With successful charity events already on her résumé, this 11-year-old superstar fundraiser proves youth are the leaders of today.
By Sarah Fox
Photography by Blair Gable
One of Noémie’s earliest fundraising efforts took form in a short play. For the cost of a dollar, neighbours and family members gained entrance to an original performance by her and a friend. By the end of their show’s run, the girls had collected $20 to donate to their charity of choice, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).
In that small donation, Noémie drew back the curtains on the world as she knew it and peered the appropriate time to start volunteering: right now.
It started with a broken chin and a visit to the emergency room at CHEO not long before. While there, she befriended other kids her age—kids who had been in and out due to illness.
Although Noémie was more familiar with the hospital than the average person (her mother works there as a physician and clinical investigator), getting to know these kids’ stories resonated with her—then 7-years-old. While keen to be a shoulder, she wanted to do more than listen to these new friends; she wanted to take action and help them. “Young people need to know that they can make a difference, too.” Noémie insists. “If we leave everything to the adults, then we lose the opportunity to make the impact we want on our future.”
Little by little, her efforts, including small actions like asking for birthday donations in lieu of presents, developed Noémie fundraising skills. Then, within that same year, she began to set her sights on something bigger: a charity event for kids at CHEO and a reason for these kids to get out of the hospital for some fun.
By age eight, Noémie had brought her vision for the CHEO kids to life with the founding of Happy Hearts, a silent auction and kid’s fashion show held at the Ottawa Aviation and Space Museum.
To get Happy Hearts off the ground, she took to the streets of Ottawa, recruiting store owners and professionals as event sponsors, while leaning on friends and family to help organize the big day.
Today, Happy Hearts alone has raised over $33,000 through events since 2014, while giving kids a chance to strut on the catwalk to applause and cheers.
Better defined by her determination than her age, Noémie stays busy with volunteerism, something she recommends all young people do. “We can’t wait to make a difference.” Read on for Noémie tips on how to get started.
Noémie’s 5 tips on how-to start volunteering today:
1. “Start with something small.” In the beginning, Noémie started one dollar at a time. She put on performances with friends, built and sold crafts and decided that for each birthday, she would ask for a donation instead of a present. “Small actions can gain momentum and turn into something big, with an impact that you never thought possible,” Noémie says. “I started my own fundraising campaign, and it became bigger and bigger.”
2. “Helping others makes the people you help feel good, but it also makes you realize that you are powerful.” On top of raising money for CHEO, WE Charity and United Way, Noémie knows her action can inspire others and create a “boom effect” that will raise even more money for the causes she cares about.
3. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help; the more people you engage, the bigger the impact.” From the events Noémie throws in her own backyard to big fundraisers like Happy Hearts, she is always recruiting others to join her—her friends, her parent’s network and her community. “People are really open to the idea of helping,” she says.
4. “Obstacles will arise, but keep pushing through.” In the planning stages of the second Happy Hearts, Noémie found herself struggling to balance the many tasks and activities in her life. She advises, “Keep your motivation. Sometimes it seems really hard and [like] you’ll never be able to do it.” In her own life, she keeps her eye on the prize. “It will be so worth it when you reach your goal.”
5. “Everyone can be a hero.” Noémie looks up to people who give back, especially her mom, who’s always there to help Noémie work toward her goals. “She seems to always have the answer to everything,” Noémie says. It’s important to have someone you can turn to—your own reachable hero to try to emulate. “Everyone who helps others is a hero.”
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