GRAVENHURST — The New Year brings joy to five students in Gravenhurst.  The Rotary Club of Gravenhurst received a gift of $25,000 to help five hard working students continue their college studies.

While in Florida four years ago, Tim Forwell read about the dilemma many children in Gravenhurst had trying to save for a college or university education. As a cottager on Lake Muskoka he understood summer jobs available to Muskoka students were limited and the pay lower than in the city.

After returning from Florida, Forwell contacted Rotarian Ken Little who runs the club’s bursary fund to offer his help.

In a release today, Little said he told him: “The club is trying to change the expectations of students and their families by creating a fund to help children ‘be the best they can be’ and the community has been helping by donating to the Rotary Bursary Endowment Fund.”

Adds Little, with COVID-19 issues hampering summer jobs many students chose to do the ‘COVID Lap’ at high school — taking the year over again — to increase their marks and put some money in the bank.

“It has been especially important this year for us to have Tim and his daughter Kim support students in Gravenhurst when many families are struggling,” said Little.

“The Forwell family have been great supporters of the Rotary Clubs’ efforts by providing a gift of $25,000.00 each of the past four years — for a total of $100,000 — to help make school a little more accessible to students needing help financially.

“It makes me feel good,” said Forwell, who was especially excited to offer his support again.

Little said when the students heard they were going to receive support they were so excited and so appreciative

“They didn’t know what to say other than ‘No Way’, ‘You Kidding me’, ‘Oh My God’ and ‘Thanks!’

That is all Forwell and his daughter needed to hear.

Each of the students will have a cheque sent to their college or university directly to help pay their tuition for the next virtual semester.

Today two of them accepted the gift on behalf of the five who will share in the donation.

Elda-Lisa Valenzula and Lily Kersnik stopped outside Little’s office.

Unavailable were Fanshawe College students Trinity Ann Kiss and Paige Loft and Danielle Sluyk who is studying through Humber College.

The Rotary Club only acts as a catalyst and provides a conduit for the community to help. This year 27 students and their families asked for support and when COVID is under control Rotary expects the number to return to the level of about 45 families.

Little adds “if by hard work, good fortune or inheritance you are in a financial position to help local students, and if a simple ‘thank you’ is all you expect from children so overwhelmed with your generosity they can hardly talk, please invest a minute at the club’s website at

Or call Little, chairman of the Rotary Bursary Endowment Fund, at 705-687-7777.

Donations to the fund for $25,000 or more results in a bursary being given out in your name each year, forever.

“It will make you feel good,” assures Little.


The Forwells are one of many families and individual donors to the bursary fund.

For several years the Rotary Bursary Endowment Fund has had the support of Patricia Patterson.

Little said this year she gave another wonderful gift of Royal Bank of Canada shares.

The value was $5,600.

And as a result of her continued contributions, a stand-alone bursary has been created in her name.

Each year her stand-alone bursary will provide, in perpetuity, a student in financial need with support for their tuition and a story about Patricia and her life experiences in Muskoka and her reasons for helping these students will be included with the cheque.

“Patricia has made this fund one of her charities of choice and this year Kayla Pederson studying Digital Cinematography at Canadore College is the beneficiary.

“Thank you Patricia.”

Georgian College Barrie RN student Elda-Lisa Valenzula, left, and Lily Kersnik, a video-gaming student at Fanshawe College in London are two of the five students who will share in the generosity of the Forwell Family bursary through the Gravenhurst Rotary Club. Missing were Fanshawe students Trinity Ann Kiss and Paige Loft and Danielle Sluyk a Humber College student.
Rotary Bursary Fund members Richard Augustine, left, and chair Ken Little accepted another donation of $5,600 for the 2020-21 school year from longtime donor Patricia Patterson.