Blue Jays Double Investment in Children Living in Toronto Community Housing

Jays Care Foundation announced Tuesday morning that the Foundation will invest an additional $246,000 in the children and youth of Toronto Community Housing in 2016, bringing the year's total investment to over $500,000.

To celebrate the announcement, Jays Care Executive Director Robert Witchel was joined by Blue Jays Dalton Pompey, Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, as well as Toronto Mayor John Tory, Toronto Community Housing Board Chair Bud Purves and President & CEO Greg Spearn and 25 Rookie League participants. This announcement coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Toronto Blue Jays and the 28th consecutive season of Rookie League programming.

Rookie League is a program that uses the game of baseball to teach children teamwork, cooperation, resiliency and self-esteem. It currently benefits over 1,200 children and youth living in Toronto Community Housing every summer. This additional investment from Jays Care Foundation will ensure that Rookie League, which has run in partnership with Toronto Community Housing for 27 years, is extended to year-round programming in 10 communities - providing adult supervision and access to positive role models for an additional 250 children and employment for 25 youth.

During the ceremony, which took place in the Blue Jays' clubhouse, Witchel touched upon the needs that Rookie League addresses through baseball programming.

"Just as the Blue Jays inspired a nation in 2015," said Witchel, "we use baseball to inspire kids. Rookie League is a sport for development program. Our goal is not to create young baseball players; the goal is to use baseball to create young leaders. This program is designed to achieve outcomes that are determined in conjunction with each of the Toronto Community Housing neighbourhoods we serve. The challenges facing youth today, particularly in underserviced communities, are considerable. At a fundamental level, Rookie League provides an opportunity for children in Toronto Community Housing neighbourhoods to simply be kids. At the same time, we aim to encourage positive behaviour, provide access to positive role models, encourage academic success and develop healthy lifestyles, including physical activity. Starting with these 10 communities, Rookie League will use baseball to create lasting social change for children and youth year-round."

"A program like Rookie League where children and young people can come to learn and play is vital in our city, particularly for those living in Toronto Community Housing. I thank the Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Community Housing for this partnership to expand a successful program," said Mayor Tory. "This investment highlights the revitalization that Toronto Community Housing, together with partners like the Toronto Blue Jays, is bringing to communities across Toronto."

Representatives from Toronto Community Housing were quick to highlight the importance of their partnership with Jays Care.

"Jays Care's long-term commitment to Rookie League has made a lasting difference in our communities," said Purves. "Many of the coaches we hire to mentor today's Rookie Leaguers were once in the program themselves, and they're excited to pay it forward. That's a great legacy for Jays Care."

"Rookie League has already given over 10,000 kids the chance to learn about teamwork and fair play from their baseball heroes," said Spearn. "Participating in Rookie League is an incredible team mentorship opportunity that can help kids chart their future, and thanks to our expanding partnership with Jays Care Foundation, even more children and youth in our communities will benefit starting in 2016."

Combined with investments since 2010, Jays Care has invested $1.37 million in Toronto Community Housing neighbourhoods through Rookie League. For more information on Rookie League, please visit www.jayscare.ca.

About Jays Care Foundation

Used intentionally, baseball has the power to create lasting social change for children and youth. That's why we help kids get involved in the game, build safe spaces in which they can play and support organizations dedicated to improving the lives of all Canadian kids.

Jays Care Foundation has been awarded the Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy (2014), the Beyond Sport Sports Team of the Year Award (2013) and the MLB Commissioner's Award for Philanthropic Excellence (2012).

For more information, visit www.jayscare.ca, follow @JaysCare on Twitter, 'like' Jays Care on Facebook, or call (416) 341-1456.