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Foundation started by high school drop-out gives $1M to BGC London

Donald Strupat, a working class, high school drop-out who found his way back to school and into a successful business career, always wanted to make sure other kids had the same opportunities he had.

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Donald Strupat, a working class, high school drop-out who found his way back to school and into a successful business career, always wanted to make sure other kids had the same opportunities he had.

So Strupat, a Second World War veteran and former Londoner who died in 2019 at the age of 94, and his wife Edith, who died two decades earlier, started a foundation to pay it forward.

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On Wednesday, the fund announced a mega-pledge to BGC London, formerly the Boys and Girls Club of London, to help at-risk children and teens in London keep their education on track.

“When you help a kid with their education, you help someone for the next 80 years,” the couple’s nephew Bob Strupat, also the director of the Strupat Foundation, said Wednesday.

The foundation is giving $1-million in three annual contributions to support the charity’s educational programs, an initiative that reaches about 120 kids and teens each year but will be able to grow thanks to the donation.

“It’s about clearing a path, removing roadblocks,” Strupat said. “Because of that program, there are young people in London today who might not have otherwise fulfilled their potential.”

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Donald Strupat was born in Dartmouth, N.S., but his family moved to London when he was two after the death of his father. He grew up in the city with his five siblings and, as was common for working-class teens at the time, dropped out of school when he was 16 years old.

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He worked at Labatt and Central Aircraft, now the location of Diamond Aircraft on Crumlin Road.

Strupat joined the Navy in 1943, when he was 18, working as a radar operator in the North Atlantic escorting convoys delivering supplies to the U.K.

After the war, a program that funded higher education opportunities for veterans changed the trajectory of his life forever, his nephew said. He returned to London and finished his two remaining years of high school in one year, attending class with teens years younger than him at what is now Catholic Central high school, his nephew said.

Strupat went to Western University and graduated with a degree in business. He moved to Toronto to work in the auto industry, eventually becoming a dealership owner and past-president of the Canadian International Auto Show.

His aunt and uncle, who had no children, always believed in the power of education and regarded it as the way to prosperity, Bob Strupat said. His uncle credited the post-war education program for veterans as a major factor in his success.

“We’re almost repeating history. Doing what he did in the auto business, owning his own dealership, none of that would have been possible without that veterans’ program,” Strupat said.

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The foundation’s pledge will support the BGC London’s My Action Plan to Education program (MAP), an initiative that provides extra learning support for kids and teens beginning in Grade 4. The donation will help the junior program, for pupils in grades four to eight, double from its current 60-pupil capacity.

The MAP program focuses on academic help, such as homework support and tutoring, along with the social and financial necessities pupils need to thrive, including mentoring, building positive social connections, and helping pay for clothing, books and other educational materials.

Noor Hussein
Noor Hussein, 16, a mentor in the My Action Plan to Education program (MAP) at BGC London, formerly the Boys and Girls Club of London, talks about the Strupat Foundation’s $1-million donation to the club to support the program at a news conference on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)

The program also builds links among parents, students and community members to promote school attendance.

Noor Hussein, 16, said he doesn’t know what his high school career would have looked like without the MAP program. The Grade 11 student at London Central secondary school, who has been involved in the program for three years, is interested in pursuing medical sciences at Western University when he graduates high school.

He is now a mentor for junior MAP students at BGC London.

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“The first time, when you see the kids you’ve been mentoring and tutoring cross the graduation stage, it’s truly a special moment,” he said.

The Strupat Foundation has contributed to other London charities that help children and teens, including $100,000 to BGC London in 2017.

The latest $1-million pledge – from a foundation launched by a tenacious Londoner from long ago – is an inspiring legacy that aligns with the things Donald Strupat valued most, said Chris Harvey, executive director of BGC London.

“Don’s story just fits so well with what we do here. He went back to school and graduated from university and went on to a successful career. This program is a way for us to support some young people in our community to do the same thing,” Harvey said.

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