Three Groups Making Their Communities More Vibrant

Last summer, a seven year-old girl was hit by a car and killed in Toronto’s Leaside community — a tragedy that shook the neighbourhood deeply. After pleas to elected officials to address speeding and unsafe intersections went unanswered, local residents banded together to take action. A group of parents in the neighbourhood created a lawn sign with a simple message: “Slow down. Kids at play.”

The group, known as Leaside Kids at Play, was one of three organizations recognized at the Community Innovator Awards, presented by 8 80 Cities on March 31, 2015 in Toronto. The awards celebrate individuals and organizations across Ontario who are finding creative and meaningful ways to build walkable and bikeable communities with vibrant public spaces.

Creating safer, healthier, more vibrant communities doesn’t happen overnight. However, groups like Leaside Kids at Play demonstrate how a simple action today — such as the creation of a sign — can lead us in the right direction. The Kids at Play message caught on, and a movement was born. Today, thousands of Kids at Play signs are improving safety in neighbourhoods across Canada. Signs have also been shipped to neighbourhoods in England and Mexico.

VIDEO: Slow Down Kids at Play

Read on for stories of the other award-winners, inspiring people dedicated to creating 8 80 communities.

Charlie’s FreeWheels, a program about so much more than bicycles

Remember the sense of freedom and independence you experienced as a child when you mounted your first bicycle? A bike expands your world; you can travel further and explore new surroundings. Charlie’s FreeWheels helps youth in the inner-city of Toronto experience the power of bikes. Through innovative and inclusive programming, Charlie’s trains youth how to build a bike from scratch. At the end of the program, participants roll out of Charlie’s with their own bike, new friends, and valuable life skills. Their workshop becomes a clubhouse, where youth hang out, do homework, and enjoy a fresh meal after school.

The Community Innovator Award was accepted by Ammar Shari and Keiren Alam, two members of the Charlie’s FreeWheels Youth Council.










How A-Way Express is empowering individuals, one package at a time

A-Way Express is a social enterprise that provides reliable courier service, delivered by public transportation, to clients throughout the GTA. This delivery method demonstrates that public transportation can be used as a means of personal empowerment. A-Way Express also stands apart from its competition because it is staffed by people living with mental health challenges. Each trip A-Way couriers make helps them progress towards their much larger goal of gaining independence, earning a wage, and dispelling misconceptions about people living with mental health challenges.

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