Community Involvement

First Durham Possibilities Grant

Between 2013 and 2016 First Durham Insurance recognized individuals in our community who had helped raise awareness of children with disabilities. We celebrated their stories while at the same time recognized the financial challenges that the families of these incredible kids faced. The First Durham Possibilities Grant awarded an individual up to $5,000, which was to be invested in an RESP or RDSP. Candidates had to meet the following criteria: under the age of 18, resided in the Durham region, had a disability or a sibling with a disability, and had done something inspirational to raise awareness of kids with special needs.

Past Winners

2016 – Ashley Muir
2015 – Braeden Hathaway
2014 – Brandon McAuley
2013 – Jillian Smigielski

2016 Grant Winner

First Durham Insurance & Financial Ltd. is pleased to announce that fifteen year old Ashley Muir of Bowmanville, Ontario is our $5,000 Possibilities Grant recipient for 2016.

On March 15, 2008 Ashley’s little brother Matthew was born. Through her experiences with Matthew, she became involved with many different organizations and discovered a love of working with children. In grade 8 she won the Mayor’s Award of Academic Excellence at her school for the volunteering she had done in her community. She has over 150 hours volunteer hours with Grandview Children’s Centre and she is also their first sibling ambassador. Through her volunteering, she has realized that helping children is her true calling. She would like to become a developmental psychiatrist or a pediatric surgeon.

She is a fierce advocate of accessibility within her community and has dedicated her time to create accessible events for Durham youth. She’s a founder and co-chair of the youth advisory committee for Grandview Children’s Centre. She’s committed to making a difference for children with special needs.

2015 Grant Winner

Twelve Year old Braeden Hathaway Awarded $5,000 Possibilities Grant

First Durham’s Possibilities Grant Winner Revealed

(Pickering, Ontario), January 27, 2016. First Durham Insurance & Financial Ltd. is pleased to announce Oshawa’s twelve year old Braeden Hathaway as our $5,000 Possibilities Grant recipient for 2015.

In 2011 Braeden started BookHunters, a charitable organization that collects gently used books and in turn donates them to various organizations. To date through his hard work BookHunters has donated over 6,000 books to Sick Kids, The Denise House and various other organizations including Grandview Kids here in Oshawa. BookHunters also collaborated with Grandview Children’s Centre last spring and held a book fair with new books and a draw to win an iPad, which was donated to the winning Grandview Children’s Centre family.

Braeden, who himself has been diagnosed with Asperger’s, is a passionate reader with a big heart and was inspired by his younger sister to help make a difference. Braeden’s sister is among many heart warriors (pediatric cardiac patients) at Sick Kids Hospital, and one of many children in our community with special needs, who seek the assistance of Grandview Children’s Centre to help their children to [further develop skills that have been impacted by their disability].

“In November we had put a call out for nominations and for the third year in a row were introduced to another crop of incredible young people who through their connection to special needs are inspired to make a difference in our community.” said First Durham VP, Bryan Yetman. “The goal of our Grant is to help raise the awareness of the abilities of youth with disabilities and we could not think of a better recipient.”

In 2014 Braeden made a single donation of almost 300 books, among others, to Grandview Kids Free to Read Program which allows Grandview families to take books home to read.

“Braeden loves the idea of inspiring kids to read,” says Mom Tara who had brought Braeden’s sister Alyssa to Grandview for their speech and language program, which helped her learn to communicate “I wanted to help kids just like my sister” says Braden who himself has a fond regard for reading.

More information can be found about Braeden’s initiative BookHunters by visiting his Facebook page at

For more information about First Durham and the Possibilities Grant, please contact Bryan Yetman Telephone: 905-427-5888 ext. 122
Email: [email protected]

For More Information about Braeden, please contact: Tara Hathaway Mullin Telephone: 905-743-0252
Email: [email protected]

2014 Grant Winner

Congratulations Brandon McAuley! Possibilities Grant Winner for 2014

First Durham Insurance & Financial Ltd. is pleased to announce Pickering’s fourteen year old Brandon McAuley as our $5,000 Possibilities Grant recipient for 2014.

Brandon was born prematurely in 1999 weighing a little under two pounds. Bleeding in his brain had caused permanent damage to his muscles & nerves. As a result of his brain injury Brandon has a paralyzed vocal chord and is easily fatigued. Despite these challenges, Brandon’s Resume is quite accomplished.

“It is an honour to award Brandon with this year’s grant” said First Durham VP, Bryan Yetman. “Brandon’s story is one of adversity and determination that highlights the abilities of people with disabilities, especially when they have access to specialized services at an early age.”

In 2012 Brandon was given an opportunity to act as an Ambassador for Easter Seals and over the past few years has acted as a voice of over 20,000 children living with disabilities. During this time Brandon has grown into a gifted speaker after appearing with a variety of celebrities at a wide variety of events both in person and on television.

Brandon who attends Grade 9 at Pine Ridge Secondary School in Pickering says “It has not been an easy road, I had so many surgeries before I was 2. After that, I spent a lot of time working at the Grandview Children’s Centre receiving occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech- language therapy. Now I love to ski, climb and ride my bike. My therapists at Grandview were some of the people who helped shape who I am today.”

“Brandon has given so much of himself on behalf of others with disabilities. We wanted to recognize his efforts and present something that is just for him.” Adds Yetman. “We have been told that Brandon wants to be a Dr. or an Engineer, we hope that these funds will help offset some of the costs of what sounds to be an expensive education.”

On June 26th hosted a formal cheque presentation at their offices in Pickering to celebrate Brandon and his accomplishments, much to everyone’s surprise Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan took time off from his busy schedule to join in the presentation and congratulate Brandon on his achievement. As in past years First Durham will be making a $500 donation on behalf of all nominees for this years grant to Grandview Kids.

For more information about our Possibilities Grant please email us at [email protected]

2013 Grant Winner

First Durham Insurance Recognizes Jillian Smigielski as the First Recipient of a $5,000 Possibilities Grant

(Pickering, Ontario) , October 15, 2013. Today, First Durham Insurance & Financial Ltd. is pleased to announce that twelve year old Jillian Smigielski of Bowmanville Ontario will be the first recipient of their Possibilities Grant.

Today represents the first $5,000 of a 5 year $25,000 commitment made by First Durham to families who have kids with disabilities. In early July, First Durham announced their Possibilities Grant which was developed to celebrate the stories of young people whose efforts have raised awareness of children with disabilities while at the same time helping address the financial challenges that the families of these children often face.

“We couldn’t think of a better candidate to be the first recipient of our Grant then Jillian” said First Durham VP, Bryan Yetman. “Jillian’s story teaches an important lesson to everyone. It shows us that the most effective way to make an impact on your community is to take action. The kind of leadership Jillian displays through her actions is inspirational. We are thrilled to be able to invest what will no doubt be a very bright future for a very driven young lady.”

In total there were 5 applicants for the Possibilities Grant. Submissions were judged by an independent panel of 5 people from both First Durham and Grandview Children’s Centre. “It was not an easy decision as there were 5 very impressive young people nominated for the Grant.” Advises Yetman. First Durham will be making a $500 donation to Grandview on behalf of all nominees.

Jillian’s’ brother Ryan had been left with severe disabilities after he suffered an unexplained hypoglycaemic attack in April of 2008. Determined to give back to the very Organizations that had helped her brother, Jillian, then Nine, began to weave bracelets decorated with a smile bead. Over the course of a few years, through an initiative called “Ryan’s Smile ” Jillian sold her bracelets at $4 a piece managing to raise over $12,000, a donation she divided between Grandview Children’s Centre and Starlight Children’s Foundation.

“With this Grant we will be in a better position to contribute to Jillian’s RESP yet remain focused on paying for Ryan’s care,” says Kelly Smigielski, Jillian’s mother who had to leave her role at the CIBC to be home to care for Ryan. “We are touched by the generosity of First Durham and pleased that they have chosen Grandview at the backdrop of this initiative as Durham needs to be more aware of the magic that happens at Grandview and how it changes the lives of thousands of kids in our Region”

“Jillian story is especially meaningful to Grandview and the over then 5,000 kids we serve” Says Lorraine Sunstrum-Mann, Executive Director for Grandview Children’s centre in Oshawa. “It is a great example of how people can support children living with special needs and we hope the Smigielski’s story inspires residents of Durham to lend their support to kids with disabilities in our Region” Adds Sunstrum-Mann.

On October 15th at 2:00PM Jillian was presented with her Grant at Grandview Children’s Centre photos enclosed.

For more information about First Durham and the Possibilities Grant, please contact:
Bryan Yetman Telephone: 905-427-5888 ext. 122
Email: [email protected]

For more information about Grandview Children’s Centre, please contact:
Lorraine Sunstrum Mann: 905-728-1673 ext. 2258
Email: [email protected]

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