What started out as a COVID-19 relief fundraiser has led to local teens creating a fully-fledged non-profit organization.
Tina Xu, a Grade 11 student at Sir John A. Macdonald is the president and one of the founding members of Supportive Teens. When the pandemic hit, she saw how badly COVID-19 was impacting people in the community, and she and her friends wanted to do something to help out.
“So we partnered with the local food bank and the Canadian Red Cross to provide both financial and medical aid to people,” Xu said. “And then after we realized that there were so many societal issues to be addressed. So then we actually established Supportive Teens as an actual organization.”
Xu had wanted to start an organization like this for a long time, but said she didn’t have the courage to make it happen.
“But when I saw COVID-19 happening, and so many who were suffering, I just really wanted to do it,” she said. “So I just talked with some of my friends, and we decided to really push ourselves out of our comfort zone and start this organization.”
Now, Supportive Teens is a group of 10 high school students aiming to provide relief to those who need it most through a series of fundraisers.
So far, they’ve raised around $5,000 in total for various relief efforts.
Their first event, dubbed Charithon-19, raised $1,800.
The Charithon also featured a sub-event for kids, “to spread positivity in our community.”
Kids were encouraged to paint rocks with positive messages and then place them on local trails for others to see.
Other events they’ve held include a winter drive where they donated around 40 bags of clothing to a local homeless shelter, as well as a food drive.
Most recently, they’ve been selling enamel pins to raise money for Doctors Without Borders (DWB).
“When we first started, we partnered with the local food bank and the Canadian Red Cross. We wanted to kind of start local at first to just provide relief to people within our community.”
They decided to raise money for DWB, who provides medical support to those who need it most across 70 countries worldwide, to spread their support even further.
So far, the pin sales have raised around $3,000.
Before the series of lockdowns, they were canvassing door-to-door for donations, as well as using online marketing to spread the word. However, Xu says the lockdowns put a damper on engagement and have made it more difficult for them to get donations.
Fortunately, they were able to partner with Carriage Crossing Pharmacy in Waterloo, and have been selling the pins at the front desk.
There are two different pins, both designed by the team.
“We started with the pins because a lot of us really like art. So we thought that an enamel pin would be like a really nice, small accessory that could also spread the message we want to share,” said Tianai Duan, vice-president of Supportive Teens and Grade 12 student at Oakville Trafalgar High School.
One pin was designed to resemble hope, and the other wearing a mask “to commemorate frontline workers, and also to remind everyone to put their mask on,” Duan said.
While running an organization is a large feat regardless of age, let alone for a group of high school students, Duan says that when you’re passionate about something, you make the time for it.
“We're really passionate about helping our community. And it's really enjoyable to be able to connect with different organizations, and work together to help those who need it the most, because we feel like together, we can make a really large impact,” said Xu.
Supportive Teens plan on continuing their initiatives long after COVID, and are currently brainstorming ideas for a fundraising event in late August or early September.