James and Sarah Innes' bake sale signs - showing unhappy kids at first, then people buying cookies, then happy kids

Kids use spring break to do good

James and Sarah Innes' bake sale signs - showing unhappy kids at first, then people buying cookies, then happy kids

It’s spring break this week which means most kids are out of school and spending their time playing video games or hanging with friends. But one special kid, with the help of his big sister, decided instead to host a bake sale with proceeds going to United Way and relief efforts in Syria. We had a Q & A with seven-year-old James, nine-year-old Sarah and their mom, Heather Innes, Manager of Learning & Engagement at United Way.

James and Sarah Innes pose at their bake sale to raise money for both Syria and United WayQ & A with James and Sarah Innes

1. Why did you decide to raise money for Syria and United Way?

James – Because we’re learning about Syria in school and because my mom works at United Way.

Sarah – We are helping Syria because we are learning about them and we chose United Way because it helps people in our city and around Calgary.

2. What do you think about using Spring Break to help others?

James – It’s good because we can use our time to help people survive.

Sarah – I like spending time helping other people.

3. Do you enjoy helping others?

James – Yes, because I get a good feeling.

Sarah – Yes, because when you help someone else it makes you feel good as well.

4. Do you think it’s important for kids to volunteer?

James – Yes, because it gives kids more experience with volunteering and helps the people you volunteer with.

Sarah – Yes, because it’s more fun volunteering when you’re young because it’s a new experience, and there’s more to see and more to do.

5. Will you volunteer again in the future?

James- Yes, definitely because it’s fun.

Sarah- Yes, because I enjoy making other people feel good and happy.

One of James and Sarah's bake sale signs: "Buy cookies and make happiness! Buy cookies and other yummy treats everything is $2.00. The money goes towards Syria and United Way."

Q & A with their mom Heather Innes

1. How can we teach children about helping others?

I think first of all by role-modeling it. If you don’t do it, then your kids won’t do it. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Just baking cookies and taking them to a seniors’ home. Helping kids paint a picture on a canvas from the loonie store and taking it to someone who is shut in. Go make dinner at a church. Very simple things, it doesn’t have to be complicated or take a huge amount of time, but that’s the biggest thing, to do things together as a family. In the process, you build up your family, other families and share in your community.

2. As a parent, how does it feel to see your children involved in philanthropy?

It’s the best feeling ever. It really is. Because we know this is our future and these kids will be taking care of us when we’re older and our community. They have fun and they enjoy volunteering and they are also building their community at the same time.

3. How will you encourage them to think of others in the future?

I have it pretty easy because I work at United Way! But we talk about it. We talk about why people need our help in the first place. It’s not just about giving money, it’s about giving your time, talent and treasure. Kids don’t have a lot of money to give, but they can give a smile and make someone’s day.

4. Should we encourage our children to give locally?

They can give in whatever way they are most passionate about. But personally, I want to start here. I want to start locally. It’s important to look at our entire world, that’s a critical piece of course. But I challenge my kids to look closer to home. Look at your friends, neighbours and communities and look at what we can do here first. There are a lot of people struggling, sad and in need here. I would say overall be passionate about helping others in your own community and also abroad because we are global citizens!

5. What can young kids do to get involved?

Young kids can do a lot. The beauty of young kids is that they don’t see any obstacles. They just decide they want to do it and they do it. Adults can learn a lot from them. James decided this is what he wanted to do and we said let’s just do it. He wrote the letter to Lucy asking if he could host his bake sale at United Way and that was it. Kids see it and they do it and adults can definitely learn from them.

Felicia Pacentrilli is a Media & Communications Advisor at United Way.