Canada’s Top 5 Charities Run by Young Professionals

Our generation of driven young professionals tends to embrace the ideas and efforts of charity and is pro-active in the philanthropic realm. Most influential young people in cities across the country are involved in charity to some capacity, whether they have started their own organizations and events or otherwise donate time, resources or physical endurance to a cause. Here are our top 5 Canadian charities that are founded and run by young people.

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motionball (Paul Etherington, pictured top)
By now, most YPs across the country know motionball. The motionball galas are, after all, some of the best parties of the year. motionball is a non-profit organization that benefits the Special Olympics Canada Foundation (SOCF), a charity whose objective is to provide funding for athlete and volunteer recruitment and training through a series of nationwide sporting and social events, including the coveted motionball Gala. motionball is the brainchild of best friends and brothers Paul, Mark and Sean Etherington, who hold a lifelong attachment to Special Olympics Canada. Since childhood, the Etherington brothers have volunteered at fundraising events organized and executed by their parents, who co-founded the Sports Celebrities Festival, an organization that has raised over $25 million for Special Olympics Canada since 1983. “We noticed a lack of integration between supporters and the athletes they support and created motionball in 2001 to facilitate this,” Paul Etherington, Co-founder and Chairman of motionball told us last year. “The motionball mandate is to introduce the next generation of donors, volunteers, and sponsors to the Special Olympics movement through social and sporting events that integrate young professionals with Special Olympics athletes.” Upcoming motionball Gala dates are as follows: February 8th, Toronto; February 22nd, Calgary.


In recent years, young people have fought back against cancer with a bold “F*ck you.” The first person do so was now 25-year-old Yael Cohen, who started Fuck Cancer three years ago when she made a t-shirt for her mother who was battling cancer.  The bold, attention grabbing t-shirts were soon seen all over the country as people affected by cancer jumped on the bandwagon. The goal of Fuck Cancer’s is to encourage a younger generation to engage their parents with “the cancer talk” to educate about early detection for cancer. Yael’s powerful message and initiative has caught the attention of some notable people.  She has been invited to the White House and UN to discuss her unconventional and boundary pushing efforts and quick momentum. She was also a speaker aTEDx Vancouver 2010 and the charity continues to spread its powerful message.

Yael’s charity isn’t to be confused with the other YP-run F*CK CANCER charity, which raises awareness through throwing bold, local talent-filled events. Back in the fall, we had a great time at the YP-filled F*ck Cancer event in Liberty Village. The initiative was started by Julie Greenbaum, a McGill University student who started the charity in honour of her mother, who lost her battle with cancer. F*CK CANCER’s efforts raise considerable funds for research and provide an avenue for the younger generation to fight back against cancer in a fun and unique way, with events that give young adults who have been affected by the disease a completely unique bonding experience as all guests don t-shirts and plastic glasses that tell the deadly disease just where to go. “We would like to continue growing this organization by taking it all over North America,” Greenbaum told us. “Our goal is to engage the younger generation by providing them with a fun, interactive experience where they are able to give back and make a difference while having fun and feeling a sense of responsibility. We have been receiving emails from all over asking us to throw events and we are excited about the future and hope to continue on this path as long as we can.”  



Free the Children
Craig Kielburger has become a household name across the country. In 1995, when he was just a 12-year-old elementary school student in Thornhill, Ontario, he gathered 11 school friends to begin a fight against child labour and Free The Children was born. “Freeing” the children involves initiatives to help them escape poverty, exploitation, and from the notion that they are powerless to affect change. Free the Children specializes in sustainable development in the countries of Ecuador, Ghana, Haiti, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, as well as rural China. Today, Free The Children is an international charity and educational partner, with more than 1.7 million youth involved in its education and development programs in 45 countries. The organization is largely YP-run and youth-funded, and is based on the concept of “children helping children,” making it a charity of choice among educators and grade school students.


Jer’s Vision
Bullied, taunted, beaten and left with suicidal thoughts, Jeremy Dias decided to take action against gay rights and his school board. At just 17 years old, he took the Algoma District School Board to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, alleging that his Sault Ste. Marie high school would not allow him to start a gay social club in school. After a relentless five-year battle, he was awarded Canada’s second-largest human rights settlement, and with the funds, he founded Jer’s Vision. The Ottawa-based organization focused on anti-bullying and anti-discrimination programming for young people. It works to eliminate bullying, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of discrimination in schools and youth communities. It tackles anti-bullying work in five main ways: educational programming though workshops and presentations to stop bullying, conferences and professional development, arts programs, community involvement and supporting and promoting youth projects and initiatives through tools and guidance. Mr. Dias, now 28, currently directs the organization. Last year, Dias and his team connected with more than 75,000 students across Canada.


One Child
Created and driven by young people, OneChild seeks to eliminate the commercial sexual exploitation of children abroad. It was established as a registered, non-profit organization in July 2005 and is now is the premiere organization inspiring a movement of young people to take action against child sex slavery. This means public education campaigns and advocacy initiatives, along with prevention, rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration efforts. The Founder and President of OneChild is Cheryl Perera, a young accomplished children’s rights activist and public speaker. Perera began speaking about the cause in high school after being horrified upon reading about it for a school project. She even traveled to Sri Lanka where she contributed in an arrest of a pedophile when she went undercover as a decoy. Perara has been recognized as one of “Canada’s Top 20 Under 20,” received the 2005 Impact Entrepreneur of the Year award, and was offered a permanent placement by the Sri Lankan Government at the Presidential Secretariat to serve as the President’s Nominee on Child Protection when she was just 17. Among her many achievements, she mobilized the Canadian Travel and Tourism Industry to get involved in the fight against Child Sex Tourism, and made an in-flight video for Air Canada that warns all outbound international passengers against child sexual tourism and is seen by over 400,000 people a month.


All of these inspiring young people mentioned above continue to make waves and changes in their respective causes, showing no sign of slowing anytime soon. If you have ever thought about starting a charity… what are you waiting for?