School children get help from the young and the young-at-heart

School children get help from the young and the young-at-heart

This year, almost double the amount of schools have applied for assistance to feed and clothe children than in the past.

On the morning of May 21, 2021, two Vancouver Sun readers — a seven-year-old child (believe it or not) and an 80-year-old subscriber — opened their newspapers and read a story by columnist Shelley Fralic.

In it, Fralic wrote how a 103-year-old woman had twice donated to The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-a-School campaign whose mission is to assist impoverished children arriving at school hungry or in need of clothes.

It brought tears to the eyes of retiree Wendel Mayer, who was at home in North Vancouver. It also prompted a concerned phone call from Vancouver Grade 1 student, Jacob Law, to his father at work.

This would be the last time Fralic would write about the Adopt-a-School program, of which she was a co-founder, as she passed away 10 days later.

But her work to help impoverished children and their families has survived her death, and the effect of her May 21 column produced a response from a senior citizen and a young boy that will help feed hungry school children this winter.

Jacob began reading the newspaper this spring at the urging of his father, Jeremy, who wanted him to become an independent reader.

“I told him, ‘Reading the newspaper every morning is good for you,’ but I never expected that phone call,” said his father.

“At first I thought there was something wrong. But he just said, ‘Dad, I want to take some of my savings and give it to Adopt-a-School.’”

His father was taken aback, but after talking to him sent $200 to Adopt-a-School on his behalf.

Jacob, likely Adopt-a-School’s youngest donor, told The Vancouver Sun why he did it.

“I sent the money so children would have good meals.”

How did he know some children needed them?

“Because I read the newspaper and watch Global News.”

Does he read the paper a lot?

“Since Grade 1. And I read that a 103-year-old woman gave money to Adopt-a-School twice, so I looked to donate some money, too.”

What would he say to other people about what he did?

“I think they should help, as well.”


“Because I want children to have good meals.”

And he has done his seven-year-old best to carry that message.

“Jacob,” said his father, “took his tax receipt and a copy of that story to a show-and-tell at his school the next week and told his classmates.

“I knew he shared his toys and was generous, but all this really surprised me.

“Am I proud of him? Exceptionally.”

There seems to be a like-father-like-son dynamic at work as Jacob’s father has supported Adopt-a-School for a number of years. But that was something he never disclosed to Jacob.

“This donation was something he thought up himself. I’ve never, ever mentioned Adopt-a-School to him. He’s just a kid.”

Meanwhile, that same May morning all this was happening, Wendel — on the other side of Burrard Inlet and a lifelong reader of The Sun — decided he would send $50,000 to Adopt-a-School.

This money was part of a legacy fund that had been created by the recent sale of the Mount Olivet Lutheran Church.

The church, located at 1700 Mountain Highway — of which Wendel and his wife, Barbara, were long-time members — had been put up for sale in March 2020 by its aging parishioners after it became untenable to continue operating, as its congregation was diminishing and its resources were scarce.

The church, founded in 1956, was sold in May and the proceeds were distributed by the church council to its members so they could donate it to charities of their choice as a final legacy to Mount Olivet’s six decades of service.

And Wendel chose Adopt-a-School.

“I’ve been reading The Vancouver Sun for as long as I can remember. I’ve never wanted for anything. I always had food, clothes on my back, and (as a family) we always had a nice car in the garage.

“And my sons were brought up the same. I have three grandkids now and they are even better off than their parents were.

“So it hurts me to see children today — through no fault of their own — being deprived, not having enough to eat, not having the necessities of life. That’s why I chose Adopt-a-School. I am glad you people have taken this issue up and I want to help.”

The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund which administers Adopt-a-School has distributed more than $8 million to schools throughout the province in the past 10 years to help impoverished children arriving at school hungry or without proper clothes.

This year, almost double the amount of schools have applied for assistance to feed and clothe children than in the past.

As a result, they are requesting almost $2 million in aid — an amount that far exceeds what the campaign has raised in a single year before.

“Job losses due to the pandemic, the sharp increase in the price of food, the amount people have to pay in rent, is making it difficult for parents on social assistance or earning the minimum wage to feed themselves and their children,” said Harold Munro, chair of the children’s fund board and editor-in-chief of The Vancouver Sun and The Province.

“Those are the reasons we are being asked for more help and we are urging our readers to help us meet these requests.”

By Gerry Bellett (

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