Young philanthropists and role models celebrated at MCF’s annual Smart and Caring Celebration



Main photo: District of Muskoka chair John Klinck (back right) with Smart and Caring Muskoka award recipients (back from left) Lara Memory, Shrey Patel, (front from left) Mitchell Donald, and Heath Parkinson (supplied).

They may be young, but their passion and kindness are an inspiration for people of all ages and worthy of recognition.

The annual Muskoka Community Foundation Smart and Caring Muskoka Celebration highlights a handful of Muskoka’s young people who are making a difference in their own community. And this year, once again, the community was blown away by their efforts.

At the sixth annual celebration, held on May 10 at Grandview’s Mark O’Meara Clubhouse, the 130 people who attended celebrated young people in Muskoka who have impacted the community, as well as young philanthropists and role models in the area.

“The Young Leaders of Muskoka are one of the highlights of the celebration,” said Lynn DeCaro, Muskoka Community Foundation’s executive director. “Everyone is so inspired after hearing how young people as young as five years old can make a difference in their community. They see a need and they roll up their sleeves and jump in to find a solution.”

The young people recognized at this year’s Smart and Caring Muskoka Celebration were:

Mitchell Donald – The seven-year-old has participated in and raised money in two Terry Fox walks. Last year he surpassed his fundraising goal of $500 and raised $620. This year Mitchell hopes to raise $950 during the Terry Fox walk.

Lara Memory – Lara started baking and selling cupcakes as a fundraiser for the OSPCA at seven years old. Over 800 cupcakes later, Lara has raised $4,530. In addition to volunteering with the OSPCA Muskoka she has also planted trees at local parks with the Bracebridge Rotary Club, packaged and sold Hearts for Hospice chocolates, and has volunteered at local events collecting donations for various charities.

Heath Parkinson – While planning his fifth birthday party, Heath chose to ask for donations to the Manna Food Bank instead of presents. Heath also takes part in his school’s Adopt a Family for Christmas program to provide a special holiday for a family in need.

Shrey Patel – Shrey is a grade 12 student at Gravenhurst High School (GHS) and sits on the GHS Parent Council, volunteers with the GHS reading program and volunteers with the Gravenhurst Winter Carnival Committee. He has been part of the YMCA Simcoe Muskoka Youth Advisory Council and has attended the Rotary Youth Leadership conference as a Junior Leader. Shrey hopes to set up his own charity addressing issues such as poverty with a goal of helping at least one million people.

At the celebration, grants were also awarded to young women in Muskoka who dream of taking their sport to the next level. The award money comes from Dara’s Fund, the grant system created by Huntsville’s own Olympian, Dara Howell.

“Dara’s Fund grant recipients are so dedicated, not only to their sport but also to their community,” said DeCaro, “They are often training 15 to 20 hours a week and often that training takes them outside of Muskoka. All of our recipients work hard to mentor others in their sport. We don’t often think of athletic competition as a way to give back to others but these recipients demonstrate that it is part of their philosophy of excelling at their chosen sport.”

This year’s Dara Fund recipients are:

Emma Brearley – The 13-year-old slopestyle snowboarder is a member of the Ontario Provincial Junior Slopestyle Team. She is working towards participating in national-level competitions and eventually international and world cup events.

Rebecca Jeffrey –  The University of Toronto student is a fencer who trains four to five days a week and regularly travels for tournaments and training sessions. She is currently on the Women’s National Team and is working toward being a member of the Women’s Team that travels to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Jeffrey couldn’t make the Celebration because she was away at an international fencing competition in Tunisia.

Dara's Fund grant recipient Emma Brearley (right) with Doug Howell. Missing: Rebecca Jeffery. (supplied)

Dara’s Fund grant recipient Emma Brearley (right) with Dara’s dad, Doug Howell. Missing: Rebecca Jeffery. (supplied)

“The Smart & Caring Muskoka Celebration is such an amazing event,” said DeCaro. “It is so wonderful to have so many charities, volunteers, donors and business and community leaders in one place celebrating philanthropy in Muskoka.”

The Muskoka Community Foundation formed just over 11 years ago and is one of 190 like organizations in Canada. The current board members are: Daniel Bradbury, Gord Durnan, Marg French, Bill Fee, Jane Hunt, Scott Young, Eva Zachary, Jennifer Tournour, David Sprague and Rebecca Paul, with executive director Lynn DeCaro.

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