High school duo gives to Heat Bank
By Darren Lum
Haliburton Highlands Secondary School Grade 10 students Stefan Salaris and Bence Suranyi gave it their all and were rewarded for their passion with a Youth Philanthropy Initiative grant worth $5,000 to gift to Heat Bank Haliburton County.
HHSS teacher Paul Longo paraphrased the judges’ comments on why the pair won the YPI grant: “All the presentations were great, but what put them over the top was their passion and the way they expressed themselves and their excitement. So that was the key,” he said.
This year’s judges were Grace Kim, Jonas Moghini, Hunter Chapple, and Abi Kauffeldt, who were last year’s winning group, advocating for Cottage Dreams.
Stefan was in disbelief when he learned he and Bence had won the $5,000 for the Heat Bank, a community initiative that helps vulnerable Haliburton County residents with access to emergency firewood and heat.
“We were the only group of two. We were up against a handful of groups of fours for the actual $5,000 final competition, but when they announced our names and the Haliburton Heat Bank, I was awfully surprised and happy about it,” he said.
The pair’s presentation included a video based on a similar concept in Europe. The students showed the audience a video depicting fuel poverty that faces people around the world.
The YPI grant motivates students around the world to learn about and advocate for local charities. The stipulation is that it be open to students across one grade level and be a marked project in a mandatory course. Nearly 20 student groups at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School competed.
Bence said the idea to produce a presentation on the Heat Bank came from their teacher Kelsey Crowe.
“I knew Bence and Stefan would do an excellent job representing the Heat Bank for the charity’s first experience in the YPI process. I’m very proud of the work that was done by both of my civics course student teams who competed in the YPI finals,” she said.
Bence said he thought the organization was “intriguing.”
“This was a sector I hadn’t heard of and you know when you’re thinking charities generally you think of food banks, maybe a place where you get water, homeless shelters. I never really thought of a heat bank where you can get all kinds of fuels,” he said.
Stefan said during the winter he helps his father snow plow. During one job, they noticed a client of theirs had a poorly insulated home, which posed a challenge for him to keep his home warm. They returned at a later date and helped install insulation and a vapour barrier. Working on this project, he learned this kind of help is also provided by the Heat Bank.
Heat Bank co-ordinator Tina Jackson was impressed by the boys and the process they went through to win the grant.
“It really speaks to how engaged and amazing our local youth are and, this, specifically the YPI program, is a win just by having youth interested in what we’re doing. Through that interview process when they’re developing their presentations they’re learning about, one, what’s available in their community in case their friends or families might need it. [Two], also ways of giving back and being aware how the community works and the fact that there are some families that need this assistance,” she said. “That might be something new for some of our more privileged youth and that’s important to know that everybody’s situation is different.”
She added, “For them to have obviously researched and put their heart and soul into that presentation clearly was what won it, so that’s incredible.”
The money will help provide heat to 10 to 12 families for a few weeks, she said.
Besides the Heat Bank’s fundraising events, this is the single highest donation this year, she said.
“We usually get a lot of our donations in December, but when temperatures start to fall in September, October we’re already starting to get those calls earlier. So having this in the bank already that’s incredible,” she said.