A little more than a week after her second birthday, Kate Meissner received an unforgettable gift from the Keg steakhouse through their “Thanks a Million” promotion.
On Wednesday, Kate – who turned two on June 21 – and her parents Kelly and Jeremy received a $25,000 cheque from the restaurant chain to go towards building an accessible playground in Elmira through their charity, Kate’s Kause.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Kelly before receiving the money at the Keg’s Waterloo location on Wednesday evening. “We’re only eight months in [to fundraising] and we’re already at $150,000 and the community has really rallied and some key donors have helped out as well.”
The Keg’s promotion was created to recognize the company’s 40th anniversary by distributing 40 grants of $25,000 each for community enhancement projects across Canada and the U.S.
Kate was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome last summer, and people with AS, or “Angels” as they are sometimes called, can have little or no verbal skills, poor gross and fine motor skills, and possible seizures and sleep disorders. Kelly and Jeremy started Kate’s Kause last fall in an effort to raise funds to build a playground that their daughter could use to help her develop like a normal child through play and interaction with other children.
Between Mar. 7 and Apr. 30, the Keg accepted applications from groups across Canada and the four U.S. states with Keg locations – Texas, Colorado, Arizona and Washington State – and from May 1-15 a selection committee sifted through all the applicants and created a shortlist of projects that would go on to the next round of voting.
Then, from May 16 to June 14 the public was allowed to vote online once a day for their favourite submission. A few days after voting had closed the Keg contacted the Meissners to tell them they had been selected.
“The essence of this was to give back to the communities who have helped us be so successful,” said James Mozes, general manager of the Keg location in Waterloo.
“I think that people having a say in reading about all the nominees and having final say is much better than a corporation making the decision, and it shows people’s true passion and emotion towards a good cause.”
Kelly took a proactive approach to the voting process and sent out daily email reminders to her friends and family to vote, and used social media to leverage the youth vote as well.
Kelly and her husband are both teachers at Bluevale Collegiate Institute in Waterloo and they encouraged their students to post a link to the contest on their Facebook pages and to ask their Facebook contacts to vote for Kate’s Kause.
Students at WCI and EDSS also took on the challenge, and word spread like wildfire. Within a few days Kate’s Kause moved from third to first in the rankings.
“I had friends from other parts of Ontario who saw my Facebook status and they started voting and said ‘How could we not vote? It’s so worthwhile, Kate is so beautiful.’ They all really wanted to see it happen for us,” said Kelly.
“When people reach out, they let you know that you’re not alone. All these people supporting us has just made such a difference.”
The $25,000 from the Keg, in conjunction with $34,000 raised by local McDonald’s restaurant franchise owners during a golf tournament last week in Guelph, has pushed Kate’s Kause into the $150,000 range for fundraising, a tremendous feat in such a short amount of time.
Originally the Meissner’s believed that $150,000 would be enough to make their dream of a playground for kids with special needs a reality, but while crunching the numbers during the Keg application process, they realized that the special material to help Kate walk around the playground without her parent’s help was more expensive than they anticipated – between $90,000 and $100,000 alone.
So they have set a new goal of $200,000 and hope with the community’s help and by applying for some more government grants they can reach it in the coming months. According to the guidelines set out by the Keg, the project must be completed within one calendar year.
For Kelly, that timeline is ideal as it coincides perfectly with what will be her daughter’s third birthday next year, and would make an ideal gift.
As of right now, however, the family is busy planning for their own charity golf tournament set for July 18 at the Elmira Golf Club, and will begin looking for potential builders throughout the summer, although they have already been approached by several companies looking to undertake the construction project.
“I’ve had lots of people contact me and I’ve said ‘We’re not there yet! We’re not there yet!’ but now I’ve come to realize that we almost are,” laughed Kelly.
For more information on Kate’s Kause visit www.kateskause.com, or to view the other winners of the Keg “Thanks a Million” contest visit www.thekegthanksamillion.com.