2019 Ontario Junior Citizen Final Recipients Announced
In today’s fast-paced society, filled with technology and distractions, there are young leaders across the Province who are taking advantage of the resources available and using them to make a difference within their communities. Rather than staying at home to watch Netflix or YouTube, they are volunteering their time to charities and organizations. They are utilizing their experience with social media, and their knowledge of the Internet, to connect with others on issues they feel strongly about. They are jumping into activism. They are taking control. And they are proving that age is just a number, and that one is never too young to make an impact.
The 12 young men and women listed below ranging in age from 10 to 17, have worked hard in various ways to create awareness or raise funds for causes close to their hearts. They have demonstrated creativity and generosity to inspire others. Which is why the Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA) is proud to recognize them as 2019 Ontario Junior Citizens. The 12 finalists will be invited to receive their award during a special ceremony on Friday, April 3, 2020. The OCNA, along with its 240 members, is looking forward to celebrating their achievements.
The 2019 Ontario Junior Citizens listed in alphabetical order:
Mikayla Ansley, 12, Blyth
As a survivor of bilateral retinoblastoma, Mikayla had to undergo chemotherapy (on top of 55 operations) in the first few years of her life. As a result, her left eye was removed and she lost most of the vision in her right, becoming legally blind at the age of two. And while it has been an adjustment living with limited sight, Mikayla has remained positive and focused on advocating for kindness.
Last year, her essay titled ‘Kindness Matters’ was awarded the Grand Prize and worldwide recognition for the Lion’s Club International’s Peace Essay competition. The achievement earned her the opportunity to speak to 1,500 Lion dignitaries from all over the world at the United Nations in Manhattan. In her essay she notes that she is so thankful to everyone that supported her family during dark times, which is why she is on a mission to make the world a little brighter for everyone. Whether it’s a smile at a stranger, or a contribution to a fundraiser, she believes kindness matters more than we know.
To celebrate her accomplishments, her home municipality of North Huron proclaimed April 14, 2019 as Mikayla Ansley Day. The festivity included a special event, through which hundreds of dollars and dozens of pounds of food were collected for a local food bank.
Cameron Cadarette, 15, Windsor
At the age of 12, Cameron created a non-profit organization called ‘Project Teal’. Its purpose is to bring awareness to First Responders and veterans that live with PTSD. The organization connects others with resources in their communities, including therapy, physicians, government services or outreach groups. But most importantly, it provides an open line for communication.
Cameron himself lives with PTSD as a result of childhood abuse and relies on the support of his Service Dog, Vince. He is using his own experience with the disorder to show others that having PTSD doesn’t make someone any less of a person.
A side project of his is called the ‘Life Pack Program’. Four times a year, Cameron collects toiletries, clothing, sleeping bags, and non-perishable food items for the homeless population in his city. He packs the items into backpacks, along with a breakfast, and delivers them himself to anyone in need. To date he has assembled and delivered more than 5,000 bags.
Lincoln Dugas-Nishisato, 10, Toronto
Since Lincoln was five years old, he has learned the power one person has to change another’s day, and it has become a passion of his to make the world a better place.
Last February he helped sort and pack thousands of pounds of hockey gear to be sent to children in First Nations communities. In addition, he has helped deliver backpacks filled with supplies for kids in need at local shelters and outreach programs, and sorted sanitary products for low income women through the Period Purse initiative. His impressive list of volunteer contributions also includes manning the Salvation Army Christmas kettle, preparing bags of nutritious meals through Kids Against Hunger, and sorting donations received by the Salvation Army’s Toy Mountain project. Most notable, however, is his effort to raise the largest amount by any individual (more than $2,000 per year for three years) for Haven On The Queensway’s Coldest Night of the Year event.
Daphné Dupuis, 17, Sault Ste. Marie
Last spring, in an effort to increase organ donation awareness among teens, Daphné spearheaded the ‘Don8Life’ campaign. It targets those who are turning 16 and therefore will soon be eligible to register as donors. She approached three local driver’s education schools, asking if they would consider implementing organ donation awareness in their curriculum. Successful in her pitch, she has been speaking bi-weekly during driver’s ed classes about the importance of registering.
Upon discovering that 4500 people in Canada are on the organ-donation waitlist, with only 27% of Canadians registered to be donors, Daphné became determined to improve these statistics. Her goal is to encourage 100 youth donors, which could result in 800 lives potentially being saved.
Islay Graham, 14, Georgian Bluffs
In 2017, the town of South Bruce Peninsula used a bulldozer and other heavy equipment to remove vegetation from Sauble Beach in order to make it more appealing for visitors. As a result, the Great Lakes Piping Plover, an endangered species of shorebird, was affected. As of 2019, only 75 nesting pairs of Piping Plovers could be found throughout the entire Great Lakes regions, with only six pairs left in Ontario.
The city claimed that Piping Plovers preferred a ‘clean beach’ and argued they did nothing wrong. Disagreeing with their statement, Islay took it upon herself to investigate whether this was true. She launched several research studies, which included analyzing current nests, examining historical nests, and tracking the habits of the Piping Plovers and their chicks over the course of four weeks. This included observing them at 15 minutes intervals every hour throughout a day for four weeks. From her careful observations, she was able to conclude that the species DO NOT prefer a clean beach. In fact, over half of the bird’s day was spent along the high-water mark where driftwood and reeds settle.
Islay turned her investigation into a Science Fair project, which won her a Platinum Award as the Best Junior Science Project in Canada.
Helena Kirk, 14, Toronto
When Helena was just three years old, she endured 841 days of chemotherapy and 650 procedures to beat Leukemia. It was during her journey that she learned about inequitable access to childhood cancer treatment in Canada, and how a tragic number of kids are dying as a result.
In 2018 she founded Helena’s Hope, an advocacy group with a mission to create a National Childhood Cancer Strategy. She managed to rally over 150 families dealing with childhood cancer across the country, and received signatures from over 30 cancer organizations and 30 pediatric oncologists for a budget proposal. As a result, the Liberal government recently committed $30 million in funding for childhood cancer research.
Spencer Lippa, 12, Halton Hills
Spencer has been actively promoting civic action and democratic participation since October 2017 when he became the youngest member of a federal political party. He was permitted into the party by a special motion from the party leader in acknowledgment of his tremendous commitment.
Spencer is worried about climate change and believes political institutions and organizations have the greatest potential to create change. As a result, he has spoken on behalf of a motion declaring a climate emergency at the municipal level. He was an active participant in Guelph at the New Green Deal Town Hall and has delivered nearly a dozen speeches to crowds of people, calling for action. He participated in many climate strikes, and finally, he has worked on behalf of the Concerned Residents’ Coalition to stop the Hidden Quarry since May of 2019.
Ethan Parikh, 16, Mississauga
Over the Spring and Summer of 2018, Ethan collected seven suitcases full of donated items, including soccer equipment, school supplies and toiletries, and travelled to Nairobi’s Soweto slums to personally deliver them to school-aged children. He immersed himself in the lifestyle there, and it didn’t take long before he realized that most of the kids did not wear shoes. He learned that this made them prime targets for jiggers, a debilitating skin infection caused by parasitic sand fleas.
The horrible reality inspired Ethan to take action and an innovative treatment campaign was established. The anti-jiggers campaign has three goals: to treat children with jiggers, to educate children and their families with prevention strategies, and to supply closed-toed shoes to those in need. These can all be accomplished for just $7 per child.
In March 2019, he delivered a TedX speech for the first student-led TedX Conference in Halton. He won $600 from his persuasive presentation, which was donated to his cause. With help from other organizations, he has raised over $2,000 towards his anti-jiggers campaign and helped more than 280 children.
Lazar Paroski, 15, Kitchener
At the age of 13, Lazar applied for a City of Kitchener Love My Hood placemaking grant to build a Math Wall and accessible table at a local park. He hopes these additions will improve standardized math testing scores, recognizing that the regional result was well below the provincial standard. He was successful in his efforts and awarded the grant, with a 6-month timeline to complete the project. Getting to work right away, he led group consultations and compiled feedback from 462 children to determine what should appear on the Math Wall. After which, he worked with a graphic designer to create the visual elements.
Grand opening for the Math Wall sparked much interest from various groups and organizations in the community. He addressed an audience of over 100 adult professionals in the field of youth development as Keynote speaker of the Parks and Recreation, MBA 2019 Symposium. He also recently emceed the 2019 City of Kitchener Neighbourhood summit, engaging an audience of residents, council members and staff.
Christopher Pennington, 15, Kincardine
Christopher has been involved with the Kidney Foundation of Canada since 2015, shortly after he was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder Henoch-Schonlein Purpura (HSP), which can cause chronic kidney disease. Rather than letting the illness get him down, Christopher has become a spokesperson. Keen to find a cure, he has been dedicated to raising awareness in his community and rally others to help support research Kidney disease, which now affects 1 in 10 Canadians.
He was the honourary chair of the first Owen Sound Kidney Walk that year and the following year, and later helped found the Goderich Kidney Walk. In 2018 he began an online auction, which has attracted 180 business over the course of two years. This year he was able to secure a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey signed by Mitch Marner.
Since first becoming involved with the foundation, Christopher and his crew have raised over $60,000 to support research. In 2016, Christopher’s Crew (a group of community members that he has recruited) was ranked fifth in the province for total donations raised.
Galiya Vendrov, 16, Whitchurch-Stouffville
When Galiya was just 14 years old, she founded the youth organization called Youth of Canada (www.youthofcanada.ca). Its three main missions are to inspire, empower and enrich Canadian youth. The website includes a multitude of resources and opportunities, including extracurricular experiences from exchanges, to scholarships, volunteer opportunities, and international tournaments and competitions.
Two sections on the site are highlighted. The Youth Blog’s Mental Health Awareness Week invited young people to share their experiences and perspectives of mental wellbeing, to show others that they are supported and understood. And the Student Spotlight showcases accomplishments of amazing youth. Published stories include a profile on a teenage tech CEO, a professional wakeboarder, a published author, and others between the ages of 14 and 24 that have the capability to spark inspiration in others.
Lucy Zhao, 17, Richmond Hill
Reflecting on her time spent one summer serving low-income families at her local food bank, Lucy launched the first-ever Community Service Project with her school’s DECA chapter to target food insecurity. She founded LiveFresh, a health and wellness event and partnered with the York Region Food Network to engage over 100 club members in sustainable community gardening and affordable healthy eating.
Last April she co-founded BLOOM, a social justice initiative dedicated to empowering women and children struggling with domestic abuse. She’s currently leading a team of 15 individuals in the GTA and organizing an arts showcase event, which will take place this March, with hopes of raising $2,000 for Yellow Brick House, a local women’s shelter. She has spent many, many hours volunteering her time with the shelter, but became frustrated and disheartened by the quality of donations that were received. She’s hoping her efforts with BLOOM will change the idea that “to donate” should not just be about giving items that are no longer wanted, but rather a conscious decision to lend some support.
The Ontario Junior Citizen Awards are promoted through the OCNA. Nominations of eligible youth aged six to 17, are received through 240 community newspaper members committed to recognizing the young leaders who are making a difference in their communities. Nominees may be involved in community service, are contributing to their community while living with a physical or psychological limitation, individuals who have performed acts of heroism or bravery, or those who achieve excellence in personal achievement. Candidates are also recognized for being ‘good kids' who go above and beyond what is expected of their age and show a commitment to making life better for others. A panel of judges unanimously agreed on the final award recipients.
For further information, please contact:
Ontario Junior Citizen Award Coordinator
Ontario Community Newspapers Association
416-923-7724 ext. 4439