He only just celebrated his bar mitzvah last week, but 13-year-old Zachary Winkler is a seasoned philanthropist, having raised $11,000 in his annual Do Something Sweet fundraiser.
Every November since he was six years old, Winkler has invited people to his Thornhill home for a street party to raise funds for the Hospital for Sick Children.
“We have a silent auction, balloon animals, face painting, cotton candy and inflatable games,” Winkler said.
“We do it the first Sunday every November and every year we try to raise more money than we did the year before.”
Winkler said that he was inspired to raise money for Sick Kids when he came across a newspaper article about a little girl who had a brain tumour.
“I didn’t know who she was, but I asked if I could raise money and my parents said, ‘sure,’” he recalled.
“I wanted to raise money in general and I asked my dad if there was a hospital for sick children, and he said, ‘Yes, that’s what it’s called.”
In its first year, Do Something Sweet pulled in $515, but every year the event has grown in size and scope.
“It started on my parents’ driveway, but since the fourth or fifth year, we’ve also used our neighbours’ driveways for the silent auction and the inflatable games,” Winkler said, adding that this year, between 400-500 people turned out for the event and he surpassed his $10,000 goal by a little more than $1,000.
He explained that he came up with his $10,000 goal after having visited the Sick Kids website that has a kind of wish list for electronics and machines that the hospital needs.
“We saw that for $10,000, you could get a machine called a Snoezelen Therapy machine. It’s for kids with autism mostly. It helps them relax and lights flash everywhere and it plays music.”
Richard Winkler, Zachary’s father, explained that the machine
his son raised money for enables the kids to enjoy light, sound, and video imaging, to keep
young patients distracted during medical procedures.
“Needless to say we are very proud of him. He is extremely humble about his initiative and to date he has raised just over $40,000,” he said.
Winkler was also awarded the 2009 Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year Award for his fundraising efforts, and last year, Sick Kids named him the top individual fundraiser in the under-18 category.
“The hospital has just informed me that after tabulating all donations from kids events in the year 2013, he has just won this award from the hospital for the second consecutive year,” his father said.
Winkler, who was inspired by his late grandfather who led by example by donating to many charities, said he has every intention of keeping his annual fundraiser going indefinitely.
“Generally, it’s never good for a kid to be in the hospital and I think if you know someone who is, it’s terrible and it’s always good to help.”