Above: Champion Petfoods Stakeholder Relations Manager Leigh Newton presents a $12,000 cheque for the Orijen Sabretooths to Coach James Bedford. The monies will be used to assist in the ongoing success of the team and to help make youth basketball affordable for families.

by Morinville News Staff with files from Stephen Dafoe

Champion Petfoods celebrated the opening of the company’s new research facility Friday with a significant investment in community innovation and success. The monies were distributed to five local groups, each seeking to improve the quality of life in Morinville through education, health, arts and culture, cooperation, collaboration, and innovation.

“We are proud to donate $37,000 to further innovation in our Morinville home in celebration of our new $5.9 million BAFRINO Research & Innovation Centre,” said Champion Petfoods Director of Planning and Development David Marshall. “We are proud to make Morinville a better place to work, live and play. We furthered our core value of innovation in our foods and kitchens, and now we would like to spark innovation in our home of Morinville.”

Youth Basketball

The largest recipient of funds Friday was the Orijen Sabretooths, a youth basketball association Champion began sponsoring a few years ago.

Coach James Bedford said the monies would be used to assist in the ongoing success of the team and to help make youth basketball affordable for families.

Over the past few years, the Sabretooths have had many successes on and off the court, and this year the team has expanded in both the number of players and the areas within Sturgeon County those players come from.

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Local food and entertainment

Champion also presented a $10,000 cheque to seed the Champion Regional Series, an initiative that will highlight regional and local talent as a means to build community through regional ideas. A staple of the series will be showcasing local and regional foods.

“The Regional Series is about local food and local music,” said co-organizer Paul Smith. “Champion’s contribution supports the local series, and that money is going to be used as seed money to bring these local events to fruition. It would be fantastic to do six to eight events over the next year, everything from mico-events to very big events.”

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School programs

Morinville Community High School was the recipient of $10,000 with both the Urban Agriculture and the Media, Design and Communication Arts programs receiving $5,000 in funding.

Urban Agriculture teacher Neil Korotash said he appreciated the contribution. “What we’d like to do at the high school is some sort of outdoor classroom space,” he said. “The idea is to get students in the Urban Agriculture Program out to work with a landscape architect, a permaculturalist, and look at good design principles, working together with some different designs around the school for what a potential outdoor classroom space could look like.” Korotash went on to say the concepts would then be presented to community stakeholders, including community, town, Garden Association, and others to determine what would work for school and community use.

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Media, Design, and Communication Arts program teacher Greg Boutestein said some of the monies presented to his department will go for new headsets for the MCTV crew, and possibly some GoPro cameras or a drone to add other elements to the school’s video production capabilities.

“I think it’s fantastic,” he said of the contribution. “When you get a community partner stepping up and supporting education in the community; it is fantastic. We’re looking forward to working with them in the future.”

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Champion Morinville Foundation

The Champion Morinville Foundation will be started with the final $5,000 investment. The monies will be used to support new ideas and community innovation. “Giving out micro-grants is a great way to support ideas that will make Morinville a more unique and entrepreneurial place to live and work,” Marshall said.

Heading up the Foundation will be Thomas Holmes who sees it as an opportunity for residents to become more engaged in the community. “The criteria for the micro-grants are going to be quite open,” Holmes said. “We’re looking for really creative ideas where citizens can engage their community, and they can make a difference. That can be in the areas of business, social, mental health or education.”

Holmes said the grants are another example of Champion Petfoods supporting the community.

Above: Presenting the cheques to the five groups is Champion Petfoods Stakeholder Relations Manager Leigh Newton.

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