The bitter cold did not deter students from the lure of hot chocolate and making a difference at the Canadian Hero Fund’s January 11 fundraiser. The group set up shop at St. George and Bloor to sell hot chocolate and raise awareness for its cause.

Founded in 2009, the Canadian Hero Fund provides academic scholarships for the children and spouses of soldiers who lost their lives during service in the Canadian Military. The fund's motto, "Keeping Their Dreams Alive," represents the aspirations of the fund and the families it supports.

"There are currently no national grassroots charities available to families of fallen soldiers," said Michael Ball, Canadian Hero Fund organizer and spokesperson.

So far, the Hero Fund has received eager support from the public and U of T. Woodworth's L'Espresso Bar Mercurio provided large jugs of hot chocolate and cups for the event.

Ball reported a total of $804.39 raised. “Based on the cash breakdown, we had approximately 200 people attend the event with an average contribution of $4 per person."

According to Ball, the event was well-received. Almost everyone was interested and supportive of its efforts. “I’m happy with the turnout, but even more so with the amount raised," he said.

When asked about public perception of the event, volunteer Darryl Hoving replied, "People seem open to the idea of supporting the charity, although they may not support troops going to Afghanistan. They seem to understand that our goal is not about supporting the mission, but about supporting the people affected by it as a result."

The organization includes former and current U of T students. Many have family members or friends in the Canadian Forces. Natalie Wright, a student and Hero Fund volunteer, told the newspaper that her first experience with military loss involved a family friend who died in a car bomb incident in Afghanistan. "We had one student who came by and told us that his entire family was affiliated with the military," she said. "Real contact really helps people understand the extremity of the situation and that a concerted effort to help should be made."

Over the next five years, the Hero Fund intends to raise $2.5 million. The fund will award scholarships to finance education at accredited colleges, universities, and technical schools. The group has also secured the pro bono services of lawyers and advisors who will help manage finances and allocate scholarships.

"We really want people to know it's not a one time thing," said Ball. "We are highly in support of bigger involvement and are working towards having many more, and bigger, events."

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