Sun Life Financial donates to new Laurier Centre

Picture of a tall building that reads "sun life financial"
Photo by Emi Zibaei

Wilfrid Laurier University is launching a centre to encourage youth within the Kitchener-Waterloo community to partake in physical activity programming in order to ultimately fight against childhood obesity and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Laurier received a $500,000 donation from Sun Life Financial in order to open the centre, which will be named The Sun Life Financial Centre for Physically Active Communities.

The main purpose of the centre will be to provide innovative physical activity programming at a low cost for the Kitchener-Waterloo community, explained Hilary Harron, associate director development of faculty of science, development and alumni relations.

“We’re really trying to break down the barriers as to why children don’t have access to physical activity programming while trying to introduce that into different community centres and in schools across the Waterloo Region,” she said.

Though there are many physical activity programming opportunities within the region, it is mainly for individuals that have the ability or the affluence to partake in those options, explained Harron.

Laurier faculty of kinesiology and physical education has already acquired a sufficient amount of research into the many barriers that low-income communities, low-income families, children with developmental disabilities and children that are obese or overweight must face in regards to having access to physical activity.

“We all know, within the community, that obesity and children that don’t have active lives is such a huge contributor to type 2 diabetes and prevention is always easier and cheaper than treatment,” said Harron.

Currently in Canada, 11 million people live with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

95 per cent of children who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are obese.

Only seven per cent of youth in Canada meet Canadian Physical Activity guidelines, which recommends 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day.

Jana Gordon, assistant vice-president, development and campaign director, explained that another important element of the new centre will be student involvement.

“The centre will have an element of outreach to it and research as well. The whole idea is involving undergraduate and graduate students to be involved with research or some of the outreach programs such as the camps,” said Gordon.

Currently, the date for the opening of the physical centre is yet to be determined.

Though, Harron explained that the framework behind the centre is already being utilized by students in the Kinesiology and Physical Education department.

Sun Life Financial’s donation to the centre will be split into financing the centre over five years.

Sun Life Financial has been a long time partner with Laurier.

One of Sun Life Financial’s core mandates is diabetes prevention, thus their interest in the centre’s similar values and goals.

Over $17 million has been donated to diabetes awareness, care, prevention and research initiatives by Sun Life Financial since 2012.

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