Grade 8 kids can make a difference

From left, Nicole, Drury, Alexa Soulliere, Chris DeJonghe and Nate Broad, holds coins and bills collected in one week at a Cathcart Boulevard School fundraiser. Glenn Ogilvie

For some it’s sports; for others it’s music or money. But for Sarnia’s Chris Dejonghe pure joy comes from making a difference in someone’s life.

“This is what I’m into,” says the 13-year-old Cathcart Public School student.

“It makes me happy and my friends are into it too.”

Chris just finished a coin drive at his school that he hopes will go a long way toward building a new school in a developing country.

The organization Free the Children is building 200 schools this year, primarily in Africa, and Chris is a part of it.

He first heard about Free the Children when he was in Grade 3 and living in Calgary. Co-founder Craig Kielburger went to Chris’ school and spoke, inspiring the boy to help others.

Chris and his friends Nate Broad and Nicole Drury distributed donation piggy banks to collect coins at Cathcart last week. As Chris pointed out, no one can do penny drives now that copper coins are out of circulation.

Instead, Cathcart students brought in silver and many donated paper bills and cheques to Free the Children.

A crew of about eight spent Saturday counting and rolling $2,054.39, ecstatic that their coin drive was so successful.

“We just want to let everyone know that even three kids in Grade 8 can make a difference in the world. Age doesn’t define the impact you can make,” said Chris.

Earlier this spring, he participated in a “We are Silent” campaign in which he didn’t speak for 24 hours to raise money for child labour rights. That effort generated $190.

Chris isn’t certain what he’ll pursue as a profession when he gets older, but he’s pretty sure he’ll work for a charity.

“It has to be something that makes me happy to go to work every day, and helping other people is the thing that gives me a rush,” he said.

 – Cathy Dobson