By Steph Crosier
Dedicated to a devoted volunteer, the second annual Ken Sykes Memorial 5km Run/Walk will take place May 7 at West Zwicks Park at 9 a.m.
Ken Sykes was a very prominent member of the Belleville community. He was a commercial lawyer for 20 years and a dedicated volunteer. Sykes was devoted to the Quinte Children’s Foundation and was on its board for seven years. He died suddenly of a suspected heart attack at 52.
Organized by the Quinte Children’s Foundation last year, the run/walk raised $18,000 and hopes to match that this year. All runners or walkers in the event register and raise pledges. Sponsors also pay a fee. The bulk of the money though, comes from the pledges.
“The community really gets behind this event. Last year was the first year, it was incredibly successful. We had a $10,000 goal, and we raised $18,000. So we really want to max that again,” said Brandi Hodge, executive director of Quinte Children’s Foundation.
The money from this event goes to the Children’s Foundation’s Reach for Success bursary program.
“We know that education is the primary piece of the puzzle that stops the cycle of child abuse. It’s important that all kids have access to motivation and encouragement to attend post secondary education,” said Hodge. “We will probably award between 30 and 35 bursaries.”
The Reach for Success Bursary program is for youth who have been involved with the Children’s Aid Society. They must have achieved grades high enough for post -secondary education. Youth must have applied to or are registered in a college or university to be awarded a bursary. Bursaries range from $1,500 to $3,000 for college and university respectively.
Half of the money raised at the run/walk will go to this year’s bursaries and half the money will go to an endowment fund. That way, even when the run/walk is no longer happening, bursaries can still be given out for years to come. The bursaries are named in honor of Sykes.
“This was an important program to Ken,” said Hodge. “Education was an important piece to Ken. That’s why we allocated it to the Reach for Success bursary program.”
David Allen, chief executive officer of Belleville’s YMCA, was a personal friend of Sykes who knew him from the time Allen’s family moved to Belleville in 2000. Sykes at the time was the YMCA’s lawyer, a huge supporter of the Strong Kids campaign and on the YMCA’s board.
“I think the run is excellent and a wonderful tribute to him,” said Allen.
He described Sykes’s death as “tragic – the loss of a good friend.”
Another close personal friend of Sykes was Ross McDougall, president of McDougall Insurance.
“I knew Ken on three different levels. He was a close personal friend of mine for years, he was our solicitor for McDougall Insurance, and my personal solicitor,” said McDougall. “He was the one who convinced me to get involved with the Children’s Foundation.”
McDougall Insurance is the primary sponsor of the run/walk to support children in the Belleville and Quinte community.
“I thought, anything we could do to remember Ken Sykes who, was, in my opinion, just a great supporter of kids and supporter of Belleville. It was just something we would want to get involved with,” said McDougall.
McDougall Insurance is also sponsoring because of the personal connection.
“He was a quiet and unassuming kind of guy,” said McDougall. “I remember when he convinced me to go on the board. He said ‘you know it’s a charity in our community that all they do is help kids. And help kids get a break who don’t normally get a break. It is pretty hard to go wrong when you’re doing something to help kids.’ And frankly that was all he needed to say to me to get me on the board.”
McDougall is no longer on the board but he still supports anyway he can. He describes Sykes as hard-working man who wanted to support the kids in the community as much as possible. With the Quinte Children’s Foundation, he got involved anyway he could.
McDougall also explained the importance of the event saying it raises awareness. He said there are not a lot of people realize there are children in the community who don’t get a fair shake.
McDougall says that it is sort of ironic that the fundraiser is a run/walk. He recalls that Sykes was not an exercise type of guy.
“He might be there to maybe organize it, but he was not a big exerciser. That is sort of funny that we are having a race to honor him because he would never have gone in the race, that’s for sure. But it raises money for kids, and Ken would have been happy with that.”