1987. I was nine years old; a third grade student, a child of the eighties. It was the first year I was asked to participate in the school’s annual fundraiser – the “MS Read-A-Thon” – where students asked friends and family to sponsor them for every book read.
As the donation booklets were distributed, my eyes ran up and down the columns at the back of the brochure. Sponsors. Amount Offered. Books Read.
I paled slightly, my hands trembling as I shoved the booklet in my desk. I felt sick.
My immigrant parents weren’t the type to support charitable initiatives. Don’t get me wrong; they willfully donated to their church and its associated fundraising campaigns, it’s just that they were much less inclined to extend that generosity to organizations unknown to them. I feared that I would be the only student who didn’t raise a sizable contribution – or any at all! – for the fundraiser.
My grade 3 teacher could sense that something was off. Pulling me aside during outdoor recess, she asked if I had any questions about the annul Read-A-Thon. Not wanting to lie, I confided in her.
After listening to me articulate my misgivings, she smiled kindly and said, “No amount is too small. Every little bit counts. There are 26 million people in Canada. If every person gave just one cent – only one penny that they found under the couch or in their pocket – we could raise $260,000 for MS Research. See that? You don’t have to think big to make a difference. You just have to make it count.”
Immediately, I felt at ease. What she said made complete sense to me; there was no denying the truth behind her theory. I planned to go home and ask my parents for just one cent in sponsorship for every book I read during the one-month campaign.
They surprised me by offering $0.25 for each book read. At the end of the fundraiser, I proudly turned over my $7.50 donation. It may have been much less than the students whose brochures were filled with names and amounts. In fact, I was likely at the bottom of the totem pole. But I learned a valuable lesson that year – every effort is a valid one. Big or small, young or old, everyone can make a difference.
And when we invest in youth, great things happen.
Canadian employees will select over 3,000 youth and give them $150 with a simple request: use the money to make a positive impact. How the participants will use the money is up to them! The only request is that these youth use the $150 to make a positive impact and capture what they’ve done through social media and a private submission site.
Here’s how some of the participating youths have already made a difference:
– Created care packages for homeless, elderly and children in hospitals
– Purchased musical instruments for youth group
– Donated school supplies to Syrian refugee children
– Held baby shower for an expectant mother in need
– Donated pet supplies to local SPCA
– Held a ‘yoga in a park’ event for LGBT community
– Built a robot to clean up garbage (my personal hero)
– Taught dance class to disabled individuals
Justin, from Shelburne ON, used his $150 to invite a speaker and host a seminar for the schools in his community to encourage kids to stand up to bullying and create a positive space for everyone.
I love, love, love this program. And RBC has a long legacy of supporting initiatives to help youth realize their potential; they help communities prosper through donations, community investments, sponsorships and employee volunteer activities. (In 2015, they contributed more than $121 million to causes around the world.)
Want to be part of their national movement? If you’re between the ages of 16-25, tell RBC how you will Make 150 Count through Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #Make150Count. You can also submit your application at rbc.com/make150count. While you’re there, don’t forget to see how others have made a difference in their communities thanks to the program.
And if you’re reading my post, looking for inspiration on how you can make a difference, may I suggest donating your time, money or resources to The International Day of Pink? On Wednesday, April 12, 2017, communities across the country unite in celebrating diversity and raising awareness to stop homophobia, transphobia, transmisogyny, and all forms of bullying.
By supporting youth to help realize their potential and make an impact on their communities, we can shape our country’s future. This year, let’s celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary by making $150 count.
This post is sponsored by RBC. The opinions on this blog, as always, are my own.