The seed was planted in the back of their minds in 1969 when Tom Aylesworth and Gordon Bullivant worked together as special education teachers with the Calgary Board of Education and in 1975 they began working towards their dream of opening a special school dedicated to children with learning disabilities.
That dream became a reality when Nickle Family Foundation agreed to help them raise the funds to start the school, and in 1979 Foothills Academy opened its doors.
Tom and Gordon had two mandates: to serve children and youth with Learning Disabilities in a School Program and to serve the greater community through Community Services. Community Services Programs have assisted parents and professionals across Canada with over 3,000 workshops and training sessions.
The two founders shared a vision that a child never be turned away due to their family’s financial situation. Every year the school and its parent community work to raise funds for the bursary program. During the 2013/14 school year, 115 families received financial support from the Bursary fund.
The NFF has generously donated over $900,000 to the Bursary fund over the past thirty-five years to help these families.
“Not every family can afford the tuition for our school. All families participate in the yearly fundraisers, but without the support of the Nickle Family Foundation we would have a hard time meeting the demand for our bursaries” said Angela Rosenow, past president of Foothills Academy Parents’ Association.
The Nickle Family Foundation donated $400,000 towards the building of the current Foothills Academy location, which opened in 1990, and a further $500,000 for the expansion completed in 2012. The school now accommodates over 270 children each year and Community Services supports over 1200 children and adults.
“Our influence is being felt around the world and we have served professionals and children in every province and territory in Canada. None of this would have been possible had the Foundation not provided both funding for our beautiful Centre but also in your continued support of our Bursary program. We are eternally grateful for your generosity and support” says Gordon Bullivant, Executive Director.
When the Learning Disabilities Association of Alberta -Calgary Chapter closed their doors in 2013, Foothills absorbed their Social Skills and Camp Amicus programs. The Social Skills Program focuses on assisting in the development of social skills which will also help build self-confidence and self-esteem. Camp Amicus offers both day and overnight camps for children with learning disabilities and/or ADHD.
“This is the ONLY camp that my child can attend so far where I don’t worry about how he’s treated or if he’ll be misunderstood. It’s the only one I’ve sent him to that he wants to go back to every year. Camp drop off day is the ONLY day of the year that he is packed and ready at the door half hour early without help or prompting. Need I say more?” From a mother of a boy in our ‘Camp Amicus’ Program, which offers summer camps for young people with LD and/or ADHD through Community Services.
“You know mom, I can do anything.” I told him that he could and I cried with happiness because he now sees what I always knew… he’s very smart, but just needed a different kind of teaching and environment to help him learn. In the past, we were told John was a bad boy, we were bad parents, he just needed to sit still and focus, he wasn’t trying hard enough, and on and on. John now loves to come to school and he’s still a busy boy and his handwriting is difficult to read, but we know that he now has the chance to become the best possible student and person for him. Our son is feeling accepted and understood and we have seen many positive changes in him. Foothills Academy Parent
Following Tom’s untimely passing in June 2015, Nickle Family Foundation created the Tom Aylesworth Legacy Fund. Income from this fund will be donated each year to Foothills Academy to provide tuition assistance for students who otherwise might not be able to take advantage of Foothills’ life-changing programs. The Foundation will match donations received by June 30, 2016, up to a total of $500,000.