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Young philanthropists pay it forward

By Rebecca Reid

An awareness of a need in your community is sometimes all it takes to inspire your desire to help. Such is the case with several young residents who have chosen to support Markham Stouffville Hospital in its mission of excellence in care.

Patrick and Karen Petersen wanted their sons, Brayden and Matthew, to understand how fortunate they were to spend Christmas at home with their family when so many people are in hospital over the holiday season. “We wanted our boys to know that happiness can be gained simply by helping other people” Ms Petersen says. “We chose to help Markham Stouffville Hospital because each of us have had to pay a visit there before and the staff have always been amazing. We feel very fortunate to have such a top-notch facility in our neighbourhood.”

In 2013, an extended family Christmas Eve gathering at their home included a piano recital where the boys showcased their talent. They asked for a $5 donation from each person and raised $100. The total increased to $160 in 2014 and they hope to raise even more money with this year’s event.

The boys enjoyed being given the “hero” treatment at the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation, where they presented a giant cheque with their donation. “I feel great knowing the money we raised can help buy new equipment for the doctors to use and more patients, especially the kids, can get better faster and go home sooner,” says Brayden, 11. Matthew, 7, who aspires to be a doctor when he grows up, hopes the money can help doctors like Dr. Larry Pancer (their pediatrician and specialist at MSH) buy new tools so he can help more kids who are sick. “The fact that Brayden and Matthew know their donation has helped fund the hospital’s recent expansion and they can actually witness the transformation themselves definitely motivates them to continue their piano recital fundraiser each year,” Mr. Petersen explains.

The hospital has also benefited from the efforts of the teens who sit on Markham Youth Council.

The council, explains Jhanahan Sriranjan, a member from 2011 to 2014 and mentor to the current council, provides fun and safe recreational activities for residents of Markham, combining athletics and arts in community events for children, teenagers and families. “The council focuses on helping local organizations as part of its goal to give back to the community,” he adds. “We are proud that one of the organizations we support is Markham Stouffville Hospital.” Markham Youth Council raises between $2,000 and $4,000 annually for their hospital by hosting a number of events, including a “Youth Games” competition, coffeehouses and “Spooktacular” event.

Members also assist with Markham Stouffville Hospital-led projects such as holiday gift-wrapping at the mall. “It is a great way for myself and other youth to be involved in doing something to better ourselves and better our community. As teenagers, it is often hard to express ourselves and being a part of something like Markham Youth Council, that helps improve things, feels great,” Mr. Sriranjan says. “Knowing we are helping Markham Stouffville Hospital offer the best in health care makes us feel good and we are very grateful for the opportunity,” he says. Young people are proving you don’t have to be an adult to make a difference. You just need a big heart and the courage to turn a dream into a reality.

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