If it feels better to give than to get, Veronica Gonzalez is about to have a very happy birthday.
For her 30th, which is on August 26, Gonzalez started a 30-day fundraiser to give 30 new backpacks to students in the Kick Start after-school program at Crescent Town.
Two weeks in, Gonzalez was just one backpack short of her 30-backpack goal.
Encouraged by the response, and after learning that Neighbourhood Link’s Kick Start program usually draws 60 students in the school year, Gonzalez decided to double her goal.
“What’s really exciting is that I’ve been getting donations from complete strangers,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
Each backpack will come with a lunch box, water bottle, pencil case, school supplies and a $10 gift card inside.
As it happens, each one costs $30.
As a banker at RBC, it’s no surprise that Gonzalez is handy with numbers, even the somewhat dreaded number 30.
But one reason she is excited to help people who struggle with the cost of school supplies is that she remembers what it’s like.
Growing up in North York as the youngest of four kids in a single-parent home, Gonzalez said money was often tight.
In the school cafeteria, that showed.
Other kids teased Gonzalez for having water instead of a juice box, or for bringing her sandwiches in an empty milk bag instead of a Ziplock.
Embarrassed, Gonzalez starting eating her lunch in a washroom stall.
If friends asked where she had eaten her lunch, she would say she’d eaten it quickly, or earlier.
“I didn’t ever want anyone to feel sorry for me, and I don’t to this day,” she said.
All in all, Gonzalez said, her childhood felt normal and happy to her.
She gives kudos to her mom, who immigrated to Canada, raised four kids, learned English, and found time to help out fellow newcomers – something that inspired Gonzalez to volunteer for the United Way, which connected her with the Crescent Town Kick Start program this summer.
With a little more than a week to go, Gonzales is thinking about adding a little note in each backpack, and what she might say.
“I want these kids to feel like everybody else,” she said. “I just think you have a different life story to tell.”
To find out more, visit Veronica’s 30 for $30 in 30 Facebook page.
Donations can be made by email transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by selecting the campaign from the drop-down menu of Neighbourhood Link’s donations page on Canada Helps.