When the shocking news came in July of 1986 that my eldest brother Mel Jr. had drowned in a kayaking accident, my parents, Mel and Irene, were devastated. He was a children’s swim coach and a 1976 Olympian in the sport of swimming.
By this time, my parents, who had always been philanthropic in the community, had been raising funds annually in support of children’s charities for over 20 years.
While still grieving my brother’s passing, another tragic sporting accident took my other brother, Marty, eight months later. Never fully recovering from this unexpected and overwhelming loss, but recognizing the need to go on, my father wanted to do something to keep the memory alive of these fine young men, who themselves had also worked with disadvantaged youth during their short lives. He wanted to create a legacy that would continue to give back to his community for years to come.
My parents established The Mel Jr. and Marty Zajac Foundation with a personal contribution of $100,000. They continued to raise funds and eventually established an endowment at the United Way in memory of Mel Jr. and Marty. It did not stop there. The Zajac Foundation has contributed significantly to the community and is now recognized as an organization that continues to show leadership.
Since its inception, Mel has raised and contributed over $17 million dollars towards four major capital projects throughout the lower mainland, all in memory of Mel Jr. and Marty. Mel’s latest labour of love is the Zajac Ranch for Children. The Zajac Ranch, Mel's most ambitious project, is a camp for children with serious and chronic illnesses and disabilities, who otherwise would not have the opportunity to attend a summer camp. Mel Zajac's limitless compassion, energy and commitment, all delivered with passion and tenacity, make him a man of his word. He set out with only himself and Irene spearheading a dream to create a legacy in their sons' honour and in return has done just that!!
Although significant contributions to the community have been achieved to date, there is still much to be done at the Zajac Ranch for Children and many ways you can leave a legacy for yourself or a loved one. Greg Moore will always be remembered through a generous donation from his parents to complete the Greg Moore Wellness Room at the new pool facility.
For my parents, being able to take two devastating events that left them with unbelievable grief and turn it into something positive and good, all while helping others gave them purpose and helped them to move forward. Sadly, my mother has passed away but my father is still volunteering seven days a week to ensure the “legacy” will never die.
If you would like to find out how you can leave a legacy by supporting our Campership Program to send children to camp, or by contributing to a capital improvement project at the Zajac Ranch, please visit the Zajac Ranch for Children website at www.zajacranch.com or telephone 604-739-0444.
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