Five Dimes Foundation was founded by siblings, Krisjon and Melissa Vargas, after returning to Canada from a trip to the Philippines where they had toured a local school where their Grandfather once taught.
Connecting with their family roots, and seeing firsthand the situation many disadvantaged youth live day to day, really hit home how lucky they were to have had the opportunity to grow up in Canada, and receive a good quality education and access to community youth programs like organized sports, both of which have played important roles in their lives.
The foundation’s name “Five Dimes” is based on Krisjon and Melissa’s own family immigrant experience, when their father came to Canada in 1972 from the Philippines with nothing more than change in his pocket. The dual meaning of the word “change”, and the fact that in many sports, an assist, or pass, that helps a fellow player score is known as a “dime”, became fitting metaphors for the foundation’s mission to lend a hand to kids in need and help change their lives for the better.
Board of Directors
Krisjon is the founder and chair of Five Dimes Foundation. He holds a Master of Science degree in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology, Athletic Therapy, Massage Therapy and certifications in strength and conditioning. After completing his education in 2001, Krisjon interned with Canada Basketball where he has remained on staff ever since, and is currently the Head Athletic Trainer for the Junior National Team, and Assistant Athletic Trainer to the Senior National Team. Krisjon is also the founder of Func. Monk, a multidisciplinary team of functional movement experts helping elite athletes and active lifestylers recover from injury. An active community member, Krisjon is a big believer in “paying it forward” and provides mentorship to many young physicians and high-performance athletes.
“When we landed in the Philippines, I knew that something was different. This wasn’t just another basketball tournament in another country. This time around, something was turning deep inside me. As we walked up the tarmac and were greeted with leis of sampaguitas, familiar smiles and banners with our athletes and our flag in the background, it finally it me… my soul was punched with passion. I realized that everything I loved, everything I owed my existence to, was culminating into two weeks that would lead me to the rest of my life. My heritage, my culture, my sport, my profession, my friends, my family, literally MY dream was coming true.
After a few buffet style meals hosted and catered by the locals, I started to notice that all their eyes were on me… and it felt strange. The sports therapist is never the centre of attention, the athletes are. I told them to please stop and to focus on their jobs and of the welfare of the athletes. They kind of ducked their heads, nodded, and shyly continued to serve. At every meal, there would be a new serving crew and with every meal, the same annoying attention… and I HATED it! Finally, I turned to the manager and frustratingly, yet politely asked her to have the employees get back to taking care of the guys. She looked away, pulled me to the side and said “Sir, you don’t understand… the very fact that you’re here, back to where your parents escaped from, in the position that you’re in, proves and re-affirms to them that their dreams can come true too… don’t take that hope away from them.” I couldn’t breathe for a moment. My eyes welled up and I apologized, ran back up to my room and called my parents, crying and sobbing with just enough air to say thank you… I love you. And it was at that moment that I realized what we had to do.”
Krisjon Vargas,Founder & Chair, on the origin of founding Five Dimes Foundation.
Co-Founder & Secretary
Melissa is Co-Founder and Secretary at Five Dimes Foundation. She holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree from the University of Toronto and is a Realtor(R) specializing in residential resale and preconstruction property purchases and sales in the Greater Toronto Area. Her prior years working as a Marketing Manager, Brand Manager, and Marketing Director for notable companies like Warnaco (now under PVH Inc.), Timex, and Cadillac Fairview, as well as teaching Retail Marketing and Industry Culture at Sheridan College, bring a wealth of experience to the Five Dimes board. Melissa is also the foundation’s linguist — fluent in Tagalog (Filipino), Italian, and English. In her personal time, Melissa enjoys immersing herself in culture through traveling, the arts, and community volunteer work.
“When I was 17, I took some time off from school to spend a few months in the Philippines. It was probably the single most life-changing experience for me — a middle-class, Westernized teenager of white-collar immigrant parents who took her freedom, free education, and many other things for granted. When you witness, day to day for an extended period of time, abject poverty in the faces of people who look very much like you, but who have led very different realities, it comes as a shock. Kids at 5-6 years old selling newspapers or cigarettes on the streets just so they can help put it towards an education simply baffled me. And here I was, barely putting in any effort with mediocre grades, all because I didn’t understand the value of free, quality education. It was much like my very own “Peace Corps”, and upon returning to Canada, I didn’t take any opportunity lightly or for granted ever again. I always think that my life was one choice away from what I enjoy today. The majority of the people in the Philippines are earnest, hardworking individuals that just want a better life for their children. We are living proof of parents who have provided that for us, and if we can help elevate and uplift these children — even just one — it will all have been worth it.”
Melissa Vargas,Co-Founder & Secretary, on the origin of founding Five Dimes Foundation.
Ingred is the treasurer at Five Dimes Foundation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management (Honours) with a background in the banking sector. Ingred enjoys traveling, rock climbing, hot yoga, and volunteer work with organizations like United Way, TD’s Friend of the Environment program, and JA Canada’s Economics for Success.
“I left the Philippines at 7 years old under my parents’ hopes and wishes of a better life abroad. Despite having left my home country at a young age, being barely able to hold on to my memories, I knew that this was a significant moment in affecting how my life story will shape out to be. After 17 years, I finally returned to my homeland in 2015. Amongst all the wonder of seeing the beautiful sites of the Philippines and finally being able to re-connect with my family, one of the moments I hold dear to my heart is the time I visited schools in the Philippines to give out supplies to the kids. Their joy and excitement, passion for education, and thirst for learning instantly put a smile on my face, but also grew heavy on my heart knowing some of the tough life realities that these children face. In one of the schools, two little girls aged not too far apart conjured parallels of myself and my own sister. I couldn’t help but wonder at the opportunities these girls will have, and what their future holds. I was hit with an appreciation and gratefulness of my life, the opportunities that I’ve had, and all the little things that had to go right to put me in the position I was in. Leaving the school that day, I knew that somehow, sometime in my life, I would find a way to give back to the first community and home I ever knew.”
Ingred Gutierrez,Treasurer, on her passion for the Five Dimes mission.