By Darren Lum
An eight-year-old’s selfless gesture is teaching a lesson in how a little can go a long way.
When Oliver Williams of Haliburton found $5 outside the A.J. LaRue Arena on Saturday, Dec. 5 it didn’t occur to him to think of himself.
At first, “Olly” wanted to use the money to buy a gift for his grandma in Haliburton, but when he saw the sirens from the OPP cruisers on hand for a community collection for the food bank outside Foodland, he thought he should do the same.
Mother Chyna Schell offered to resolve her son’s dilemma by matching her son’s found money so he could donate to the food bank and get something for his grandma. They ended up going together and purchasing items for the food bank.
Later that day, Schell posted what her son did to social media just like she usually does to update her husband’s side of the family living in the United Kingdom.
“I just posted because I thought it was so sweet of Olly to have this genuine moment of understanding that even $5 can make a difference and I didn’t really think much of it,” she said.
Her post created a ripple of generosity that has grown into a tsunami of support for food banks here and everywhere donors happen to live. She’s been amazed by the level of generosity and the lesson it has taught.
“I couldn’t believe it. I got one message, then I got two messages,” she said.
Her neighbours are friends with Brad Park and wife Danielle. Brad owns the Haliburton Foodland. Through that connection, Brad committed to matching whatever was raised by Dec. 12.
He said donating was about giving credence to the idea that every little bit is important “no matter how big or small that donation is, as every nickel and dime donated helps. If we can stretch this money as far as we can, it will benefit our community tremendously, especially this year with COVID challenges people face currently.”
He adds Foodland grocery stores across Ontario are currently holding a food bank drive during the holiday season where customers are asked to donate any denomination to the local food bank. At the conclusion of the collection, a lump sum of gift cards can be used for food by people in need by people in need in the local community.
After this commitment, Schell said, “So that’s when it really took off.”
Originally, people were making local donations to whatever charitable organization they wanted, to match the $5 first donated by Olly. But when they saw the commitment by the local grocery store, that’s when people, who had already donated in their own communities, whether it was in Tofino, B.C., or even in Waterloo, Ont., started sending donations directly to Olly’s mom.
“People were messaging me and saying, ‘Can I send you an e-transfer? We’ve already made our local donation, but we really want it to be matched as well and I have so many e-transfers I now have an Excel spreadsheet. This has just taken off and in three days, I think we’re around $1,200,” Chyna said, specifying this is the worldwide total early last week.
There are still more e-transfers to deposit, she adds.
Most recently, Highlands business CDH Carpentry has promised to also match the fund raised total.
Chyna, the mother of two young boys said her eldest son, Olly has also been blown away by the turn of events.
“Every night I update him and tell him where all these donations are coming from and we’ve talked a lot about how much of a difference just a little bit can make and how amazing it is that just teaching people that they don’t have to give a lot. Literally, all our donations have just been $5 per family member,” she said. The final tally was $8,400, as the collection finished with $2,800 and then had the matching donations by the Foodland and CDH carpentry.
Being a 2006 graduate of the local high school, Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, and running a dance school in Haliburton and raising two boys, Schell knows the community well.
“I’ve seen this town come together for everything. From family devastation with house fires to just anything. The amount that our town can come together and just support each other is incredible,” she said. “Part of me wants to say I’m not surprised in the slightest that we have come together this much because I’ve seen it before.”
Schell admits before this she didn’t feel good about donating small amounts to charitable causes and believes her son taught her to put aside the ego to help in any way, no matter how small it may seem.
“Honestly, I’m loving the lesson because I’m guilty of it too. I’m completely guilty of thinking if I can’t afford to donate a lot then – not that there’s no point in donating a little. But there is this feeling of embarrassment I’ve given only this much. My favourite part of all of this is the lesson that when we all come together and give a little bit each it doesn’t take much to grow it very quickly, so to just inspire people and make people feel comfortable and OK without only giving what they can and that’s what people are really focusing on and it’s been so amazing,” she said.