Taylor Kelly, a 16-year-old high-school student, stands behind a table in the slanting afternoon sun. She fiddles with the clutch of rainbow charms around her neck, keeping a sidelong eye on the dozens of paper pouches which line the table.
She points to the far left, at one she decorated with a punky pirate skull and a plume of yellow and orange feathers. Each one is designed by hand. No two are alike.
Kelly and a handful of her friends are selling condom pouches at the Scotiabank AIDS Walk for Life, held in Ottawa Sep 20.
“HIV and AIDS get put on the backburner in Canada, so it’s good to bring awareness to it,” she says.
Kelly is a regular at Pink Triangle Youth, one of the stops that a cardboard-wielding team of youth educators made in the lead-up to Walk for Life.
Sonja Prakash works for the Youth Services Bureau.
“Each one is in a different style; they’re all individual,” she says.
The impetus of the project was getting condoms into young people’s hands to make them more comfortable with them — and using the craft to leverage discussion, she says.
Andrea Poncia agrees. She also says it’s nice to bring younger activists like Kelly to events with people of other generations.
“We find it’s a good way to get youth involved,” says Poncia.
Kelly and crew helped Scotiabank AIDS Walk for Life top $100,000 in donations this year.
Pledges and donations like those made through the condom pouch stand are a part of that success. The biggest single piece of the puzzle was the work of real estate broker Bill Renaud, says Bruce House’s Martha Scott.
The $500-a-ticket Ruby Ribbon benefit, hosted by Renaud, raised $31,000 in one night. The event underwrites the administrative costs associated with Walk for Life, so that pledges go directly to the eight local charities the walk supports:
- Bruce House (sponsoring agency)
- AIDS Committee of Ottawa
- Hemophilia Ontario
- Pink Triangle Services
- Planned Parenthood of Ottawa-Carleton
- Snowy Owl AIDS Foundation
- Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health and
- Youth Services Bureau.
In 2007, pledged support for the Ottawa walk was about $75,000.
Meanwhile, Scott is happy to see youth — including Taylor Kelly and her friends — more involved than previous years, after co-op students from Lisgar high school helped pull together half a dozen teams from area schools.
“We made youth a priority this year,” she says. “We try to get young people involved every year, sometimes with more success than at other times.”
Michael Burtch raised the most through individual pledges — over $4,000 — and his team, Team Move Your Feet, was the highest grossing team, at just over $7,000, according to online tally’s on the event’s website.
Jay Koornstra of Bruce House and his team were the next biggest pledgers, with a team total of $6,366 and Koornstra turning in online pledges totaling $2,480.