Youths taking the lead in uphill challenge

2,000 students kick off annual CN Tower climb to help raise money for Toronto charities

Richard Nesbitt, United Way volunteer
Photo: Pawel Dwulit/Toronto Star

Students climbing for charity, clockwise from tower base: Bjorn Nordin, Sara Tekle, Farzaneh Fard, Jennifer Kim, Andrea Chiu, Zack Sandor, Rahma Azeem, Henry Dang, Raymond Ngu and Jerome Jeganathan.

They're budding philanthropists and the sky's the limit when it comes to a cause near and dear to their hearts – making their city better.

Today, members of the Youthunited Cabinet, teenage leaders of the United Way's youth initiative, will be lacing up their sneakers to join thousands reaching for the top in the annual student CN Tower climb for United Way Toronto.

This year's corporate team challenge is also slated for Thursday and Sunday, while the climb to the top for the general public is Saturday.

It will be the second time Bjorn Nordin, 17, has climbed the 1,776 stairs. He first did it in Grade 7.

"I hope my time is better," chuckled Nordin, who is in Grade 12 at North Toronto Collegiate Institute. He is one of a dozen volunteers who make up Youthunited. A for-youth-by-youth initiative, the group raises funds for the agency in schools across the GTA.

Last year, more than 4,000 students in 86 schools gave what they could – time, talent, and their allowances – raising $230,000 for UWT. That money was channelled into support programs for youth.

Andrea Chiu, 17, joined Youthunited (formerly known as the United Way student campaign) to do volunteer work that would make a lasting difference.

"United Way is an organization that helps so many in Toronto – kids, youth, seniors, those living in priority neighbourhoods," said the Grade 12 St. Clement's School student and chair of Youthunited. "And working with UWT widens your view of the city. It's important for youth to be aware of the issues in their city ... and to give back to their community."

Jerome Jeganathan, 16, is the Youthunited vice-chair. She joined to reach out to young people, just as others did when her family moved from Sri Lanka nine years ago.

"So many people helped us settle," said the Grade 12 student at St. Joseph's Morrow Park Catholic Secondary School, recalling the new friends that made sure she fit in.

"Volunteering is so important," she added. "It's rewarding to give back and an amazing opportunity. The experiences you have may never present themselves again."About 2,000 student climbers will get a taste of that experience today as they make their way up the CN Tower. The climb is one of UWT's biggest fundraisers. Last year, some 11,000 people climbed the tower, raising $1.6 million.

Reproduced with permission - Torstar Syndication Services. "Youths taking the lead in uphill challenge", written by Leslie Ferenc, staff reporter.

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