“I was one of the many children put in a foster home with few choices for activities. I now have a loving family and the privilege to do ice skating, ballet and horse-back riding! This is very important to me.” – Kacey, age 12




One out of every 25 children in Canada are at risk and need our help. Many have suffered in poverty and are victims of abuse or neglect. As a result, 300,000 of these children and youth have a social worker, while a staggering 76,000 are Crown wards who live in foster care or residential programs.

For these vulnerable children and youth, there are often significant gaps in funding that prevent them from enrolling in hockey, taking dance or learning to play a musical instrument. However, these very experiences can be the catalyst to restoring self-esteem, developing interpersonal and coping skills and finding the inner strength to build successful lives.

Inspired by their adopted daughter, Mark Daniels and Andrea Weissman-Daniels founded the IGNITE THE SPARK FUND – a unique initiative to fund “enrichment” programs. Spark is unlike any other fund because it helps children who have no access to, or can’t afford to have new experiences in sports, arts and recreation.


The Fund is also unique because it allows children to enrol in any program of their choice within their own communities and provides a commitment over multiple years. It also covers the costs of related clothing and equipment and gives them a level playing field with their peers. The IGNITE THE SPARK FUND not only supports children and youth involved with child welfare organizations in Toronto, (such as: Jewish Family and Child; Native Child and Family Services of Toronto; and Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto) it also supports children under the watch of child welfare services across Canada.

In 2011 and 2012, the Children’s Aid Foundation held SPARK Galas which raised funds to benefit the IGNITE THE SPARK FUND. Specially chosen celebrities, leaders in their field for their achievements, were honoured as Luminaries. Each one crediting someone who ignited their spark. At Children’s Aid Foundation, we hope for all children to have the same opportunity to IGNITE THEIR SPARK. See some of our luminaries and celebrity supporters below.

2011 Luminaries

Tre Armstrong

Tré Armstrong

Tré embodies the true definition of what happens when a spark is ignited in a young person. Although having lived as a child in a home full of a mother’s love, the physically aggressive behaviour of her father created an environment of anxiety and dysfunction. Despite this destructive influence on Tré, her innate love for dance and music revealed itself and was noticed by her mother. The simple act of being put into dance classes ignited what has turned out to be a powerful life force for Tré, propelling her into not only a career she loves, but fueling a fire within her to help other challenged young people find their own inner creative spark.


Arlene Dickenson

Arlene Dickinson

Arlene’s unique spark is her ability to look beyond the limitations of “now”. Whether it was the economic limitations of her childhood, the trials surrounding becoming a divorced single mother of four young children, or taking on the glass ceiling, Arlene has continued to approach every challenge in her life with a faith in her abilities and determination to rise above it all, resulting in her becoming one of the most powerful businesswomen in our country. But what is also most remarkable, is the humility and grace she has never lost in the process. For at-risk children, to believe that they have the personal power to make life better is not a natural thought. It is something they have to find within themselves and it comes from having had the opportunities to see themselves excel.


Andrea Martin

Andrea Martin

Andrea is of course best known for the laughter she brings to all of our hearts through her abundant musical and comedic talents. Having achieved international acclaim and success is reason enough to single her out as an inspirational talent, but it is the origins of her talent and the journey of self-discovery that we celebrate today. As a young Armenian child, Andrea’s exotic qualities made it difficult for her to blend in with the other children in her community. This lack of acceptance, so familiar to the at-risk children we are supporting here today, would have continued to undermine Andrea’s confidence had it not been for her introduction to the magical world of children’s theatre. Because of her opportunity to escape into the walls of a place where different was the norm and imagination the greatest skill, Andrea was able to not only flourish in those early years, but to embrace her unique qualities. The result of course is a lifetime celebrating all of her originality whether as a comedienne, actress, musical theatre performer… or mother.



Colin Mochrie & Debra McGrath

Having been a bit of a loner as young man, the shy half of this dynamic duo, Colin, found his voice and direction in life after receiving his first laugh in a high school play. For Deb, the expressive force behind the couple, her love for performance was always evident and easy to identify by teachers and mentors. Their individual career pursuits lead them, not so surprisingly, into each other’s arms where they’ve continued to build a life together with love, laughter and a son named Luke. As worthy of recognition as these two successful Canadian comic actor/writers are, it is the most recent chapter of their personal lives however, that makes their story most inspirational. Having recently become godparents to a former foster child, Colin and Deb have embraced the roles of real life Spark Igniters. You only have to hear them speak about their various activities with their godchild to know how powerful the experience is for everyone.


Nicholas Ugoalah

Born in Nigeria, Nick Ugoalah moved to British Columbia when he was only 9-years old.

Nick Ugoalah is a 5-time National champion wrestler who’s greatest accomplishment on the mat came when competing at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England where he dominated his opponents and took home the gold medal for Canada.

Nick encourages and coaches others to follow their goals and dreams. He holds the following quote as words to live by. “If a person advances confidently in the direction of his or her dreams, they will be met with a success unimagined in common hours”.

Aside from sport, Nick is a passionate entrepreneur and is the owner of “UGO high performance”, a Vancouver company dedicated to coaching individuals and organizations to superior performance, and helping people create more successful and fulfilling lives through high performance coaching and consulting in business, sport and life.


2012 Luminaries

Randy Bachman

Randy Bachman

As a deeply cherished Canadian icon and member of the Order of Canada, Randy Bachman has created a musical legacy that will remain forever part of our Canadian cultural heritage. But his appeal and influence doesn’t just exist here; due to his many chart topping successes, his legacy is deeply entrenched in musical culture worldwide. Perhaps it is no surprise that just as he has been so influential in the lives of many younger musicians, so too, as a teen was he inspired by such artists as Elvis Presley and Ray Charles.

Patrick Chan

Patrick Chan

Having spent some time with Patrick Chan and his parents, it is clear that no athlete excels to the heights Patrick has, by himself. Being a “Champion” means more to the Chan family than becoming the two time and reigning World Men’s Figure Skating Champion, Guinness World Record Holder (in 3 categories), or reigning five time Canadian Men’s Champion. It means, developing self-discipline, determination, perseverance and a charitable spirit. None of these character traits would be possible without the nurturing, sacrifice and commitment that Lewis and Karen model for their son on a constant basis. It is Patrick’s humility, genuine passion for life and deep respect for his family that make his exceptional athletic accomplishments so much more meaningful.

Bernadette Morra

Bernadette Morra

Bernadette’s journey to becoming Editor In Chief of FASHION Magazine is a perfect example of putting one foot in front of the other and taking a leap of faith. Having been raised in a family of musicians, her love of music was ignited and became the logical direction to pursue. How remarkable that following her dream ended up presenting her with mentors and opportunities that in her heart she knew would lead her to an ultimate professional destiny in the world of fashion.

Lisa Ray

Lisa Ray

Known for her exquisite green eyes and film portrayals of strong, extraordinary women, one only has to listen to Lisa speak to realize that she brings so much of herself to her roles. As she herself will tell you, like all children, she was deeply influenced by her parents and the community in which she was raised. Born of two different cultures, the mixing of music, food and ethical values have all informed the choices she has made to become the woman she is today.

Jackie Richardson

Jackie Richardson

Whether it’s hearing about all the time she spent in her grandmother’s kitchen, listening to Mahalia Jackson; learning about the strong insightful mentors in her life; or witnessing her joy at watching her daughter develop into a true vocal artist – everything about Jackie Richardson spells L.O.V.E. Music is more than something that was ignited in Jackie – it is her very essence and is rooted in a spiritual connection spanning generations.