|Sophia Gran-Ruaz's charity work comes from the heart. The 17-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., last week won a teen philanthropy search. (QMI/Dave Thomas)
TORONTO -- Mississauga's Sophia Gran-Ruaz knows how good it feels to help homeless children because she was once in their tough position.
The Grade 12 John Cabot student found out last week she won Canada's Top Teen Philanthropy Search for her work on Snug As a Bug, Kids Helping Kids, which gives care packages to kids up to 16 staying at GTA homeless shelters.
"It was just walking down the street and knowing they have a home and you don't, was hard for me," Gran-Ruaz, 17, recalled. "I decided I was going to places like Toys R Us and Chapters and ask them to donate. It was hard at the beginning because they didn't take me seriously at first."
The donated care packages include books, stuffed animals, puzzles, playing cards, magazines and toiletries.
STAYED AT SHELTER
Shelters in the Toronto-area usually get about 3,000 packages a year from Gran-Ruaz's organization.
She was only 10 months old when her mother ran into a bout of homelessness and stayed at a shelter. When she was 10, she interviewed homeless people on the streets. At 11, she began the Snug As a Bug charity because she found out she had to be 18 to volunteer.
As winner of the philanthropy award, Gran-Ruaz also received $5,000 to donate to Hockey for the Homeless and $1,000 towards the cost of university. She hopes to study biomedical science at the University of Ottawa.
"I'm really honoured and I'm glad to hear that despite what you hear on the news, people are really good-hearted and willing to help out people in need," she said.
Brad Offman, the vice-president of strategic philanthropy of Mackenzie Investments, said Gran-Ruaz was chosen out of 100 entries based on her sincere application.
"What really jumped off the page at the end of the day was her sincerity," he said. "She was so humble and not only was she doing so much, she was doing it for the right reasons."
That sits just fine with Gran-Ruaz.
"It's been such a rough year for us with the charity, so any publicity we can get for the charity is good for us," she said.