At just 12 years of age, Bradford resident Riley Hollingshead-Gallagher understands what it takes to give back to his community and the importance of volunteering.
A Grade 7 student, Hollingshead-Gallagher has been helping out in the community since he could walk.
He has volunteered at many events in town and is a big supporter of the Bradford Legion, where he was a part of their Cadet program. He has participated in many Remembrance Day events at the Legion, including standing on guard, holding a flag at the cenotaph in his Cadet uniform.
Hollingshead-Gallagher was with the Navy League Cadets for one year before moving on to the 94th Air Cadets in Newmarket. His connection to the Legion and Cadets stems from his great-grandfather (Lorne Kitchener Tennant), who was a lifetime member of the Newmarket Legion and private in the Second World War.
Sadly, Hollingshead-Gallagher never had the chance to meet his great-grandfather as he passed away before he was born, but his mother, Laura Hollingshead, says her son takes after his great-grandfather in many ways.
“Anytime he hears someone is in need, he jumps in,” says Hollingshead. “It reminds me of the Disney movie he used to love, ‘Robots’; the motto of the movie was ‘see a need, fill a need’ – I think he really takes that to heart.”
Hollingshead-Gallagher has helped with the renovations at the Bradford Legion – pulling down shingles from above the bar area – and recently helping with the Legion’s bottle drive collection, where he organized and sorted hundreds of empty bottles and cans.
“I enjoy helping others… I feel happy when I’ve done something for other people,” he said.
Outside the Bradford Legion, Hollingshead-Gallagher has also helped make food deliveries for the local food bank. Throughout the pandemic, he and his mother have helped deliver groceries to seniors during lockdowns, as well as helped shovel their driveways during the winter months – and he never accepts any monies in return.
Hollingshead-Gallagher not only has a passion for helping people but animals too. In the past, he has helped rescue stray dogs.
“I don’t care if I get bitten, I just grab the dog,” he said.
While attending school, Hollingshead-Gallagher is always quick to offer help to other students or teachers and has even offered to help the custodial staff at times (pre-COVID).
“I don’t mind helping teachers grab stuff or move boxes,” he said. “I have helped clean hallways, the marks off the floors from shoes… we also have a storage locker in the gym, I organize that too.”
Hollingshead-Gallagher has a number of passions including camping and riding his bike. His favourite subjects in school are math, gym, and art. In his spare time he enjoys drawing planes, helicopters, boats, submarines, or anything related to the army. He already knows how to shoot a rifle, how to use a knife, read a compass and map, build shelters and fires, and has learned how to drive an ATV and Bobcat.
What people might not know when they first meet him is that he has autism and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) coupled with other learning disabilities; however, these diagnoses haven't held him back from volunteering in his community.
“I love helping people in need, especially the seniors that can’t move as well,” he said, adding that he and his mother have helped deliver groceries to many of the seniors at the Miller Park complex in Bradford.
When he grows up, he wants to be in the Canadian Armed Forces with a backup plan to become a police officer. In the meantime, he continues to volunteer before and after school and has started a side job scooping dog poop off people's lawn.
“People are pretty proud of him at the Legion,” said his mom, who is also the Bradford Legion’s secretary and the youth and education chair. “He’s the youngest youth volunteer here.”
“Our door is always open and if my classmates need anything, I am here to help,” adds Hollingshead-Gallagher.