Kacie Cherkas was inspired by an elementary school teacher to give to her community.
Four year’s later, she has earned a Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers award.
The 13-year-old Garibaldi secondary student is one of nine people in B.C. to receive the honour. She was presented the award by Marc Kielburger at a special event called Evening of Inspiration on Nov. 2 in Vancouver, a day before We Day.
The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers is a national honour recognizing achievements of Canadians who contribute to their communities.
The medal replaces the Governor Generals’s Caring Canadian Award that was created in 1995 by then-Governor General, the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc.
Recipients receive a medal with a lapel pin, a letter and a certificate.
Cherkas started volunteering four years ago as a Grade 4 student at Harry Hooge elementary in Maple Ridge. She joined the Knights for Change club at the school, headed by her then Grade 7 teacher Michael Ross.
The club raised money for Free the Children, or We Charity, an international movement empowering youth and founded by Canadian brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger.
We Charity has projects in Asia, Africa and Latin America, focusing on children and education. It also runs programs in 10,000 schools across Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, encouraging youth to become socially engaged.
“It raises money to give water, food and health care and builds schools for all the kids there,” Cherkas said.
“They don’t get a lot of things and it makes me feel better to know that I am helping them in a way.”
It wasn’t long before Cherkas was raising money on her own. She started making bookmarks to sell at the school’s annual Christmas craft fair.
The bookmarks were made from scrapbooking paper with bright colours.
“At the start, they were pieces of paper and I wrote things on them and put like stickers and stuff,” said Cherkas
Now in her first year of high school, she has joined the club Rebels for a Cause, raising money for the same charity.
She is now making beaded bookmarks and Christmas cards. Bookmarks that once took her only a couple of minutes to make now take her 15.
The Christmas cards take longer, half an hour to an hour, depending on how difficult the design is.
She started preparing for this year’s craft fairs at the beginning of July.
“Usually on the weekends, when I don’t have homework,” said Cherkas, who also spends 10 hours per week at dance rehearsal.
Her family is also involved. Her older sister, Kisha, 16, is a member of the same club at school. Her mother makes snowmen from white cotton socks and filled with rice, while her grandmother crochets animals and additional bookmarks.
Over the past four years, Cherkas has raised more than $1,500 for We Charity.
Cherkas would one day like to travel to Kenya through We Charity since she has read a lot about the country and already fundraised for a school there.
She is thankful to her favourite elementary school teacher who inspired her to fundraise.
“She didn’t want to leave his class,” said Cherkas’ mother, Linda Carter.
“He’s just a special teacher. He brings the best out in every kid.”