Shania Twain gives Ardglen community something to sing about

Brampton Guardian
By Roger Belgrave
September 19, 2014

BRAMPTON— Top-selling Canadian songstress Shania Twain was a big hit Friday in a Brampton community that has had little to sing about recently.

Twain, one of the biggest country music stars to come out of Canada and enjoy enormous international success, visited the Ardglen Drive community to announce a $400,000 partnership with the Dilawri Foundation that is launching a clubhouse program for students at Sir Winston Churchill Public School.

It is the first Shania Kids Can Clubhouse in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and is part of a collaboration with the Dilawri group that will amount to $1.6 million over the next five years, and see several clubhouses established at schools in the GTA, Calgary, Regina and Vancouver.

The partnership between the Shania Kids Can Foundation, the Dilawri Foundation and Peel District School Board will provide underprivileged and disadvantaged kids with a wide-ranging in-school support system.

This is about more than academics, said Peel Board Chair Janet McDougald as she thanked Twain and Kap Dilawri for a generous financial commitment that will help “level the playing field” for students at the school.

“Some do need more than others in order to be successful,” McDougald said at a news conference to officially open the clubhouse. “We are so deeply grateful.”

Twain established the foundation and clubhouse program to deliver the kind of support she so desperately needed as a child growing up under difficult circumstances.

The 49-year-old was raised in Timmins in what was, at times, an impoverished upbringing.

She would often come to school hungry and without a lunch. Her family didn’t have the means to dress her in the newest clothes and latest fashion or pay for the extracurricular activities her classmates often enjoyed.

It was the kind of experience that can chip away at a child’s self-esteem and certainly extinguish enthusiasm for school and an education.

As an adult, Twain revealed she would go to school concerned about being ridiculed and anxious about making up excuses to explain why she couldn’t take part in something as simple as Hot Dog Day.

She made a childhood pledge that someday she would help kids cope with those kinds of challenges and reach their full potential. The multi-award winning music artist, whose albums have sold millions of copies worldwide, created the Shania Kids Can Charity Foundation to fulfil that promise.

Shania Kids Can, with financial support from the Dilawri Foundation – which advocates and raises funds to help support medical research, hospitals, children and their families – are working together to establish clubhouses in Canada.

“I’m just so honoured to be a part of your very special school and a part of me will stay with you,” Twain told students and staff assembled in the gymnasium for what was a surprise visit from the music star.

The charity repurposes and furnishes designated school space and hires a qualified behavioural teaching assistant to provide a haven where students can find a host of daily academic, nutritional, therapeutic and extracurricular supports.

Dilawri, whose family operates 49 car dealerships across the country, including Frost GM in Brampton, was very aware of the local school’s history when reviewing its funding application.

The Brampton school, in this Kennedy Road and Clarence Street neighbourhood that is home to many low-income families, has seen more than its share of tragedy.

This past June, a fire in one of the townhouse complexes on Ardglen Drive left 18 families homeless and took the life of 10-year-old Nicolas Gabriel.

In January 2013, another student at the school, nine-year-old Kesean Williams, was killed as he sat playing video games with his brother in their Ardglen Drive home. A bullet pierced the living room window and struck the child in the head.

Police said they believe the home was targeted but have not figured out who the intended victim was or made any arrests in the ongoing investigation.

“We do business in Brampton and we like to give back to the communities we do business in,” he said, adding the Ardglen community certainly needed the support and the moral boost.

Principal Kristin Bergan said 20 students have been selected to be a part of the club, but many more in the school would benefit from the resources and support it provides.

Schools interested in applying for a clubhouse can visit