There are so many non profits in our city doing great things, and I Can for Kids is one of them.
I Can for Kids is helping hungry kids in Calgary get the food they need during the summer – a time when many young people in need don’t have access to the resources that keep their tummies full during the school year. Their mission is amazing, but for me the coolest part about I Can For Kids is that it was co-founded by a girl who is the same age as me! Sutton is 13, and she started I Can For Kids with her mom, Bobbi! How cool is that?
I was lucky enough to have the chance to sit down with Sutton and Bobbi to learn a little bit more about I Can For Kids.
Girlville: Describe how I Can For Kids works.
Sutton: I Can For Kids is a volunteer-run organization that provides non-perishable food to children in need. We work with partner agencies to find kids that aren’t getting enough to eat, and then get those kids our food packs. Our food packs include three meals and two snacks and include items like macaroni and cheese, canned meat, soup, ramen, fruit bars, canned fruit and more.
GV: What inspired you to start Can For Kids?
S: My mom and I started I Can for Kids in 2015. We were watching the news one day and there was a story about kids going hungry during the summer in the United States. My mom and I wondered if we had the same problem in Calgary. We did some research and found out that it was an issue and that no one was able to help these kids for more than a few days. Our research also found that when kids go hungry for the summer, it can have a serious impact on their physical and emotional health and delay their academic performance by up to two months. Once we learned this, we knew we couldn’t turn away, so we came up with a plan and here we are today!
GV: What was your experience with volunteering before starting I Can for Kids?
S: Since Grade 4 I’ve been raising money to help people live better, healthier lives. I’ve raised money for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, helping to purchase equipment for the nurses to learn how to handle emergency situations with premature babies. I’ve raised money for the Intensive Care Unit to purchase a bed chair so a sick patient’s loved one can stay with them in their room. I also had many years in Girl Guides and lead fundraising activities at my school for a variety of local and international charities like Make A Wish, Inn from the Cold and Me to We Foundation.
Bobbi: Sutton has always been sensitive to people in need. It’s part of who she is! That, along with seeing me work in non profit roles, is part of what has always driven her to help her community.
GV: What challenges have you encountered as I Can For Kids has grown?
S: The first challenge was finding the kids we needed to help during the summer. When kids are in school it’s much easier to give them a lunch, but in the summer it’s harder to reach them. So we created a network of agency partners to help us get to the hungriest kids all over the city.
Also, when we started, not everyone was supportive of our idea. They thought it would be too hard or that parents should be more responsible for their kids. But we know that parents do the best they can to support their kids and going hungry isn’t a choice, it’s the result of hard times. We knew we could make a difference and didn’t let anyone deter us from it.
GV: What amazing things have you encountered on your journey?
S: I’m amazed by how kind and generous people are. We have met a lot of wonderful people who are always willing to lend a hand to help anyone who needs it. It’s also incredible how a simple gesture of kindness can make a big impact on people who need help. The kids we help are always so excited to see us, and that makes me feel really good.
GV: What has surprised you?
S: There are a lot more people in need than I ever imagined. Sometimes we drive into neighbourhoods that looked really nice, and then there’s this one little area of poverty. You might think that the need is just in certain areas of the city, but it’s everywhere.
GV: What barriers have you faced as a younger leader and how have you navigated them?
S: There have been some people who didn’t think a kid like me could make a difference, that I was too young or too inexperienced. So I turned what they thought was my disadvantage, to my advantage! Because I’m younger, I bring a different point of view, and a lot of people actually listen to me because of that. Anyone can make a difference, age has nothing to do with it. As long as you care enough, people who love you and believe in you will get behind you and help.
GV: Describe how it’s been to work with your mom on I Can for Kids.
S: It’s been amazing, and it’s brought us closer together. We have always been close and that probably made it easier to do this because we don’t often argue. We have the same beliefs in things such as helping out in the community.
My mom’s not for profit work is what inspired me to volunteer. Her encouraging words and advice have kept us going through this journey. Her positive attitude and optimism have fueled me to push for what I believe is right and to not give up even though it might be frustrating and not everyone will believe in me at first.
GV: What do you like to do when you’re not working on I Can for Kids?
S: In my spare time I love to do things outdoors. I also play volleyball and the flute. I like to hang out with my friends as well, and some of them have gotten involved with I Can For Kids, which has been really fun!
GV: What are your hopes for I Can for Kids going forward?
S: I want to give every child the opportunity to reach their full potential. It’s the situation they’re in that holds them back, not who they are. That’s why we need to come together as a community. To be the voice of those who are not seen or heard. Without judgement, to show them we care.
For many kids, going hungry is a way of life. But hunger shouldn’t define their future. Not here, not now, when we have so much to share. That’s why we work so hard. A food pack to you and me may be just another meal, but to a hungry child, you’re helping them to feel valued and protected. Every child deserves that, no matter what.
We hope to keep feeding kids as long as they need our help. That’s the most important thing. Their future depends on it.
GV: What would you say to other girls who are looking for ways to make a difference?
S: Don’t give up. Stay true to what you believe in and don’t let anyone stand in your way of doing what’s right. You can make a difference. You don’t have to start a non-profit like we did, even small acts of kindness can go a long way.
Thanks so much for chatting with us, Sutton and Bobbi! You can learn more about I Can For Kids and how you can help them end summer hunger on their website.