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Cottage Country Splash

Rural Ontario brokerage helps create a lasting legacy for a beloved teacher

Summer can’t come soon enough for the children of Sundridge, Ont., a small northern community of 1,000 people, located in the heart of the Almaguin Highlands.

This summer, the kids can cool of in a brand-new splash pad thanks to funds raised through the Make a Splash for Stacey Foundation and the Aviva Community Fund.

In just 11 months, this small community raised  more than $100,000, and the additional $70,000 awarded by the Aviva Community Fund helped turn the dream into reality.

“I’ve had a perma-smile on my face since receiving the official phone call,”

says Stephen Darling, president of Stan Darling Insurance Inc. “It’s been one of the most exciting initiatives our office has ever engaged in and the Aviva Community Fund awards event in Ottawa was a phenomenal experience.”

The Make a Splash for Stacey foundation was established in 2013 by Jason Stillar, to honour the life of his wife, Stacey, a hometown girl who lost her battle with cancer in 2012. A dedicated mother and teacher, Stacey had a genuine love for children and the splash pad was chosen as a fitting memorial.

Darling submitted the idea to the Aviva Community Fund and the brokerage was instrumental in helping to promote it widely through their offices in Sundridge, Burk’s Falls, Gravenhurst and Bracebridge. “We didn’t need toremind our staff—they took their own initiative to promote the idea to family, friends and even other brokers,” says Darling.

“What makes our community special is the love and kindness they show towards one another, in times of sadness and joy,” Darling explains. “Everyone rallied behind the idea and took every opportunity to raise money for the cause. We held dances, concerts and even a silent auction with local business support.”

The brokerage used social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to share updates and send out reminders to vote, and while this was effective, good old-fashioned face-to-face contact was also very important to their campaign.

“Many of our seniors don’t have computers, so we became a sort of pop-up Internet café, complete with IT assistance,” Darling jokes. “The same people would come in person to vote daily and check in to find out how the idea was doing.” He laughs, “One of our regulars even brought us coffee each day.”

Darling credits involvement in the cause with helping to raise their brokerage’s profile. “Many people told us they’d like to speak to us about their insurance needs after they learned we were involved in helping to create something good in our community.”

A regular sponsor of local community initiatives, including hockey and baseball teams, Stan Darling Insurance thrives on giving back to the community and is already looking for its next project.

“It’s never too early to start thinking of an idea to create positive change in your community,” he says. “I encourage brokers to start looking around now for opportunities so you’re in a better position when the Aviva Community Fund competition begins in September.”

Darling highlights the positive impact the splash pad will have with some thoughtful words: “The splash pad will serve as a lasting reminder that great things are achieved when a community works together,” he says. “It will bring tremendous value, not just by providing a safe place for children  of all ages and abilities, but because of the lasting memories it will create for decades to come.

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Copyright 2014 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the March 2014 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

Transcontinental Media G.P.