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Why I Give: The Ruth and Gordon Gooder Charitable Foundation

24 May 2023 - by YMCA of Greater Toronto

The YMCA of Greater Toronto is a charity, and it’s thanks to our incredible donors and volunteers that we can empower people with essential services, chances to better their lives, and a sense of community and belonging. Why I Give is a series designed to shine a spotlight on these incredible changemakers, sharing what inspires them to give back and what supporting our charity means to them.

Gordon Sproule, President, The Ruth and Gordon Gooder Charitable Foundation

Today, Gordon Sproule, president of the Ruth and Gordon Gooder Charitable Foundation, shares about the Gooder Foundation’s history and why it is supporting our YMCA in developing a new national innovation project — a game-based career planning tool for youth.

Dedicated to Sharing Opportunities

Gordon Sproule has been running the Gooder Foundation, named after his friend and work mentor Gordon Gooder and Gordon’s wife Ruth Gooder, for about 12 years. “Anything I do, I do on their behalf,” says Sproule, describing his role. “I’m there to carry out their wishes.”

Gordon Gooder “came from humble beginnings,” says Sproule. He grew up in Toronto’s west end in the 1920s. By the time the Depression arrived, Gooder was fending for himself.

“He was a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ kind of person,” says Sproule. “So he got himself through high school and played hockey for various teams, where he was coached by some of his own mentors. He also met his high school sweetheart Ruth during these years, who became his wife.”

Fresh out of school, Gooder began working at an established roofing company. He enlisted during the Second World War but was soon recalled back to work, as there was so much roofing work needed in Ontario for the war effort.

By 1947, Gooder launched Semple Gooder Roofing. His business grew substantially over several decades. In 1975 he met a young Gordon Sproule, who was working at the marina at Ontario Place in one of his first summer jobs. Gooder saw something he liked in Sproule and offered him a job at Semple Gooder.

“I was just one of many young people he gave an opportunity to and brought into the profession during his career,” says Sproule. “If he met a young person who showed the qualities that he needed, he wanted to give them an opportunity.”

Inspiration to Give

Over the years, Sproule came to know the Gooders well. “We became very close friends, despite there being a big age difference,” says Sproule. Eventually, thanks to Gordon Gooder’s mentorship, Sproule founded his own roofing company, which he still runs today.

The Gooders had always been philanthropists, and in the 2000s, they were making plans for their estate and asked Sproule to start a foundation in their name. They wanted to help young people who faced disadvantages, especially financial barriers. When Gordon Gooder passed away in December 2009 and Ruth Gooder in 2010, Sproule had the foundation in place.

“We have supported kids with disabilities, camp programs, music programs for kids, and a lot more.  I’m very proud of the Foundation,” says Sproule. “It’s important to be able to carry on their values and legacy.”

The YMCA Life Pathways Project  Engaging Youth Through Digital Innovation

The Gooder Foundation first supported the YMCA of Greater Toronto several years ago, with a gift to provide financial literacy coaching skills to staff at YMCA Sprott House, a transitional housing site for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth.

In 2022, the foundation followed that up with a transformational gift to the YMCA, a generous three-year investment to develop, share, test and refine YMCA Life Pathways, an innovative online tool for youth to help them explore their career options. The project is being funded through a growing circle of support, which includes the Gordon and Ruth Gooder Charitable Foundation and an Ontario Trillium Foundation Resilient Communities Fund grant.

“Gooder was always innovative,” says Sproule, explaining one of the reasons the foundation has invested in Life Pathways. “In the 1980s, he was buying some of the first Apple computers available — he loved tech, and was an early adopter. He was always at the forefront.”

YMCA Life Pathways (working title) will result in a highly engaging and interactive online game for young people who are disconnected from school (dropped out, suspended, losing interest, etc.) or at risk of becoming disconnected, inspiring them through play-based learning to explore different career paths and the steps needed to get there. The project aims to reach more than 300,000 youth across Canada each year, including through YMCA youth programs nationwide, with the aim to change their perspectives about education, develop and raise their career aspirations, and increase their well-being.

The online game will take youth on an imaginative journey to consider careers they may have wondered about but lacked the confidence or motivation to pursue, and to discover new careers they did not even know existed. It will be offered free of charge across Canada in three age-appropriate versions: ages 10–13 (elementary/middle school), ages 14–18 (high school), and ages 18+.

“I think Gordon Gooder would have liked the technical innovation behind this project and how it aims to reach youth who face disadvantages using technology that they are already so engaged with,” says Sproule.

“This approach promises to reach young people who have difficulties with more traditional methods of learning and who are, therefore, in need of a resource such as this one so they can better fulfill their potential in life. It’s very exciting.”

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