Teens organize fundraiser for homeless shelter
Team Hexwheel poses with Tubby, a large piggy bank, during the Toronto Trek for Teens 10 May.
This event took "teens helping teens" to a new extreme.
Toronto-area teenagers who met at a Rotary club-sponsored camp organized a fundraiser with teen volunteers and participants, all to benefit the largest homeless shelter for teens in Canada. They got help along the way from mentors in the Rotary Club of Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada.
The Toronto Trek for Teens, held 10 May, began downtown in Yonge-Dundas Square and raised over C$5,000 (nearly US$5,000) for the city’s Covenant House. More than 50 students took part, and another 30 teens and Rotarians volunteered.
Sponsored principally by District 7070, the trek involved teams of three to five students participating in a competition similar to the television show The Amazing Race , with challenges at different landmarks along the way. At a checkpoint in front of St. Michael’s Choir School, for example, teams had to sing a song before moving on; later at a library, they had to search for the answer to a trivia question. The event also featured a battle of the bands, a comedy festival, and an artisan market.
The eight teenage organizers got their start at Camp Enterprise, a business-education workshop for high school students sponsored by the Etobicoke club. The club had offered the program for more than 30 years but was looking for a way to revamp it.
"We kind of turned it on its head," says club member Martin Tiernay, who helped mentor the students. "What could we do that would meet the needs of the city of jurisdiction of our club that would be different? What we decided to do was integrate a charity component."
During the camp, the students were broken into groups to choose a cause and design a fundraising plan. The Etobicoke club committed to providing C$2,000 (US$1,978) of seed capital to get the winning team’s project started.
The students voted Team Hexwheel – named with the Rotary emblem in mind – the winner, and Tiernay along with fellow club member James Simon served as mentors throughout the year of planning that followed.
"The true sense of mentorship was to be there as the rudder," Tiernay says. "It was always, since inception, their plan, their idea, their energy and passion, that would see it through."
Keldon Formosa, 15, acted as the group’s sponsorship director and treasurer, creating budget reports and projections and making pitches to prospective corporate and organizational sponsors. He said one of the main benefits of working with a Rotary club on the project was receiving guidance from Rotarians.
"Especially with an event like this, it’s really hard to know the protocol and procedures on how to go through an event and get sponsors," he says. "The great thing was we had these Rotarian mentors. They’re not only teaching us business skills, they’re also working with charity."
Julia Varshavska, 17, who handled media and advertising, says she learned that a lot can be accomplished if you just get started.
"If you’re dreaming big," she adds, "don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s a good thing."