News / Toronto

U.S. tourism volunteers bring a helping hand — and paint brush — to Toronto

It's the first time the volunteer flash mob is coming to Canada as more than 150 volunteers will split up and head to various communities.

Tourism Cares volunteers doing some community work in Providence, R.I., earlier this year.

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Tourism Cares volunteers doing some community work in Providence, R.I., earlier this year.

As he strives to increase accessibility across Canada, Luke Anderson can always use a helping hand.

He's in luck this Friday. The company he co-founded, the Stop Gap Foundation, will host dozens of volunteers from the United States, who will spend hours painting accessible ramps going in front of businesses all over Toronto. The volunteers are part of Tourism Cares, an American charity that sends employees from the hospitality industry to perform random acts of philanthropy.

"This is very valuable. Their energy will help us paint more ramps in a short time," said Anderson, whose organization has distributed more than 1,000 ramps to businesses all over Canada to make it easier for people with physical disabilities to visit.

It will be the first time Tourism Cares brings its volunteers north of the border, after doing similar projects in Oakland, Detroit and Providence earlier this year. More than 150 volunteers will split up and head to various communities.

Some will plant trees alongside Highway 401 as part of the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute project. Others will help build a walking trail system at the Black Creek Community Farm, while another group will work to beautify green spaces in the St. James Town neighbourhood.

For Anderson, these volunteers represent far more than a day's labour.

"They will become like ambassadors for our work and help us spread the word about making our communities barrier-free and inclusive," he said.

Tourism Toronto chief marketing officer Andrew Weir said the movement gives staff and executives in the sector an opportunity to give back.

"This is not about building more business for our industry. It's really taking a break from that and giving a helping hand to communities from which we draw so much strength," he said.

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