By Lisa Rutledge
For the Post
Most youths don’t need to be prompted to step up to help their own family and friends. But choosing to go the extra mile to help a complete stranger doesn’t always come as instinctively.
Reaching out to help someone unknown is a lesson worth learning, because it’s an important part of character building, explains Sheila Weidinger, a business teacher at Huron Heights Secondary School.
Every year her Grade 11 marketing students and Grade 12 business leadership students team up to help a family in the region suffering hardships.
The teens are tasked with choosing a benefactor family and developing and executing a fundraising plan to raise money.
The only stipulation is that there are no ties to the recipient family.
“Our focus is trying to help a family with no connections and make their life a little easier,” Weidinger said.
After reading the heart-breaking story of Cambridge mother Laura Gouzecky, featured in the Cambridge Times in September, students didn’t have to think long when choosing a family.
Gouzecky had not one, but two brushes with death in the last two years.
After overcoming major complications with the pregnancy of her premature son Michael, the Cambridge mother and husband Shawn were on the road to a normal life when it was discovered Gouzecky had a brain tumour.
She underwent a successful surgery to remove the tumour and is now in the ninth of 28 follow-up radiation treatments.
While a family that has suffered so much tragedy made for an obvious choice, it was Gouzecky’s positive outlook that was most inspiring, explained Weidinger.
“For all the hardships, they’re just so happy.”
The family has visited the Kitchener school to meet students and share her story.
Gouzecky said she is touched by the students’ generosity.
“It’s so sweet,” she said. “It makes you feel warm and fuzzy.”
Students have collected nearly 250 items worth an estimated $16,000 for the silent auction. Items include an Olympic poster, Taylor Swift tickets, a home security system, gift baskets, gift certificates and signed jerseys.
The Cambridge community also came to the Gouzecky family’s aid last September, holding a fundraiser at the Newfoundland Club.
Donations helped offset heavy debt caused by the loss of income when Shawn had to quit his job to care for his wife, as well as to pay for expensive formula for their premature son, and the travel costs of daily commutes for medical appointments.