With the $1.4 million renovation of the Cabbagetown Youth Centre’s (CYC) Lancaster Street location in the books, staff, supporters and local youth assembled Dec. 6 to celebrate the upgrades.
The centre, which provides sports, arts and after-school programming for children and teens in the Cabbagetown, St. James Town, Regent Park and surrounding areas, now boasts a refurbished gymnasium and upgraded facilities to better serve the community.
Calling the centre “the heart and soul of Cabbagetown,” Councillor Pam McConnell noted the facility has been a mainstay in the lives of children in the downtown core for generations.
“(The programming) has been going on for years and years and years,” she said. “It went on so long, in fact, that we had to change the floors (in the gym).”
The evening honoured winners and top fundraisers from the annual Blair’s Run, which takes place during the Cabbagetown Festival in September, and top CYC supporters at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Neighbourhood Challenge.
It also provided an opportunity for CYC Executive Director Spiros Papathanasakis to recognize the contributions made by longtime board member John McFadyen.
“John McFadyen is the absolute model to me of what it is to be a good citizen,” Papathanasakis said. “He stood up for the Cabbagetown Youth Centre for a long, long time.”
The refurbishment was funded through roughly $300,000 each from the Ontario and federal governments, plus donations from the MLSE Team Up Foundation and the Jays Care Foundation along with other donations and fundraising initiatives.
Lila Orbach, the widow of longtime CYC supporter Carl Orbach, said she was amazed at how far the centre had come since she and her late husband – who made a sizable bequest to the CYC – first laid eyes on it.
“Our first memory of this place was (being asked to) raise money because the roof was leaking,” she said. “If (Carl) could be here now, he would see this and he wouldn’t believe it.”
CYC alumnus Lindsay Marshall noted the centre had a huge impact on her as they were growing up.
Marshall recalled being essentially talked into joining dance classes at the centre and, despite feeling awkward at first, quickly growing to love it and the opportunities it presented.
“Dance class gave me the opportunity to travel to different cities and experience new things with the people who meant the most to me,” she said. “My whole childhood lies within the walls of these buildings and it will always be a second home to me no matter where I go and no matter where I end up.”
Toronto Centre MP Bob Rae also spoke at the event, lauding the CYC, its staff and supporters, for their work in ensuring children growing up in the downtown core had a positive outlet.
He congratulated the centre on its successful renovation campaign.
“To have seen the transformation of this building and the renovation of this building is a wonderful thing, but it’s nowhere near as wonderful as it is to hear the stories and testimonials of the people who have, over the years, benefited from this building,” he said.