The playground at Exhibition Park on any given Sunday is full of children sliding, swinging and climbing away.
But for one eager 4-year-old girl, a day at the park offers another opportunity altogether.
Each Sunday throughout the summer, Millie Sinclair-Kruth prepares her cooler bag full of ice cream and popsicles as well as an assortment of handmade muffins and heads to the park with her mother, Liz.
And Millie’s Store opens for business.
Kids jump off the slide and run over to take a peek, excited to make a purchase.
She offers one her tasty treats and hands out stickers thanking them for their support.
“I’m doing this for the Children’s Foundation because I want to help kids,” Millie says.
One idea soon grew into a summer project for Millie who will be starting kindergarten in September.
“It all began when we started talking about how fortunate we are and that not all kids have the same opportunities,” Millie’s mother Liz said.
“Millie wants to explore her interests and all kids want to do the same. They should all have the same opportunities in the world and Millie wants to help.”
Sales from Millie’s Store help support the Free to Grow Program at the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington.
The program funds recreational activities including sports, arts and camps. And beginning this year, it also helps fund life-skill development activities such as babysitting, driver's education training, tutoring.
Funds are available for the activity of the child’s choice, as long as it helps benefit and enrich their own personal development.
Like Millie, the foundation wants all children and youth to be given the same opportunities in life.
It says that by providing children with these experiences, it not only helps encourage a healthy lifestyle, but also opportunities for skills and social development, promotes friendships and community engagement.
The Free to Grow Program offers financial support for each activity, encourages children to try new experiences and to develop their talents, interests and passions.
It allows children to continue in the activities they are interested in, even when times are tough for their families.
The Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington along with local donors, volunteers and community partners, find opportunities so each child can grow, explore and unleash their full potential.
It offers four programs: Adopt-A-Family, Food & Friends, Free to Grow (formerly Free to Play) and Scholarships to build brighter futures tomorrow.
In 2018, 1,384 children were funded to participate in 2,215 activities, 279 music, drama and art activities were funded, 508 camp outings were attended, and the average household income of applicants was $18,125.
The Free to Grow Program offered a variety of activities, the most popular being camps, swimming, soccer, gymnastics and dance.
In between customers, Millie practises one her dance moves.
She enjoys ballet and swimming and is hoping to sign up for karate in the fall.
“She has raised $300 so far,” Liz said. “A stranger donated $150 and some people have even pre-ordered muffins. It’s just grown.”
“I really want Millie to appreciate how fortunate we are and to help her see that we can help make a difference and to give her a sense of community. I want her to see that we can help these structures that help support kids.”
Millie paid a visit to the Children’s Foundation where she was welcomed and thanked for her support.
“She did meet with the people there It makes it real for her to have met them and they provided her with the stickers,” Liz said.
With a big bright smile, Millie hands out another chocolate ice cream cone.
“It feels good to help,” she says. “So, kids can do more things."