feedback from youth leaders across the country that there hadn’t been a good source of youth-focused funding and people really clamored after those grants,” Hauser says. “It was kind of a surprise to people, I think.”

Through conversations with Anglicans, the AFC determined that even more grants were possible, Hauser says. “We felt that it was important for the foundation to find a way to create a funding stream for youth-focused ministry.”

Say Yes! to Kids and Get in the Game in the diocese of Montreal encouraged participants to get involved in sports and physical activities to fund child and family programs at Phoenix Community Projects, a local community organization. Photo: Contributed

To raise more funds, however, the foundation decided a less centralized approach was needed.

Unlike last year’s campaign where the AFC led the fundraising push, the campaign now takes what Hauser describes as a “team” approach led by local parishes.

“Instead of applying to us for a grant, they’re actually doing the fundraiser themselves and they’re keeping a portion of the funds,” Hauser says. “So our fundraising goals are always going to be driven by the parishes who want to come alongside us and be part of the campaign every year.”

The new model for Say Yes! to Kids involves local teams across the country all raising funds. Each team is able to keep 60% of the money they raise for a local project, while 20% will support a diocesan youth ministry.

The remaining 20% goes towards national Indigenous youth-focused ministry. The AFC will work closely with General Synod and the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund to identify Indigenous youth programs to fund.

Methods to raise money are up to each team. Often fundraising revolves around a “keystone event” such as a walk or run, Hauser says.

Say Yes! to Kids and Dance at All Saints (Dain City), Welland, diocese of Niagara used a weekly line dancing class to raise money for the church’s first-ever Family Fun Day, scheduled for July 9. Photo: Contributed

In the diocese of Qu’Appelle, St. Aidan Anglican Church in Moose Jaw, Sask. organized a day-long “Board Game-a-thon” at the church on Saturday, June 11. Having set out to raise $2,000, Hauser says, the St. Aidan’s team has raised more than $5,000.

In the diocese of Algoma, St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Thunder Bay, Ont. held a weekly series of “mini-Camino pilgrimages”—referring to the Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James pilgrimage that takes place each year in Spain, France and Portugal. Team members led neighbourhood walks to raise money for bursaries for Indigenous post-secondary students.

Other teams took part in the “Say Yes! to Kids and Sing” challenge, recording themselves singing “This Little Light of Mine” and uploading it to social media along with a link to donate.

Hauser identifies the diocese of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. as an example of what is possible with the campaign. Four teams in the diocese took part in Say Yes! to Kids this year, including the diocesan Anglican Church Women board and three parishes: Cathedral Church of All Saints and St. Paul’s Church in Halifax, and Christ Church Amherst.

“We have been quite involved this year,” Colp says. “I think there was lots of energy and motivation for folks to sign up and get involved this year because we had a really solid response and got lots of grants from the campaign last year. That inspired lots of people to think about what other things they could do or how they could plug in.”

Of funds raised by the Nova Scotia and P.E.I. teams, 20% went to support their diocesan project, the Community Roots Day Camp—a volunteer-run camp program that encourages young people to learn about their Christian faith and communities to develop leadership capacity for children and youth programs.

A member of the church community shares her love of baking with campers at the Community Roots Day Camp. Teams in the diocese of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. raised money for the camp through the Say Yes! to Kids campaign. Photo: Contributed

Each team also raised money for local projects. St. Paul’s funded a retreat for their youth group. Cathedral Church of All Saints helped offer bursaries for children in financially struggling families to attend day camps run by the Ward 5 Neighbourhood Centre. Christ Church Amherst partnered with a local family resource centre to support unhoused youth, launching the Youth Navigation Fund and volunteer training program.

At the time of writing, Christ Church Amherst has raised $12,500 towards its goal of $15,000, making it this year’s top fundraising team, Hauser says. She highlights a $2,000 gift from Trinity St. Stephen’s United Church, also of Amherst—“the first time we have seen the wider church community rallying in support of a neighbouring church.”

Under the banner of Say Yes! to Arctic Youth Nation, the diocese of the Arctic is fundraising through the Say Yes! to Kids campaign to create a diocesan youth coordinator position. Having received a $5,000 gift from St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Hay River, N.W.T., the diocese has now raised nearly half of its $25,000 goal.

“I would say that the story within the story of the Say Yes! to Kids 2022 campaign really is churches helping churches,” Hauser says. She points to Holy Trinity Church, St. Luke’s Church, and St. John’s College in Winnipeg rallying together to raise funds for Emmanuel Mission Learning Centre—a local summer day camp that serves nearly 100 children and their families each year, most of them new immigrants to Canada.

Team members at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Thunder Bay, Ont., diocese of Algoma, organized a Mini-Camino Pilgrimage to raise funds for Indigenous students. Photo: Contributed

Colp says Say Yes! to Kids “really has been a boost of hope, that just because things were put on pause for so long doesn’t mean that things have to be over—or even if some things are over, that there still is room for new things to happen.”

The knowledge that other teams across Canada are working to support youth ministry through the campaign also gives parishes a sense they’re not alone, Colp adds.

“For folks here, this really has opened our eyes to the possibilities of the Anglican Foundation and things … that can happen through the incredible grants that they give out,” she says.

“The support that Michelle has offered local teams, I think, has really helped teams in raising money for this year… It’s a thing that is really great for right now, but also is setting people up with good skills to carry on into the future in raising money for youth ministry programs.”

The second annual Say Yes! to Kids campaign runs until July 2. At the time this article was written, the campaign had raised more than $133,000 towards a goal of $150,000.

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  • Matt Puddister

    Matthew Puddister (aka Matt Gardner) is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal. Most recently, Puddister worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Puddister has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He will continue to support corporate communications efforts during his time at the Journal.

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