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Hot dog, a dunk tank!

About 500 celebrated Shelldale Better Beginnings, Better Futures 25th anniversary.

Hotdogs, corn on the cob, and a chance to dunk the chief of police.

Chief Jeff DeRuyter didn’t stay dry for long at the Shelldale Picnic Friday during the noon hour. In full uniform, wearing a pair of rubber clogs and minus his glasses, DeRuyter was fully immersed in the dunk tank within a few throws for a highly enthusiastic queue of mostly children. There were, however, a couple of cops looking to hit the bull’s eye as well.

DeRuyter was among a few dignitaries – Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield among them – that took in the 15th annual picnic. This year, the event celebrated the 25th anniversary of a community organization renowned locally for building strong bonds of community in the Willow Road area.

Several hundred people turned out for the picnic, a great many of them small children and newcomers to Canada.

For 25 years, Shelldale Better Beginnings, Better Futures has offered an host of programs at 20 Shelldale Crescent, programs geared to assisting recent immigrants, the impoverished, young mothers and their children.

Lorri Sauvé, program director, expected about 500 to attend the picnic.

“The aim of the picnic is to just celebrate this neighbourhood,” Sauvé said, adding that all the partners in the building, along with the Onward Willow Neighbourhood Group, put the event on.

Most of those in attendance are directly connected to Shelldale’s programs.

“It’s about having a great building where people can come to get the services they want and need,” she said. “It’s always just a huge celebration.”

Offering the services people want and need is the reason for the organization’s longevity, Sauvé added. Programs revolve around health – public health, community health, mental health, and family and children’s services. All under one roof.

“And everything is walkable distance,” she said. “All the people live within a kilometer of this building.”

Stephanie Ferwerda brought her small children, Abel and Brylee to the picnic. Mother and children have deep connections to Shelldale.

“I couldn’t imagine not having this centre,” Ferwerda said. “I’ve been coming here regularly for four years, and I just love it. It’s such a friendly community.”

She has taken part in the women’s group, the Baby Day program, and pre-school readiness for Brylee.

“The picnic is a chance to get out of the house and be with great people,” she added.  

On the grounds around the building, children played mini-putt, bounced on an inflatable apparatus, and played catch. Visitors with small children took shelter from the sun under the trees, blankets stretched out on the ground. The food was going fast.


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Rob O'Flanagan

About the Author: Rob O'Flanagan

Rob O’Flanagan has been a newspaper reporter, photojournalist and columnist for over twenty years. He has won numerous Ontario Newspaper Awards and a National Newspaper Award.
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