Our speaker this week was Sophia Gran-Ruaz. Sophia lives in Mississauga and is a student at John Cabot Secondary School.

Sophia began with a story about a young couple, very much in love. They married, had a child but unfortunately all did not go well, and when the baby was 10 months old the mother and child found themselves needing a homeless shelter. Sophia was that child.

 

Sophia's mother had been a volunteer  all her life, and at 11 Sophia decided she wanted to volunteer also. Everywhere she looked, she found she was too young so she decided to start her own charity and because of her backgroud, she formed Snug As a Bug, Kids Helping Kids. She decided that at a time when children are often leaving schools and  friends with nothing, and often fleeing an abusive relationship, it would be comforting for them to have something of their own. Her family thought she was crazy and that this would not work.

She spoke with managers at her favourite toy and book stores and found a lot of rejection. This did not stop her. Soon boxes began to arrive, containing soft toys, books, crayons and colouring books, playing cards and puzzles. After 6 months she and her family spent 2 weeks in their basement putting together 500 packages and then she realised she hadn't contacted any shelters!

She now has a 'packing day', usually in early February. Her family, friends and volunteers get together to make up the  packages and Brinks trucks deliver them to the shelters (her father works for Brinks and they generously donate the trucks and drivers). She currently deals with shelters in Toronto, Oshawa, Mississauga, Scarborough and the Lindsay area. To date the charity has distributed approximately 13,000 packages.

Earlier this year, Sophia was named Canada's Top Teen Philanthropist. She was awarded $1,000 for her post-secondary education and $5,000 for the charity of her choice - Hockey for the Homeless.

Sophia will be going to Ottawa University to study medicine  and hopes to be a surgeon. She has no intention, however, of handing over the reins of her charity to anyone else and say she will find a way to continue with it.