KENTVILLE – Caelyn Parker is showing fellow teens in Nova Scotia that generosity knows no age limits.
The 13-year-old Berwick-area resident is in the midst of collecting donations to fill a hockey bag full of goods that will be donated to the Fill a Box of Cheer: The Local Option campaign launched by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and Valley Family Fun.
"I started saving items from the hotels last [hockey] season with the idea that I'd give them to the food bank. But then I thought, 'Well this isn't food', so I didn't take them down. They just sat in a drawer at the house,” Caelyn recalled.
Caelyn’s mother, Heather Armstrong, learned of the Fill a Box of Cheer movement through CMHA employee Candy O’Brien, and O’Brien graciously accepted the items Caelyn collected as donations.
“Then I thought, ‘There has to be something more I can do to help local people. I think we could fill a whole hockey bag,’” said Caelyn, noting that she was sure her teammates with Valley Wild Bantam AA squad would pitch in once they heard about the idea.
The boxes of cheer will be distributed to people in need throughout Kings County during the upcoming holiday season. Several non-profit organizations will receive donations to distribute, such as CMHA, The Youth Portal, the Evangeline Club and the Apple Tree Landing Parent Outreach program.
Donations for Caelyn’s hockey bag can be dropped off at the Centennial Arena in Kentville.
“I have been very lucky to have lots of support in my life. You never know when something is going to happen to your family and you [might] need a helping hand,” said Caelyn.
“My mom got pretty sick and had to stop teaching. Nobody expected that because she was always really healthy and into fitness. It can happen to anyone.”
Caelyn, praised as a deep thinker from a young age, launched her own business this year to help pay for her hockey fees after her mother had to stop working.
A tree fell on her family’s car following a severe storm, and Caelyn started making Smoke Head bonfire accessories out of the scraps. She’s now offering custom designs through her online arts and crafts store, Caelyn’s Creations.
Caelyn’s business has been enjoying the perks that come along with widespread media coverage and positive word-of-mouth attention, and she recently gained added publicity by presenting Nova Scotia-born NHL star Sidney Crosby with a one-of-a-kind SmokeHead designed with him in mind.
“If I can use the little bit of local 'popularity' I have gained to help some people, then that's the least I can do. Someday I will be able to do more,” she said.
Caelyn is challenging youth throughout Nova Scotia to think about how they can have a positive impact within their communities. She said it might be as simple as donating the toothbrush and floss from a dentist visit, or placing a donation box in a school and delivering it to a place that can ensure the items end up in the hands of individuals in need of a helping hand.
“It's tough as a young person to know what you can do to help, but this is easy. Us young people just have to collect the items that most of us take for granted,” she said, extending this challenge to her favourite hockey competitors, the Bantam AA Pictou Selects, and other teams in the south conference.
“We can do this for our community. This is something teenagers can do. “
For more information about Fill a Box of Cheer: The Local Option, contact Candy at 902-679-7573 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to help
There are a variety of items that can be donated to Fill a Box of Cheer Annapolis Valley:
- Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, shampoo, body wash, small packs of tissues, feminine hygiene products, razors
- Clothing: socks, slippers, gloves, hats, mittens
- Stationery: pencils, pens, notebook, coloured pencils, markers
- Gifts: instant coffee, mug, food gift cards, candy, gum, cards, adult colouring books
Filled, unwrapped boxes can be dropped at: Town Hall in Berwick, Kentville or Wolfville, the lotto booth at County Fair Mall in New Minas, the Louis Millet Community Complex in New Minas of the village office in Port Williams.