Inspired by the care and compassion received by a dying grandmother, five Dr. J.M. Denison Secondary School students collaborated to win a $5,000 grant for Newmarket’s Margaret Bahen Hospice.
Grade 10 students Nick Braun, Karsten Brown, Alex Kiner, Zac Aucoin and Declan Gimera created a multi-media presentation that included words, both spoken and sung, original music, video and photographs that won over the hearts of, first, their classmates and then entire school to win the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) Canada grant.
Karsten’s grandmother, Dianne Brown, died last June at the hospice.
“We knew this was a good charity because of how they dealt with Karsten’s family,” Nick said. “And we knew they could use the money.”
The team visited the hospice as part of their required research and conducted interviews with staff and patients.
“They didn’t just write a grant, they told a story,” said an impressed Deborah Kesheshian, director of development for Margaret Bahen Hospice.
“Karsten spent time here,” she said. “He knows it is a home away from home, not a place where patients are hooked up to machines.”
The video they created as part of their presentation features Declan singing and playing the guitar.
The first step of the judging process involved a presentation to their class, Nick explained, where they advanced to the school’s YPI Final, where a youth-led panel of judges selected their team from among five to win the $5,000 grant for the charity they represented.
“The moment we walked in, we could feel the love and passion that they give every single person who walks through the door,” they wrote in their presentation. “We then met Deborah (Kesheshian) and she took us on a tour and we realized how much they care about their patients, which they treat as friends or even family.”
At the heart of the hospice is the kitchen — as is the case in many homes.
“The kitchen is where many trained volunteers personalize food for anyone who asks. When we were there, it was Arthur's birthday, and we shared a few cupcakes with him. The time I spent there with my grandma, the volunteers were never shy to bring me a few cookies down to (her) room,” the presentation said.
“After we were done, the impact that we felt was that it wasn't a hospice, it was more of a home away from home.”
They concluded, “The hospice always has their patients on priority. From medicine to food, the hospice does anything to give the patients the best weeks of their lives. Each staff member not only shows the patients love and care, but us (families), too.”
The students walked the talk, so to speak, taking part in the hospice's annual walkathon fundraiser at Fairy Lake last May, too.
Their presentation included details about the potential impact of the grant: “The $5,000 would be used to make improvements to their facility. They would add TV stands to each room, which would make life easier for the residents.
"They could also improve their kitchen, making one of the most beloved rooms even better with more activities and food options. They could also use the money to add more staff, making it easier to provide individual care to each and all residents whenever necessary.”
YPI is an inclusive, multi-award-winning approach to grant-making that grows compassionate communities by connecting high school students to social issues, local charities and philanthropy at a pivotal stage in their adolescence, according to its website.
“YPI engages youth in a way that allows them to really see the impact of their donation,” Kesheshian said.
The initiative requires the program to be provided inclusively to all students across a grade level, as a specific project within a mandatory course.
In teams, students learn about social issues impacting their community, choose a charity that addresses one issue to research and visit, and then share what they learned with their peers through a classroom presentation.
In the past 16 years, YPI has grown into an international multi-award-winning social service program that has provided more than $17 million in grants to charities across Canada, the United Kingdom and New York City, entirely through the choices of more than 500,000 informed and empowered secondary students.
TD Bank is a national supporter of the initiative.