Local students went to bat for their charities of choice Wednesday, and the Lighthouse shelter and soup kitchen is now $5,000 richer.
A group of Orillia Secondary School students battled it out to make it to Wednesday’s Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) finals and the chance to win cash for their chosen charities.
In the running were Lily Rowbotham (North Simcoe Victim Services); Sarina Blackburn, Casey Cadenhead, Cassidy Reed and Hunter Sisson (Helping Hands Orillia); Rachel Ward (YMCA Geneva Park); and Andie Kaiser and Meghan Sawatsky (Lighthouse).
It was the fourth presentation that earned top points from the judging panel, made up of fellow students and John Winchester, a retired teacher who used to oversee YPI at the former Park Street Collegiate Institute.
Kaiser and Sawatsky visited the Lighthouse, where they interviewed staff, volunteers and clients.
“We’ve both done the Coldest Night of the Year (fundraiser for the Lighthouse),” Kaiser said, noting their involvement helped them decide to make a pitch for YPI funding.
“We heard about the Building Hope campaign and felt it was really needed in our community,” added Sawatsky.
The pair’s presentation included video interviews as well as an overview of the Lighthouse, its services and its history.
As the judges were deliberating, civics teacher Nathan Box said he was impressed with all of the presentations.
“They’ve been getting better every year,” he said.
While the funding is important, the YPI competition is also a learning opportunity for the students.
“A lot of them didn’t know these charities existed,” he said.
After learning about the causes, the students' passion was evident.
“It becomes very personal, and that’s kind of the goal,” Box said.
It was personal for Rowbotham as she made the case for North Simcoe Victim Services.
“In my family, there has been a lot of crisis,” she told the audience, explaining she has a loved one who is experiencing mental health issues and homelessness.
The judges were encouraged to not vote with their hearts, however. There was a list of criteria, and it included marks for various forms of presentation.
The YPI competition takes place nationally. It has been happening in Orillia for more than a decade, starting at Park Street Collegiate Institute.
Over the years, more than $50,000 has been raised for local charities.
With 20,000 students taking part at 110 schools across the country, more than $500,000 will be raised this year.
Find out more about YPI here.