Good things come in small packages and Shaelyn Radu, 11, is the perfect example, in more ways than one.
Shaelyn, a Grade 5 student at Walnut Park, has spent the better part of the last two months raising money, food and the basic necessities of life for the Broadway Place Emergency Shelter.
“I think it is very important to remember that this is our community, and everybody matters,” Shaelyn said.
That kind of attitude, especially coming from such a young person puts a smile on the face of Pauline Taekema, shelter manager at Broadway Place Emergency Shelter.
“This is super heartwarming,” Taekema said.
“To see someone as young as Shaelyn come forward and express such a desire to help somebody and recognize these individuals [homeless] are part of our community is special.”
In the two months since her birthday, Shaelyn has put together 27 backpacks, 12 for adults and 15 for youths, 7 girls and 8 boys.
She delivered the backpacks to Taekema last Wednesday, April 10.
The idea to put together backpacks for the less fortunate came to Shaelyn after she watched the movie Little Red Wagon which detailed the efforts of Zach Bonner, who took it upon himself to provide people left homeless in the wake of Hurricane Charley with water, food and clothing.
Bonner later established the Little Red Wagon Foundation which takes backpacks and fills them with bare essentials and a toy for underprivileged children.
“I wanted to help,” Shaelyn said was the sentiment the movie left her with.
The first step was to ask for food and cash donations for her birthday party.
Darren Smoley, a local tiler, set the ball rolling in a big way with a donation of $180.
At her mom’s suggestion Shaelyn donated the food to Broadway Place.
Then Shaelyn decided to use the money she received to put backpacks together.
She composed a letter and with the help of her friend Natalie Khalil, Shaelyn began knocking on neighbourhood doors to distribute a letter with her message and request for donations, saying she would return in a week.
A week later Shaelyn went back and was amazed at the generosity of her neighbours, as well as the businesses she visited, including Canadian Tire, Pharmasave, Interior Stationary, TB!S, Dollar Store and Safeway.
“Everybody was very kind and giving,” Shaelyn said.
Shaelyn went on a shopping spree and bought the adult backpacks and everything she needed to fill them, including blankets, socks, hats, toiletries and snacks.
The youth backpacks are a special gift from Shanualea Vligenthart, a resident of Smithers who brought the handmade backpacks from Africa.
In addition to toiletries and snacks, Shaelyn added toys such as Transformers, stuffed animals and stickers to the youth backpacks.
For Shaelyn, the payback is surmised in a special moment when she first shared her idea with Taekema.
A client at Broadway Place, an older gentleman, overheard Shaelyn’s plan and was moved to help her out.
“When he heard what I wanted to do he reached into his pocket and took out his last $0.25 and gave it to me,” Shaelyn said.
“He had tears in his eyes.”
In the longterm Shaelyn is considering either a career in teaching or acting, but in the short term she wants to continue putting backpacks together for Broadway Place.
“Don’t be surprised if I knock on your door sometime in the future asking for support,” she said.
If you would like to help, e-mail Shaelyn at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have items such as gloves, mittens or croc shoes, or other donations for Shaelyn they can be dropped off at the Interior News, 3764 Broadway Ave.