It was the moment of reckoning for Teresa Susi.
She was working as an assistant custodian at an elementary school when a small boy came to her asking for food.
“You have to go through these things to know,” said Susi, now a central assistant custodian trainer. The incident, she added, gave her new insight into the hardships that some children face.
Determined that no child in our system should ever go hungry again, Susi and her husband Fred, together with a team of volunteers, initiated the annual Custodians’, Assistant Custodians’ and Maintenance Workers’ Dinner-Dance which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past 17 years for the board’s Equal Opportunities schools and the CYO’s campership program.
This year’s event raised more than $18,500 through ticket sales, raffles and private donations.
“It’s a lot of work … whatever you do in life is work,” said Susi. “But we have to do something for our kids. For some kids, it’s a struggle to survive.”
On December 7, Susi delivered a cheque in the amount of $14,165 to the administrative offices of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board. The funds will be used for school nutrition programs and other supports for children at the board’s Equal Opportunities schools.
“I want to express my deep, deep appreciation to Teresa and Fred Susi, to the custodians, assistant custodians and maintenance staff, to the many members of our community who contributed to the event, and to the numerous individuals, schools and organizations that donated to this wonderful cause,” said Chairperson Patrick Daly.
“Your goodness will make a significant difference in the lives of our most vulnerable children.”
Noting that the Equal Opportunities Initiative is doing a lot of good things, Susi said it’s important “to give some light to those beautiful kids.”
“That’s our future. We’ve got to take care of them.”
Taking care of children is what the Equal Opportunities Project is all about. Established in 2005, it hopes to mitigate the effects of poverty on student achievement by providing additional supports and resources to socio-economically disadvantaged schools. These supports vary from the purchase of textbooks, nutrition programs and tutoring, to after-hour social and recreational programs, arts instruction, out-of-school learning experiences and summer camp.
Commending the custodians, assistant custodians and maintenance workers for their generous support, Director of Education David Hansen said the funds will go a long way toward levelling the playing field for children in the board’s Equal Opportunities schools.
More than the material supports, the funds send a message of hope to the children that there’s a whole network of people watching out for them, he stressed.
It’s a network comprised not only of custodians, assistant custodians and maintenance workers, but of principals, vice-principals, teachers, school staff and community partners, added Susi.
However the biggest gun in the arsenal is Susi herself who will continue her work on behalf of children.
“All I want to do is raise money for my kids. That’s all.”