Last month, the twenty-five Cobourg Collegiate Institute students and teachers who traveled to Vimy Ridge for the commemorative one-hundredth anniversary presented the Co-chair of the Vimy Foundation, Helen Vari a cheque for $1650 to the Vimy Foundation.
After unexpected funding from the local Legion, many bottle drives, and celebrity servings, CCI had more funding than originally expected. On the way home, it was decided by the group that the money would go back to the Vimy Foundation to help Veterans and greater WWI education.
Before the trip in April, Graham Beer met and interviewed Helen Vari at her estate in Cobourg. Helen is a major philanthropist to many worldwide organizations. She is the widow of George Vari, a famous civil engineer. George and Helen met in Hungary and moved to Canada with only a few dollars in their pocket during the Hungarian revolution in 1957. Over the years and their big worldwide success, George and Helen have made substantial contributions to the Vimy Foundation, the Canadian Army and especially Canadian Universities such as York, Ryerson, and UOT.
Helen was so excited for the students who were going on the trip, she wanted to meet everyone so she invited the CCI group to her condo overlooking the Eiffel Tower in France during the 10-day journey. At her condo, she held a very big reception for the students and teachers. She gave each student a small gift for their involvement with the Vimy events.
After Helen and the CCI students returned from France, Helen was invited to the school and was given the cheque.
“She was very surprised and happy to see the students again”, said Jocelyn Caister, teacher organizer from CCI.
Helen thought it was a very kind gift so she then presented the students and teachers with a cheque of her own. With the condition the students and teachers must spend it for themselves, it was decided that everyone would go on a cultural tour of Toronto to go see the Holocaust Museum, Kensington Market, and Casa Loma. Some pictures from the Vimy trip will also be hung around the school in memory of her contributions.
“It was amazing to have other “Cobourgarians” at Vimy for this special occasion. If you work hard you can achieve anything in Canada. You can be Prime Minister, CEO of a big company or anything you want. With education and perseverance, you will arrive where you want to be. My husband George would always say, We came to Canada with nothing. Canada gave us everything.”
Helen was very proud to meet Jeff Kawzenuk the principal of the school. She wanted him to know how well the students behaved on the trip.
Ms. Vari donated the money on behalf of CCI and told them that it would go towards helping Canadian Veterans. The students and teachers are still in contact with Helen and are looking forward to another meeting this summer.