Nearly 20 years ago, Founder Ilona Boyce saw that something more was needed for children from backgrounds of poverty and trauma. Young children, ages 3-5, who came from families challenged by neglect, abuse or poverty were often left behind. These children were, on average, 70 to 90 percent delayed in normal development. Living in a constant state of stress and fear, their brains were not receptive to learning, so they continued to fall behind. Left without help, these children wandered the school halls by Grade 3, their window of learning severely compromised.
In 1996, the doors of our first EvenStart program were opened in downtown Calgary. With a donated van, a small budget and more than a healthy dose of optimism, we began our journey to assist these children in understanding their value and realizing their potential.
Our first location was in the hall that we rented from St Stephen’s Anglican church in downtown Calgary. We stayed for 15 years and saved money for our building from our first day of operation.
Every EvenStart family has received a Christmas hamper since our second year of operation. In the beginning we received modest donations and bought the food and made the hampers. Today our hamper program has over 300 volunteers and networks with individuals, schools, small businesses and corporations. It is truly a “Made in Calgary” initiative piloted by Brianna Parkhill.
We expand to our second location in Monterey Park. The demand for help for children increases rapidly and we secure a site in NE Calgary.
We grow from 35 children served to over 100 across all areas of the City. We expand from 2 school vans to many small school busses.
Ilona personally receives a nomination from Premier Alison Redford for the Queen Elizabeth 2 Diamond Jubilee Award for “her service to the children and families of Alberta”
After 20 years of saving and more than a decade of searching for a location, the program breaks ground in Mayland Heights. Our facility, designed from the ground up, ``through the eyes of a child” is born.