Brownlee Family - Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation
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Brownlee Family

On November 27, 2020, the Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation (SPSF) announced a transformative $10M donation to Early Learning Equal Start from the Brownlee Family Foundation. This generous gift realizes half of the $20M fundraising goal and is the largest single donation the SPSF has ever received. It is the largest known gift to support education in Saskatchewan by a family foundation. As philanthropic leaders in the community, the Brownlee Family Foundation is committed to improving the lives of all of Saskatchewan’s children.

“The Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation is grateful to The Brownlee Family Foundation for its generosity in enabling SPSF to aspire to ensure all young learners have the opportunity to read at grade level by Grade 3,” said SPSF Executive Director Zeba Ahmad. “The Brownlee Family’s commitment to supporting our work will undoubtably change the lives of many students in Saskatoon and make Saskatchewan a more literate province. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for this truly impactful gift. Together, we will make a difference.”

The Brownlee Family Foundation has identified the Early Learning Equal Start Campaign as the philanthropic cause closest to their hearts. “Ina Lou, Ryan, Kara and Wayne, from The Brownlee Family Foundation, consider it a privilege to give back to our community and we are truly humbled to be in this position. Of the many causes to support in this community, none is more important to us and none do we feel as passionate about as the Early Learning Equal Start campaign! This campaign will raise the hopes and opportunities of over 2,500 children in Saskatoon in just five short years to obtain essential literacy skills by the completion of their Grade 3, putting them on the path to complete high school and fully participate in the economic and social growth of Saskatoon and Saskatchewan!” 

The Early Learning Equal Start fundraising campaign launches today with this historic donation. The campaign will raise funds above and beyond government funding for students needing support to reach key literacy milestones. Saskatchewan students rank among the lowest in reading compared to other provinces, and every year, 28% of students (500 students) in Saskatoon Public Schools have not achieved Grade 3 reading level by Grade 3. Many students face challenges beyond their control, and it is incumbent on the community to support these students.

The $20M campaign has been developed in collaboration with Saskatoon Public Schools.

It is comprehensive, innovative and ambitious. Early Learning Equal Start focuses on increasing the accessibility to education for children through full-day pre-kindergarten, full-day kindergarten, Summer Reading Camps and literacy tutor programs. Supporting these initiatives are programs that address additional barriers to finding educational success for early learners, including nutrition, speech language pathology, and other classroom supports, which lay the groundwork for students to fully engage in their learning.

“As Director of Education for Saskatoon Public Schools, I am incredibly grateful for this commitment to our students and humbled by the way our community is coming together to lift them up,” said Shane Skjerven, Director of Education for Saskatoon Public Schools. “As the former principal of a community school, I know every student is capable of succeeding if given the right supports at the right time. This campaign will make that difference for our students and will have a profound impact on our community.”

Stephanie Yong, Chair of the Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation Board, echoes Shane Skjerven’s comments, adding, “This campaign has gone though much discussion and brainstorming, and it’s rewarding to see all this hard work coming to fruition. This campaign is a community effort that allows us to support students who are needing that extra resource. It’s been incredible to watch what an impact this extra help can do for a student in boosting their confidence and making them feel like they can be successful in anything they focus on. We are empowering the future generation.” 

The Early Learning Equal Start Campaign is co-chaired by Alice Kuipers, Michael Linklater and Wayne Brownlee and together they are sharing their passion for our community and the potential of every young learner. To view a video of the co-chairs sharing their reasons for being a part of the Early Learning Equal Start Campaign please visit

Achieving Grade 3 reading proficiency positively impacts a student’s ability to graduate, their health and their employability while reducing their interactions with social services and the justice system. It is a critical milestone that almost 30% of children are not meeting. Early Learning Equal Start will give 2,500 students an opportunity to beat this statistic, and strengthen our schools, our community, and our province.