TORONTO — Shane Feldman, a teen who is no stranger to the concept of tikkun olam, hopes the Count Me In Conference he founded will inspire his peers to “get off their butts” and give back.
It may be hard to believe that the 17-year-old Westmount Collegiate senior has experience in this area, but Feldman’s May 1 event, held at the Living Arts Centre, was his second attempt at inspiring members of his generation to volunteer and promote positive change.
Last year, Feldman led a one-day event called the World Youth Conference that attracted some 400 Ontario students and teachers.
“Last year was a pilot event to test the water,” Feldman said, adding that he decided to rebrand the initiative with a new name: Count Me In Conference (CMIC).
“We’ve grown from about 400 youths from certain areas in Ontario to over 1,000 from all over Ontario, and it’s growing into a national event over the next few years, so we’re looking at some exciting things ahead. The Ontario Ministry of Education supports our endeavours, so that’s also really exciting for us.”
Some of the speakers and performers at the four-hour event included Shut Up and Dance singer Victoria Duffield, Life With Derek actress Ashley Leggat, 11-year-old dancer and semifinalist on Canada’s Got Talent Shale Wagman, as well as Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten, and motivational speaker Andy Thibodeau.
“The other part of the event is an hour-long charity marketplace, which is essentially a trade show with non-profits and NGOs and charities from all over the province with the aim of getting students to sign up and volunteer,” Feldman said.
“A lot of times you’ll get that motivational speech, and then you go on your way, but we actually hold their hand through the process and make sure there is that tangible way for them to take this inspiration to get involved and actually do it.”
He said more than 30 charities and NGOs made up the marketplace, including the Jewish National Fund.
“Everything comes down to getting kids off their butts and involve them in whatever way they want to.”
He added that this event is about getting your hands dirty, not donating money.
“We’re trying to get away from the mentality of putting money in a jar, versus using your two hands and getting involved in the community,” said Feldman, who volunteers with a number of NGOs, including Pencils of Promise and Invisible Children.
The event, run entirely by student volunteers and sponsored in part by TD Bank and Fabricland, has also partnered with WoW Living TV to air an hour-long webcast featuring highlights from the conference and backstage footage.
The webcast will go live on May 8 at 8 p.m. at www.cmiMovement.com.