By John Swartz
May 9 five contestants will make a pitch for help with their community projects at the Geneva Event Centre. The third annual Orillia’s Choice Awards grew out of the Sunshine Initiative as a means of vetting ideas and providing help to entrepreneurial spirited people.
“We are a pretty lean operation. All the money we raise, which isn’t a lot, we’ve got about two grand that we have available to support if somebody needs 50 bucks or 100 bucks. Some people don’t need money at all. What they need is profile and access to networks,” said Gord Ball.
Ball has been part of the Sunshine Initiative from the beginning and the idea for an awards night came from observing some people had really great ideas, but no resources to carry them out. Many of those ideas germinated at the annual fall Sunshine Initiative public forum. Often it starts with the question, why don’t we have X here in Orillia?
Last year’s award pitches for seed funding for a mental health drop-in clinic, a drop-in music program for mental health sufferers, aid to establish a French language daycare, a green house project for youth envision for Foundry Park and one other idea were made and all got some form of monetary help ranging from $200 to $1,000 were awarded.
“The solar panels on the rec center, that came out of Sunshine Initiative. In fact, we pitched it last year at Orillia’s Choice Awards and got a couple hundred bucks to help us with some promotion materials,” said Ball. In fact that matter is making its way through City Hall and is close to becoming a reality.
The evening unfolds as a version of Shark Tank, with proponents pitching the virtues of their projects to a panel of judges. This time they are Jay Fallis, Thyme Thompson and Frank Matys.
The Sunshine Initiative and the Orillia’s Choice Awards aren’t just about money.
“If you have a good idea and it pops out of your head and you don’t know where to go, we have people on our Sunshine Initiative team, including the mayor, we could convene a group of people form Orillia who would be the most likely ones to give effective support and we could get them all together in the mayor’s office, sit around a table and say, “how can we help you succeed with this idea? How can we make this idea work? You tell us what you need and we’ll do the best to get it,”” said Ball.
The event is open to the public. Last year’s event was well attended, so ensure you get in go to the Facebook page to get a free ticket and it starts at 7 p.m.