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Andrea Weissman-Daniels, second from left, has some fun with children who are getting dance lessons courtesy of Ignite the Spark.

IGNITE THE SPARK

The donors: Andrea Weissmann-Daniels and Mark Daniels

The gift: Creating Ignite the Spark

The reason: To finance extracurricular activities for at-risk children and young adults in Toronto

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After years of trying to adopt a child from overseas, Andrea-Weissmann Daniels and her husband, Mark Daniels, finally adopted a young girl who had been in foster care in Ontario.

The eight-year-old, whom they asked not to identify, had had a troubled life, having already gone through one failed adoption and spending several years in a foster home. She lacked confidence and social skills, leaving her shunned at school and withdrawn.

The Daniels tried everything to help her fit in and nothing seemed to work. "It wasn't until we stuck her on a horse that her whole world just opened right up," said Mr. Daniels, a property developer in Toronto.

They enrolled her in riding lessons and the change was almost immediate. She became more confident, won awards and soon began participating in activities at school. The couple said their daughter, now 16, has been transformed.

The Daniels wanted to give other at-risk children the same opportunities and a few years ago they launched Ignite the Spark, a fund within the Children's Aid Foundation that covers the cost of music, sports and other activities for children and young adults who have been designated by social workers.

The financing lasts for three years, or longer in some cases, and includes paying for equipment. The Daniels have raised $450,000 so far for Ignite the Spark, and nearly 100 children have benefited.

Last year, the couple got to meet some of the first recipients of the funding. "They thought it was the greatest gift they had ever been given," recalled Ms. Weissmann-Daniels.

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pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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