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Jerry Love, who retired in 1991 after 35 years in Mississauga’s recreation department, gets back in the swim of things with Benjamin Dolega, 11, and Bridget Alpe, 7.

FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The donor: Jerry Love

The gift: Starting the Jerry Love Children's Fund

The reason: Recreational programs for children in Mississauga

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When Jerry Love was director of recreation for the City of Mississauga, parents would occasionally call wondering whether there was any financial support available to cover the cost of enrolling their children in various activities.

"The answer was always no," Mr. Love recalled from his home in Mississauga. "I got my department together and I said, 'Why don't we have some raffles or something and if one of these requests comes in, we'll just pay for it.'"

That was 1985 and it led to the creation of the Jerry Love Children's Fund, a program that covers the cost of city recreational classes for children in need.

Since it started, the fund has helped more than 15,000 children enroll in sports, music, art, dance and many other classes. It has also raised nearly $2-million through donations from individuals, companies and community groups. The children are selected by social workers and the fund is managed by the city to keep costs down.

When Mr. Love retired in 1991, after 35 years in the recreation department, Mayor Hazel McCallion named the fund in his honour as a retirement gift. "Before then, it was just called the subsidy fund," he said.

Now 82, Mr. Love remains very much involved, working with donors and helping to set up a new initiative for this summer called Let's Play in the Park, which will target programs for children and their parents in 12 Mississauga neighbourhoods. His wife, Beth, and son, David, also help out.

"I never thought it would go on this long," Mr. Love said. "The support here is unbelievable and now I can't quit."

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