IN THE PHOTO: (Back, left) Owen Cameron, Parker Cameron, Adam Vukusic, Alex Middleton, (front, left) Nathan Amy, Daniel Ma, Keara Fleming, Abigail Biffert and Maizy Graham are Aberdeen elementary Grade 6 students behind a fundraiser raising money for Bete Desta Children’s Home, an orphanage in Ethiopia. Jessica Wallace/KTW
Last summer, Adam Vukusic went out for Ethiopian food with his family in Winnipeg. Pictures on the walls of Harman’s Cafe told stories, images of orphaned children that were helped with every menu item ordered. It was there Adam learned the owner, Desta Worku Negatu, uses restaurant proceeds to operate an orphanage in the Third-World African country in which she grew up.
It planted a seed in the mind of the 12-year-old Kamloops boy, one that grew after he survived a serious biking accident.
“One of the things that really got him through was on Day 7 [in the hospital], he had an epiphany [to help Negatu],” said Adam’s mom, Tamara.
In the fall, Adam had emergency surgery to save him and his leg after rupturing an artery from his stomach to his leg while biking.
It meant two months away from school and an extensive recovery. He spent seven days in the ICU and came up with the idea to help Negatu from his hospital bed.
“She’s such an amazing woman and she dedicates her whole life to this . . . I decided it would be nice if I could help,” Adam told KTW.
He went back to school and rallied his Grade 6 friends at Aberdeen elementary to collect used sports equipment to help kids in need. Why sporting goods?
“In Ethiopia, they have simple needs covered like pencils and paper, but they’re not able to have any fun with sports gear,” Adam said.
Noble intentions aside, the plan required some problem-solving. One, shipping things like basketballs and baseball gloves isn’t exactly economical. Two, there’s the issue of all those hand-me-down ice skates going to a country so close to the equator.
From there came the idea of partnering with Consignor Sports, the used sporting equipment store on Notre Dame Drive, to liquidate the gear and send a cheque to Negatu, who would in turn purchase sports equipment for the kids.
“They’re [Consignor Sports] going to give us a cut of the money,” Adam said, noting 60 per cent of sales will go to the cause.
KTW met with Adam and his friends at their school while they were getting ready to deliver the items.
With help from their teacher, Mrs. Allen-Innis, they had gone class to class pitching the idea to fellow students, putting up posters in the halls and setting up more than 20 boxes around their school for kids to toss in their old equipment. Goalie pads, running shoes and bike helmets were among 82 items collected in two weeks.
Adam estimates they will collect, on average, about $10 per item once everything has sold from Consignor. Added to $225 in cash donations, he’s hoping to send Negatu a cheque for more than $1,000.
“I’m really, really excited,” he said.
The other kids are excited, too. They listed the sports they enjoy and want to share with kids in need — swimming, soccer, hockey and biking, to name a few.
“When you do something like this, you just have to put yourself in the other people’s shoes,” Adam said.
Tamara is proud of her son’s initiative.
“It’s such a silver lining,” she said. “I think he’s changed forever.”
She recalled her surprise when seeing an area code she didn’t recognize on her caller ID — the Ethiopian orphanage’s number — and how Adam insisted on being dropped off at Consignor Sports to negotiate face-to-face on his own with the owner, rather than simply firing off an email.
“He wanted it to be his thing,” Tamara said.
Help the kids help the kids
Those wishing to donate used sporting equipment or money to help with the cause can drop it off at Consignor Sports, 789 Notre Dame Dr., in the Southgate area.
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