Avery and Rowan Parkinson are two sisters on a mission to make Ottawa a better place – a mission that started with a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis and a belief in the power of sandwiches.
When the girls’ grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Rowan, who is now in Grade 9 at Elmwood School, committed herself to raising both awareness and funds for research into the disease.
For her part, Avery – now in Grade 6 at Elmwood - was particularly moved by the cause of homelessness in Ottawa. So, she set about making hundreds of sandwiches for the residents of The Shepherds of Good Hope and the Ottawa Mission
Out of these small acts of empathy and generosity was born the idea for a non-profit organization called the MapleWishes Foundation, where the motto is “Inspiring one another to leave positive and enduring footsteps in our wake.” Through the foundation, the girls fundraise, volunteer their time and motivate their peers to support eleven distinct causes in the Ottawa area and beyond.
In addition to their commitment to raise $50,000 for the Parkinson’s Research Consortium at the Ottawa Hospital and to providing food to The Shepherds of Good Hope and Ottawa Mission some of the other projects supported by the MapleWishes Foundation include QUAIL House – a home in Chelsea for developmentally-challenged adults; More Bees Please, which aims to help restore the bee population in the Ottawa area; and Bookmarked, which builds and renews the collections of local libraries.
The girls are also deeply committed to diversity and to providing a welcoming environment to Ottawa’s immigrant youth through the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization Youth Program, known as Yociso. “We want to ensure that Canada is as open to immigrants as it was to our grandparents,” says Avery.
“Giving back to the community has been an underlying theme of our family,” says Rowan. “Our grandfather’s Parkinson’s diagnosis emphasized it, but we were always taught to help other people in need.
“As citizens in general – and as kids – we have a responsibility to help the community we live in,” she adds. “It’s essential to be dedicated to a cause bigger than yourself, to help make the world we’re going to live in better for everyone.”
“In the short term, doing things for the community makes us feel very good,” says Avery. “But it’s also nice to know that we might be inspiring others to do work that’s important to them,” she concludes. “It’s nice just to know that we’re helping people.”