Camping Out

By John Swartz

A number of Harriet Todd Public School students could be seen hanging out at the Opera House Friday afternoon with their hands out asking for money – not in typical panhandler fashion because panhandlers usually don’t swarm their targets.

No, these kids were having too much fun and were on a two-fold mission, raising money for the Orange Door Project, and telling people about youth homelessness.

“It was my idea the first week that we started this,” said Grade 7 student Kayla Nesbitt. “We could do a camp out and here we are tonight.”

The students began learning about homelessness when the school year started in September and Friday’s event is the result.

“We’re great kids and we all want to make a difference, but we didn’t really know how and we didn’t know where to start,” said Nesbitt. And that is why school exists, to learn how to do things, navigate the steps toward a goal.

Cardboard Camp Out

The students had constructed a cardboard camp on the lawn at the corner of West and Mississaga Streets. They weren’t on their own. Elaine Vodarek, a student success teacher (works at several elementary and high schools) was trying to keep an eye on them.

“They wrote to the mayor’s office to ask about setting up somewhere downtown. You can’t set up on sidewalks, so they suggested getting in touch with the Opera House,” said Vodarek.

“This is their first time doing the cardboard city camp out. Earlier in the year they attended a hidden homeless forum, that’s what sparked this idea,” said Vodarek. “They (also) presented at the RISE conference at Georgian College.” The Rise (Research, Innovation, Scholarship and Entrepreneurship) event was held April 10 at Georgian College’s Barrie campus where college students showcased their research activities.

They had pamphlets to give to passersby and a nice bucket to store the money they received.

“All the funds today are used for youth at risk,” said Vodarek. The Orange Door Project is a Home Depot campaign to raise money that will be put to work in the community. The Orillia Youth Centre has been for several years, and will be the beneficiary of the fundraising.

It could be the next thing they might learn about is why one aspect of their event didn’t turn out as planned.

“I think they were anticipating it being a little warmer,” said Vodarek.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Harriet Todd Public School Grade 7 students Kayla Nesbitt, Aurora Duffield , Andy Green-Thomas, Hanna Brisbois, and Randi Light.


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