Oak Tree 5

The Oak Tree Project was launched in 2014 to demonstrate how philanthropy is changing by engaging communities and strengthening local non-profits.

Time to do more, tell more stories and have a greater impact

After four successful events and raising over $110,000 for worthy causes in our community, we wanted to do more, tell more stories and have a greater impact.

Inspired by the success of our finalists and winners over the past four events, the 5th anniversary event brought redesigned goals, a new judging process and new elements of measuring success. True to its history, Oak Tree Project 5 supported the good work of charities in Guelph/Wellington but for this iteration, we changed everything and challenged charities to show how they could “move the needle” on issues identified in the 2018 Vital Signs Report.

Three ways to Win

The Grand Prize

The 2018 Oak Tree Grand Prize was big! After being evaluated by a group of thought leaders from the charitable sector and voted on by the community, $25,000 was awarded to one charity that was able to present us with a dream and plan that would make significant changes in one of the five priority areas outlined in the Vital Signs report.

Charities that had creative and practical ideas to build solutions to the needs identified in the 2018 Vital Signs Report were invited to fill in a Pitch Package. We looked for bold and practical ideas that could be executed over a six-month period and indicated possible change through their efforts towards a critical issue.

During the fall of 2018, members of the public were invited to vote on the proposal they wanted to win. The winner then had six months to implement their plan and present the results to the community and impact of the $25,000 at the Oak Tree finale.

Acorn & Seedling Rounds

While the winning charity was hard at work, the Oak Tree Project gave away Acorn Prizes, new for the fifth iteration. We invited public nominations and votes for charities to receive smaller monthly prizes. The Acorn Prize consisted of 11 monthly prizes of $500. The Seedling Prize was between 8 charities with a $5,000 prize. Our grand finale event was an opportunity for the Grand Prize winner to share learnings from their project, celebrate our winners and give away even more prize money.


  • Seedling Prize – $5,000: Onward Willow
  • Judge’s Choice – $1,000: Onward Willow
  • People’s Choice – $1,000: Shelldale Family Gateway

And now for the Grand Prize… the winner was St. John Bosco Secondary School!

St. John Bosco Secondary School used the $25,000 to hire a University of Guelph graduate as a nutrition coach to teach the students healthy habits in an attempt to reduce food insecurity.

“Not everyone is the same, and not everyone learns the same way. It is important to have a place where learning can be tailored to what works for you. That is what they do at Bosco, everything is tailored for the students’ success,” commented Megan Wolters, the nutrition coach. “The part that Oak Tree has allowed me to do with nutritional education, developing courses and program evaluation has been a great learning opportunity for me as well.”

Watch this Ward 1 Studios documentary supported by the University of Guelph, to learn more about the implementation of Bosco’s idea. Hear directly from the students themselves and the impact the nutritionist program had on their experience not only at school, but how they applied what they learned into their lives every day. Bosco was able to accomplish everything they set out to do, if not more.

Through Oak Tree, we were able to help #MovetheNeedle on the Vital Signs report, and are grateful for the way St. John Bosco achieved their goals and had an impact in our community. 

About Vital Signs

Vital Signs is a national program led by a local community foundation and coordinated by Community Foundations of Canada that leverages local knowledge to measure the vitality of our communities and support action towards improving our collective quality of life.

Finale Photos

*Shelldale Family Gateway: Formerly known as Onward Willow Better Beginnings, Better Futures