By Brian K. Wong

The Wongs’ Youth Organization (WYO) didn’t originate from nothing, it is a product of hard work, great volunteers, and strong support from the Wongs Association. The fact is, the WYO grew from humble beginnings into the biggest youth oriented Chinese family organization in North America with a history of proud accomplishments spanning two decades.

Our story begins with a reference to the original headquarters of the Wongs’ Association of Ontario (the Association) and two directors by the name of Albert and Willy. The original Association HQ was situated in a three-story building located in Toronto’s first Chinatown district at Bay and Dundas Streets. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Association provided much needed financial assistance and social services to our early Chinese settlers to help them cope with their daily hardships. The association provided lodging, financial credit and a meeting place for the early Wongs that immigrated to Toronto.
In the 1980s, Willy and Albert Wong noticed a lack of activities and benefits for the children of these early settlers. They realized that without the interest and support of the much younger generation of Wongs, the Association faced obsolescence and possible extinction due to outdated activities and a declining pool of leaders and volunteers.

Hence, a long-term goal was established to encourage youth participation in the Association and they organized annual picnics, ski trips and parties for the children and youth members of the Association. They also spearheaded the introduction of Tai Chi and table tennis, which became the core activities leading to the formation of WYO. Taoist style Tai Chi was brought into North America in 1970 by Master Moy Lin-Shin and he personally taught Tai Chi to our members and future youth leaders at our HQ for many years. The introduction of new Chinese martial arts into North America and at the Association would continue in 1995 with the arrival of Shaolin Fut Gar Kung Fu (more on that later). A table tennis club was formed in 1987, followed by a music club, which capped the early years.

The expansion of activities created heavy demands for space in our original HQ. The Association was convinced that a larger HQ was needed and in 1989 Willy and Albert arranged the sale of our old HQ in addition to the purchase and subsequent move to our current HQ - a modern three-story commercial building at the busy Chinatown area of Spadina and Dundas Streets. Prior to this big move, a small group of youngsters consisting of Vincent, David, Andy, Peter and myself realized that the time was right for a centralized youth group to be formed which would utilize the additional HQ space and extra funding from the Association for youth activities. Bill Wong (the grand Pooh-Bah) was a director of the Association and he shared our enthusiasm for establishing a youth department that would organize social, cultural and educational activities. Bill’s advice and support was the crucial element that resulted in the formation of the Wongs’ Youth Organization (WYO) in late 1989. Bill became the first WYO Chairman and I became the first WYO President. Together, we organized WYO committees and recruited officers and directors that would introduce a new wave of youth activities.

The Association acknowledged that the WYO would operate as an independent department and we were given the responsibility for setting up activities for our youth members and joint events for the entire family. The WYO gained two seats on the Association Board of Directors (WYO Chairman and WYO Vice-Chairman) and we received operational funding on an annual basis. The combination of a mission, representation and funding was the right mix for making the WYO unique among every Chinese organization in Canada and the U.S. today.

“Yeah … Do it. Do it.” – Bill Wong, WYO Chairman - 1989

Since 1990, we introduced the Youthspeak newsletter, Action Optima promotional video, movie nights, food bank drives, boat cruises, alpine skiing, United Way Walkathons, professional baseball and football games, theatrical outings, indoor rock climbing, tennis, curling, bowling, horseback riding, Summer Kids Camp, Dragon Boat races, kung fu and spoken Cantonese instruction, art contests, personal finance seminars and writing competitions (give or take a few events). In 1995, Grand Master Rong En Chen and Master Harry Tse offered training in Shaolin Fut Gar Kung Fu in our HQ and we were among their early students since their arrival in Canada. We even entered the information age with our own website (www.wong.org). This presence in the Internet allows us to reach out and inform our members and the general public with Association news and developments.

The WYO continues to offer recurring activities (such as the Kids Camp, Dragon Boat racing, picnic and the Xmas party) and focuses on new innovative events and activities. Volunteers are the lifeblood of any community organization and thanks to a legacy of dedicated volunteers, a commitment of support and resources from the Association and a new generation of youth volunteers and leaders, the WYO continues a tradition of providing our members with entertaining and useful activities. The future of the WYO and the Association looks promising and it is indeed good.

This article is dedicated to Albert Wong, Willy Wong and all WYO Volunteers (past and present). Their vision, dedication and support of the WYO will not be ignored or forgotten.

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