DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

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DAREarts Documentary “Fill My Hollow Bones” Screened on Parliament Hill

From left to right: DAREarts National Director of Development Natasha Morano, Senator Dennis Patterson, DAREarts Founder & President Marilyn Field, and Senator Lillian Eva Dyck

On November 28th DAREarts proudly hosted the Ottawa premiere screening of ‘Fill My Hollow Bones’.  The film chronicles a DAREarts program that challenges youth in the remote Indigenous community of Webequie FN to find their voices through the arts, guided by teachers, artists and community elders. This special event on Parliament Hill was co-hosted by Senator Dennis Patterson and Senator Lillian Eva Dyck and sponsored by Bell Canada. Additionally, DAREarts would like to thank Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for supporting DAREarts’ recent trip to Webequie FN and this event.

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, MP

The evening began with inspirational remarks by The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations. Simon Dwyer from Bell Canada introduced Senator Patterson.  Government and industry leaders gathered to watch the documentary and join DAREarts in paying tribute to the late Cathy Elliott, DAREarts’ Indigenous Program Associate.  CTV news also made an appearance to capture the evening.

DAREarts First Roots Webequie Graduate & Mentor, Eric Shewaybick

Following the screening, there was an interactive discussion featuring a DAREarts graduate youth from Webequie, Eric Shewaybick; Senator Patterson, DAREarts Artist-Educator and Juno nominated songwriter, Glenn Marais, and DAREarts Founder and President, Marilyn Field. The session was moderated by Natasha Morano, DAREarts National Director of Development. Our youth, Eric, spoke from the heart and shared his personal account of how impactful DAREarts has been in his community over the last ten years and in his own life. He has become a positive role model to show a path for those who need it most.  He proudly stated his two girls are now participating in the DAREarts program and eagerly awaiting the return of DAREarts next year.

Those in attendance saw firsthand the power of the arts.  In this year of Canada 150 and reconciliation, DAREarts was proud to share the voices of our Indigenous young people who are pouring their talents, intelligence and enterprise into their future.

The main message that was imparted upon guests was to both individually and collectively take bold steps forward to further empower Canada’s Indigenous youths with confidence, courage and leadership, using the arts which creates self-sufficient young adults.


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DAREarts Grads Celebrate Canada 150 at “A Place to Stand”

The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and DAREarts grad Kalli Lang.

On Wednesday, June 28th, nine DAREarts youths were invited to attend A Place to Stand, a special concert commemorating 150 years of Ontario and Canada hosted by Her Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

DAREarts graduate Kalli Lang reflected on this special evening:

Last night I had the special opportunity of representing DAREarts at the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario’s A Place To Stand: A Celebration of 150 Years in Canada and Ontario. What a phenomenal night, a beautiful, detailed and engaging history lesson beginning from the discovery of Canada, with wonderful musical acts during every era.

Left to Right: DAREarts Grad Kalli Lang, Performing Artists Cynthia Dale and Miss Conception, and DAREarts Grad Elijah Brown

Because it was such a fancy event, I wasn’t sure what to expect (cultural erasure and white-centric retelling of history?) but was pleasantly surprised by the amount of detail and recognition of Canada’s tragedies involving POC and the First Nations. They recognized the stealing of native land; they acknowledged the problem of missing and murdered Aboriginal women; the thousands of Chinese that lost their lives building the railroad; the nursing sisters during the war; the decorated and influential Aboriginal soldier; the fact that jazz and ragtime was pioneered by Black culture, and that slavery had effects on it as well; that the Canadian touring performing group The Dumbells was a story of soldiers turned singers, included drag, and were one of the first Canadian Broadway performances… I’m happy. Met the Lieutenant Governor, Cynthia Dale, Miss Conception, got to watch Jackie Richardson’s beautiful jazz voice in action, Murray McLaughlin, and got to see my hero, Col. Chris Hadfield and his brother perform “In Canada”!

We are deeply grateful to Her Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell for extending this opportunity to our youth and for hosting such a beautiful tribute to Canada.

Photos courtesy of Kalli Lang.

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Volunteer Appreciation Week: Spotlight on Bonnie Masina

DAREarts’ Volunteer Coordinator Bonnie Masina learns to fence with the kids on DAREarts Drama Day! Photo by Alan Dunlop.

In this day and age, every charity is thankful for each and every volunteer and every task they complete! But, it is a rarity when a charity can applaud the fact that they have a Volunteer “Volunteer Coordinator”, and DAREarts is one such fortunate charity!

Giving back and developing community isn’t a learned behaviour, it is ingrained in Bonnie Masina’s DNA – she has always been committed to a greater good for others.  A proud mom of 3, excitedly anticipating the arrival of her first grandchild, while also being a primary caregiver for her mother-in-law, Bonnie still finds the time to be a role model for change.

As a proud volunteer for DAREarts, she joined the team about 18 months ago. She has always had a coach approach to how she interacts with kids, as she coached girls’ soccer leagues for a number of years. She has always understood that, “it’s tough for kids to grow up these days.”

When she joined DAREarts, she knew that it’s “all about the kids, giving them the opportunity to believe they have worth and are capable of so much.” As an analyst in the IT sector, she learned that a lot of the time it’s the behaviours you don’t see that are the best indicators of the challenges someone faces.

She has a calm nurturing approach to interacting with the kids, whether at a DAREarts Program Showcase finale, or working with the DAREarts grads as they return as volunteers. You can see and feel the respect that she gives the kids, and they in turn give it back to her.  Accountability and respect raise the conversations to a level of equality that reinforces the expectations for all.

Weekly Bonnie works in the DAREarts office to track the contributions of all the volunteers that support the breadth of programs we offer. On the best of days, she is able to join a program day or a showcase, where we all get to see the impact of the DARE values: Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence.

And what does Bonnie get back from this work? “It’s a meaningful, impactful opportunity for kids, giving them a place to belong, for them to be a part of something bigger. I get to see our graduates come back and give back to the next generation of kids – and that is amazing! My hope for DAREarts’ future is that one day, our staff are all DAREarts grads, our Board is filled with DAREarts grads, finding their way as our future leaders. That vision, the impact and the kids fulfills me.”

We at DAREarts are truly grateful to have such a wonderful mentor and role model, for our kids, for our volunteers, and for our community. Thank you!

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead supporters are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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How Marilyn Field Grew a Top Canadian Charity on a Shoestring Budget

Written by Monika Jensen-Stevenson, Emmy Award winning producer, bestselling author, and DAREarts Director.

“DARE to be Disciplined, take Action, be Responsible and strive for Excellence.” – Marilyn Field, founder DAREarts

For many of us, start-ups are the catch word of the day and no one is more admired than the man or woman who creates an Uber, an Airbnb or Snapchat – companies that earn billions for their founders,  create jobs and add to the well-being of the economy.   But there is another kind of start-up which does not earn billions for its creator and yet has an enormous impact on people’s lives.

DAREarts Founder Marilyn Field, Monika Jensen-Stevenson, Councillor Michael Ford, and TDSB Associate Director Christopher Usih with the DAREarts Grade 8s

For almost twenty years, I have observed the progress of such a start-up, the DAREarts Foundation. Just recently I had the enormous pleasure of participating in its twenty year anniversary which celebrated the success of some 200,000 young people who, over 20 years, used what they learned at DAREarts to fulfill their potential.  Of those kids, very few have failed. Certainly not the young man who had trouble coping when he joined DAREarts as a young immigrant from Ghana. Newly graduated, today he is a practicing optician. Neither the 14 year old who stood his ground against an armed gang on his street, using the confidence he had gained at DAREarts to escape. Still in his twenties, he is today Director of Operations for DECIEM Inc., a multi-million start-up cosmetics company.  He is also DAREarts’ youngest board member.  In the 20 years of its existence, in their careers, personal life and contribution to their communities, DAREarts graduates are successful and happy; most attribute a large part of that to their involvement with DAREarts. Like Liz Ward, homeless at 12 and now in university, who says “DAREarts saved my life.”

The DAREarts Foundation started with exactly zero dollars and is now helping annually 10,000 kids in challenging environments to reach the potential that was in them.  The foundation’s income for fiscal year 2016 was $713,537 – not nearly enough to include the long list of kids who are waiting to join, but a significant accomplishment in today’s tight giving environment.  Only four per cent of that comes from the government.  The largest amount comes from corporations and individuals. These figures do not take into account the value of the hundreds of volunteers which alone is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

DAREarts Founder Marilyn Field & Grade 5 Rexdale-area Delegates

It also does not take into account the enormous accomplishment of the organization’s founder, Marilyn Field, a former teacher who knew that an organization like DAREarts was needed from the time she taught in inner city schools.  There, during detention classes, she realized that the arts could make a significant difference in the lives of children who had no coping or life skills because of their difficult social environment. Instead of forcing them to write promises to do better one hundred times, she got them involved in the subject she knew best: classical music. She says, “They particularly liked Pachelbel’s Canon, keeping a volleyball in the air while the music played. It just worked!” During one incident, two boys got in a schoolyard fight over Mozart, she says. Soon students were lined up before school to join her classes.  She remembers one particularly enthusiastic boy who showed up very early.  He was barefoot. It was winter.

Just as many of Ms. Field’s counterparts in commercial start-ups do, when she could not raise enough money to get started she used her own. She was on leave from teaching.  Money was tight. She says there was only one option, “so I re-mortgaged my house.  That got us started.” She rented space, hired artists to do planned workshops with the kids. Almost immediately, though, she had to look for more money.  A friend who sat on the Esprit Orchestra Board with her introduced her to the head of a corporation who contributed $25,000 as the first serious donation. Soon, more friends stepped up. The battle for funding has been on-going ever since.

Deputy Mayor Vincent Crisanti, Marilyn Field, Monika Jensen-Stevenson, Councillor Michael Ford, and TDSB Associate Director Christopher Usih with the DAREarts Grade 8s at NACI on March 2nd

DARE is the acronym for Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence – the approach by which the 4th through 8th graders, chosen by their schools, can use the talents within themselves to advance their own lives and their communities in Vancouver, Toronto, remote Indigenous communities like Marten Falls FN, Webequie FN and Attawapiskat FN, Montreal and Halifax.  The tool used to bring this about is an intensive arts education program (ten days over ten weeks) that includes diverse arts experiences from a Q&A at Stratford with Oscar winner Christopher Plummer to workshops on the Renaissance, Jazz, architecture, fashion, literature, dance, music and much more. By going back to their schools and teaching their peers what they have learned in DAREarts, students become self-confident and develop leadership skills. The kids say, “You saved my life.”

At the DAREarts winter showcase held on March 2nd, 2017 at the North Albion Collegiate Institute in Rexdale, kids from all grades showed off their newly learned skills. A group of truly multicultural grade fours wrote and performed their ten-stanza song about the Silk Road called Voyage. Below are excerpts.

….Mapping the world
And changing the globe.

From England to Asia
Collecting as I go
Selling and trading
That’s how I earn my dough!

Trading spices East to West
World discovery, no more rest
Learning new languages throughout the globe
That’s what happened along the Silk Road.

Not bad for fourth graders who had begun their one-day-a-week classes only ten weeks before! Now they performed with confidence, expressing all they had learned about Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence.  The audience which included Toronto Deputy Mayor Vincent Crisanti, Councillor Michael Ford and Toronto District School Board Associate Director Chris Usih, was impressed.

Before they start DAREarts, many kids lack self-esteem or confidence.  One eighth grader was so unsure of himself he hid in the bathroom on the first day of classes. At the final showcase, he was the star of an exuberant hip hop performance.

African drumming, a take-off on Commedia del’arte, a blues performance are just some of presentations that entertained the audience.  The showcase ended with a powerful song, ‘Spirit of the North’, written by the kids in Webequie FN and sung as a ‘musical handshake’ by the kids in Toronto.

DAREarts Toronto children sing “Spirit of the North”, a musical handshake with our northern First Nations youth.

Lest anyone think that DAREarts’ work with FN kids in the north is the usual Canadian dead-end run around of some well-connected person getting government funding for a one-time project which leaves Indigenous kids still feeling abandoned once again, they should know this.  An Elder from Webequie approached Ms. Field during a Canadian Forces event. He told her about his teenage daughter who had committed suicide two years before and a teen who had recently hanged himself in the doorway of their community centre.  He said, “Marilyn, please come.”  Against opposition from her own foundation board who did not want to dilute scarce monies already attributed to other DAREarts programs, Ms. Field went, paying her own way and that of three other artists-as-teachers.

“That was a request for life,” she says.  “Not responding was not an option.”

When she returned from that first week of workshops in the north, she got to work finding designated funding from a company that shared her interest in Webequie.  Noront Resources responded with a $40,000 donation so that the youth of Webequie could create their own film telling their community’s story.  The documentary is now being considered for a CBC program as well as by other networks.

Ms. Field says, “We need to find other northern supporters like Noront and national supporters like Northbridge Insurance for all our programs.” Thousands of kids and their schools are waiting to participate in DAREarts.  With the help of generous corporations and individuals and its track record, DAREarts can lift more kids to be all that they can be.

To help a child, call Brenda at 905-729-0097 or visit www.darearts.com.

Monika Jensen-Stevenson is a former Emmy award winning producer for Sixty Minutes and bestselling author.  She is currently chief correspondent on a documentary about the legacy of the war in Vietnam.

Photos courtesy Alan Dunlop.


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DAREarts: 20 Years Strong

At the DAREarts Annual General Meeting on January 16, 2017, supporters, Board of Directors, volunteers, artists, alumni and staff gathered to report on fiscal 2016 ending July 31st, and celebrate DAREarts’ 20 years of empowering Canada’s at-risk children!  These young people are so capable when given the chance to ignite their potential.

Grad Elijah Brown gives his acceptance speech at the 2012 DAREarts Leadership Awards

Grad Elijah Brown at the 2012 DAREarts Leadership Awards

DAREarts Founder and President, Marilyn Field, shared her reflections of the past 20 years, “…celebrating the impact of our programs that combine arts and DARE values. As our grads grow into their future, they are still using those values to shape their lives today.  Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence – a framework that began 20 years ago – is still so crucial to so many!”

Grad Elijah Brown, 21, spoke of how DAREarts put him on the right path as a kid surrounded by challenges in Scarborough and how it still resonates for him as he completes his degree in Applied Mathematics at Trent University and trains to swim in the next Olympics.

In F2016, our 20th year, we reached out to over 10,300 kids to encourage them to ignite the change they want to see in themselves and in their communities.  The power of 20 years of DAREarts’ impact enabled us to grow by 8% in F2016 with revenues of $713,537 to end the year with a small surplus.


DAREarts Founder & President Marilyn Field with former Chairman Barry Cracower

The AGM recognized out-going Chairman of the Board of Directors, Barry Cracower, for his considerable contributions and wit with which he led DAREarts.  He commented, “It’s reassuring to see DAREarts growing and looking ahead to the future!”

The Board welcomed incoming Chairman of the Board, Tarik Muzaffar, Managing Director, TD Securities. His leadership will launch our third decade with a DARE-ing goal of reaching a $5M budget over the next 5 years.

The year ahead, our 21st year, presents DAREarts with exciting opportunities to use our values-led arts education programs to empower even more Canadian at-risk kids who need hope to build their confidence and courage to be leaders.

Most importantly, DAREarts needs you: your support and your commitment to investing in the lives of at-risk kids.  Thank you for sharing the past’s successes with us; thank you for leaping into the future’s opportunities with us!

For the full story of the past year’s impact, please see our F2016 Annual Report here.

DAREarts' first Architecture Day in Toronto, 20 years ago!

DAREarts’ first Architecture Day in Toronto, 20 years ago!

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead supporters are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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Presentation of the first Paul Semple Award for Innovative Mines

Alison Semple, Esther Semple, and Mark Baker from Noront Resources photographed with scholarship recipient, Nicole Valiquette (upper image) and Laura MacKinnon representing DAREarts (lower image).

Alison Semple, Esther Semple, and Mark Baker from Noront Resources photographed with scholarship recipient, Nicole Valiquette (left image) and Laura MacKinnon representing DAREarts (right image).

Written by Esther Semple & Mark Baker.

On Friday September 16th, 2016 at a reception at Penguin ASI headquarters in Naughton ON, the first Paul Semple Award for Innovative Mines was presented to Nicole Valiquette, an M.Sc. student in Environmental Microbiology at Laurentian University. Nicole was awarded $2,000 to support her research on microbial genomics for countering acid mine drainage in cold climates.

In attendance were six members of the Semple family; Mark Baker and Kaitlyn Ferris from Noront Resources (where Paul was COO); Dr. Greg Baiden and others fromPenguin ASI (which Paul co‐founded); and Laura MacKinnon, Lead Instructor at DAREarts. Guests from Laurentian University included Nicole’s supervisor, Dr. Nadia Mykytczuk and the Dean of Science, Engineering and Architecture, Dr. Osman Abou‐Rabia.

Paul Semple was a successful professional engineer and mining executive and this award is to be given annually to a student from Northern Ontario whose educational and career goals will contribute to innovative mining projects.

Mr. Semple was Chair of the Board of the DAREarts Foundation until 2015. To recognize his commitment to promoting education for First Nation youth, an equivalent award is provided to DAREarts to support their empowerment programs in remote First Nation communities.

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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Celebrating DAREarts Volunteer Guru of Grandeur, Sinclair Russell!

Photo courtesy of Beth McBlain.

Sinclair celebrates DAREarts’ 20th year with Leadership Awards Committee Chair Eileen Crichton & DAREarts’ staff Suzanne Clark. Photo courtesy of Beth McBlain.

Our dear volunteer, Sinclair Russell, is celebrating a milestone year on Oct 5th and we would like to say Bravo! Let’s salute his talent and spirit of FUN and FUNDraising by raising a glass to his many years of  involvement in Toronto Charity and Society Event Style.*  What better way than a VIP event at Cirque Du Soleil!  Click here to see your VIP invitation which includes a tax receipt as well as parking, a red carpet reception with sipping and supping, best seats in the house and a lovely gift-to-go!

Over DAREarts’ 20 years of empowering at-risk kids, Sinclair has been our dedicated Design Guru making our Leadership Awards and other events truly glorious!  But he went even further to give back: in 2011 Sinclair joined our team of teachers and artist-educators and headed to Webequie First Nation to work with Indigenous youths as they designed and sewed their own buck skin vests.

Professionally, his talents have contributed to Simpsons, Eatons, Estee Lauder, Fairweather / Dylex, Seven Continents, Display Arts of Toronto, Robert Gage Salon, Museum Tavern, many other retailers and publications. His talents took him abroad for 20 years working globally that won him awards and acclaim. He now lives in Minden, ON where he devotes his time and talents to many fortunate local efforts.

*Some of his lucky collaborators:
Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, Mt Sinai Hospital, DAREarts, WestPark Health, The Yonge Street Mission, Baycrest, The Griffin Trust, Canadian Opera Company, National Ballet School, Stratford Festival, Best Buddies, PetSOS,  The Fashion Group, The Brazilian Ball (x 12), and many society hosts, fine friends and his loving family members.

Sinclair with DAREarts Leadership Awards volunteers, including Seneca College students and Northbridge Insurance employees who generously contributed their time and talent!

Sinclair handwaves with DAREarts Leadership Awards volunteers, including Seneca College students and Northbridge Insurance employees who generously contributed their time and talent! Photo courtesy of Amanda Robinson.