Like all parents, Danielle Tsogas’ life changed when she had her daughter, Lucia.

As a new mum in the grip of the enormous first weeks of parenthood, she realised the truth in the phrase ‘friends are the family you choose.’ Danielle knew she wanted a supportive community for her daughter, and realised more than most how hard it could be to make those connections.

“Imagine if you were hearing or sight impaired,” said the Coca-Cola Amatil state marketing manager for South Australia and Northern Territory.

“Imagine how hard it would be to just get around, let alone make new friends and enjoy new experiences. It can be terrifying, and so many people end up feeling isolated,” Danielle said.

Grant recipient Can:Do Group is looking forward to helping more hearing or sight impaired young people find mentors and enjoy new experiences.

Danielle had been already working towards building the kind of community she wanted for Lucia. She had been volunteering as a marketer with South Australia’s oldest charitable service, Can:Do 4Kids, Townsend House a charity helping young people with vision, hearing and sensory impairments.

So when Coca-Cola Australia Foundation put out the call to staff explaining that they could endorse charities they cared about for grants, Danielle knew instantly that she’d apply.

Plain sailing for grant recipients

Grant recipient Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Police Citizens Youth Sailing Club is looking forward to providing more young people with the opportunity to experience sailing.

Danielle wasn’t alone in applying for a grant. This year, the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation has awarded 34 employee connected grants across Australia, all of them endorsed by staff.

Pamela Wyatt knows all the metaphors for sailing: wind in your sails, change tack, haul anchor. According to Pamela, the benefits transcend all the clichés.

“You can see the difference to kids in such a short time,” said the Coca-Cola South Pacific group marketing manager. As a member of the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Police Citizens Youth Sailing Club, she’s seen how the club has helped her son Zackary become more outgoing and confident.

Money where it’s needed

Club commodore Graham Brown admitted it’s been a challenge to attract and retain members compared to better funded sports. He was delighted to receive the call last week notifying him of the grant.

“Now we can give so many more kids the chance to learn to sail and feel part of something healthy and fun,” he said.

Sailing teaches confidence and responsibility, with a chance to form new friendships.

The news was no less welcome for Can:Do Group chief executive Judy Curran. She grew up near Townsend House, an iconic building dedicated to housing hearing or sight impaired children 140 years ago. It was a constant reminder of how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go. 

“A lot of our young people can become really isolated,” Judy said.

“Now we’ll be able to arrange more activities, camps, opportunities to make new friends and learn life skills. We’ll also be able to put more young people in touch with mentors. Lots of the mentors actually came through the program themselves when they were young, so it’s full circle,” she said.

Here’s a list of 2017 employee connected grant recipients:

  • Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Police Citizens Youth Sailing Club
  • Beaches Outreach Project
  • PA Research Foundation
  • Kids Under Cover
  • Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation
  • One80TC - NEO
  • Edmund Rice Camps NSW
  • Cape York Aboriginal Charitable Trust
  • The Trustee for The Salvation Army (VIC) Social Work
  • Sports Challenge Australia
  • Cleveland Scout Group
  • Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation
  • Giant Steps
  • Save Our Sons Duchenne Foundation
  • GingerCloud Foundation Ltd
  • Bully Zero Australia Foundation
  • 1st Glen Innes Scout Group
  • Glass Jar Australia
  • Exodus Youth Worx
  • Endeavour Special Kids With A Disability
  • Sydney Story Factory
  • Civic Disability Services
  • Can:Do 4Kids
  • The Wayside Chapel
  • Bravehearts Foundation Limited
  • Touch Football Specialised Inc.
  • KYDS Youth Development Service Incorporated
  • Beyond Empathy
  • THREE for all Foundation
  • CanTeen - The Australian organisation for Young People Living with Cancer
  • Minda Incorporated
  • Dunn Lewis Centre
  • Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal New South Wales (RSPCA NSW)
  • United Way Australia