Someone to lean on.

By Amy Van Es

Jeremy Larway’s journey to becoming a change-maker began the day he noticed a young boy missing from school. “Chase was away a lot,” recalls Jeremy. “He always had doctor appointments in towns far away.”

It wasn’t long before he found out Chase—a junior kindergarten student at his school in Oak Lake, Manitoba—had leukemia. “[His family] would have to drive three hours away to Winnipeg just for an appointment.” Only 15 years old himself, Jeremy remembers finding it hard to imagine what living through that hardship would be like.

Wanting to help Chase overcome the obstacle before him, he decided to take action. As he explains, “I thought I could raise money for medical costs to make his family’s journey a little easier.”

Supporting others is something Jeremy has learned from team sports. A dedicated athlete known for his excellent sportsmanship, peers and educators around the school look to him as a dependent source of team spirit. According to Brenda Masson, Oak Lake’s school administrator, “coaches who’ve worked with Jeremy say he’s a positive leader,” noting how he “boosts team morale by encouraging teammates.”

Speaking from his own experience playing sports, Jeremy points to the way a team mentality helps build leadership skills—skills athletes can use beyond the game. “When the team’s down, you need to be able to collectively bring everybody back up.” And as he says, this not only means pumping up teammates, it means speaking up when something is wrong and listening when someone does speak. “Every voice needs to be heard on and off the field.”

While the teen plays multiple sports, hockey has always been a favourite. So, when it came time to plan his fundraiser for Chase, he decided to drive action through his pastime of choice. “It’s just fun, and everybody likes fun, so I thought I’d pair it with raising money.”

“When the team’s down, you need to be able to collectively bring everybody back up.”

The result was a floor hockey tournament he called Change for Chase, which aimed to raise funds to help the boy’s family pay for medical and travel costs.

Giving back came naturally to Jeremy, but creating an action plan and hosting a fundraiser (which raised over $3,000 for Chase and his family) took hard work. Below, Jeremy shares tips for those looking to take action like he did. Follow the steps and remember to add passion!

Step 1: Learn about your cause.

“I didn’t know too much about leukemia” explains Jeremy, so he took to the web to find out a bit more. After he educated himself on the cause, he knew he needed to help others in his community understand the challenges leukemia brings. “We had Chase’s mom come to our school and talk about their experience, so everybody could understand what he was going through.”

Step 2: Recruit a team and brainstorm.

Once you’ve got the initial concept and have done the research, it’s helpful to brainstorm with other people who also want to get involved and help. In Jeremy’s case, he turned to Oak Lake’s Student Council and its WE Schools group. “I brought it to them and lots of people suggested great ideas,” he says. “Change for Chase became one of our WE group’s local initiatives.” With the help of the group, they solidified an action plan.

Step 3: Get the word out… officially!

“This was a lot of work” Jeremy sighs. “Our own school has only 100 kids, so we had to contact a bunch of surrounding ones.” Luckily, they were eager to participate. “Each additional school brought one or two teams of eight kids.”

Step 4: Wrangle community sponsorship.

Jeremy got in touch with local suppliers and asked if they were willing to contribute refreshments for the athletes and spectators, on top of collecting items for the silent auction. What helped Jeremy succeed? “More phone calls!” Remember: Don’t be afraid to ask—you’ll find many business owners want to help in their own unique way!

Step 5: Make the event memorable.

An event is made even better when there’s a grand finale! In this case, it was an All-Star game to end the tournament. “We have a junior ‘A’ hockey team in a neighboring town who are really good. Each student team picked one player to make up our All-Star team, and a bunch of players from the Virden Oil Capitals came to challenge us!”

As for Chase? “He’s still at school!” Jeremy beams. “His parents thanked me.”

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