Jays Care commits funding to youth program

Foundation will invest more than $500K in 2016 to Toronto Community Housing project

TORONTO -- The Jays Care Foundation is doubling down on its investment to support children and youth through the Toronto Community Housing project.

Jays Care announced on Tuesday morning that it will invest an additional $246,000 this year, which brings the grand total for 2016 up to more than $500,000.

• Jays Care Foundation

The latest contribution was announced during a Toronto stop on the club's annual Winter Tour. Jays Care executive director Robert Witchel, Toronto mayor John Tory and Toronto Community Housing board chair Bud Purves were among those on hand at Rogers Centre.

"I thank the Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Community Housing for this partnership to expand a successful program," Tory said. "This investment highlights the revitalization that Toronto Community Housing, together with partners like the Toronto Blue Jays, is bringing to communities across Toronto."

Tuesday's announcement coincided with the 28th season of the Rookie League, which is a program supported by JaysCare that benefits more than 1,200 children and youth in Toronto Community Housing. The additional funds will help that league transition to "year-round programming in 10 communities while also providing adult supervision and access to positive role models for 250 children."

Since 2010, Jays Care has invested $1.37 million in Toronto Community Housing neighborhoods through Rookie League.

"Just as the Blue Jays inspired a nation in 2015, we use baseball to inspire kids," Witchel said. "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."

Blue Jays pitchers Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and outfielder Dalton Pompey also were on hand for the announcement. The three players were in town to take part in the Winter Tour, with stops at a local school and the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital later in the week.

Tuesday marked the first of several opportunities for members of the organization to give back to the community.

"I love this city," Sanchez said. "Since 2010, the organization has been nothing but great to me. So for all the support that we got last year, I think this is the least I can do is come up here for a few days and give back to the community that supported us all year."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.