Ontario Teen wins Canada's Top Teen Philanthropy Search

Helping 10,000 children living in shelters, Sophia Gran-Ruaz stands out from an impressive group of young philanthropists

TORONTO, Dec. 29 /CNW/ - Sophia Gran-Ruaz will celebrate the New Year by directing $5,000 to a registered charity after being named "Canada's Top Teen Philanthropist" in Mackenzie Investments' second annual national search. The 17-year-old Mississauga, Ont. resident won for her work with Snug as a Bug, Kids Helping Kids, an organization she founded when she was 11 years old, and currently runs from the living room in her family home.

As Canada's Top Teen Philanthropist of 2009, Sophia receives a $5,000 donation, made in her name, to Hockey for the Homeless, a volunteer-driven charitable organization dedicated to ending homelessness in Canada through fundraising and education. She also personally receives $1,000, which will go towards her savings for post-secondary education. The five runners-up will also be rewarded with a $500 donation to the charity of their choice.

"Some of Canada's greatest philanthropic acts come from Canada's youngest citizens," says Brad Offman, Vice President, Strategic Philanthropy, Mackenzie Investments. "The personal drive, dedication and creativity shown by teens, proves that a simple act by one person can ignite the passion and support of many."

Snug as a Bug, Kids Helping Kids

At 10 years old, while writing a speech on homelessness, Sophia conducted research by interviewing people living on the streets. That encounter on a cold January morning had a huge impact on Sophia, and she was inspired to help children her age who were living in shelters. She started by asking for donations, and quickly learned not to take "no" for an answer. Today, Sophia's organization provides care packages for kids in shelters that include new toys, books, clothes and school supplies.

"Each 'no' only made me want to work harder for a 'yes'," says Sophia. "Being 11, I was not plagued by thoughts of failure or rejection. It wasn't long before things started to snowball. This award is an example of how, with a little persistence, we can give back to the community."

Canada's teen philanthropists give the most

According to a poll done in support of the second annual search for Canada's Top Teen Philanthropist, young people lead all other age groups in their desire to help the less fortunate. Wanting to "help the community in which they live" continues to be the strongest motivator for teens to support a charity, followed closely by the "desire to make the world a better place." Meeting school requirements was rated the third most important motivator.

Candidates were judged on a number of factors, including: the breadth of their volunteering and fundraising efforts, their leadership and creativity, their hands-on involvement in their philanthropic pursuits, the length and level of their involvement and the impact on their community and their charity.

Mackenzie also awarded five runners-up with $500 each for their charity of choice:

    -   Andrei Bitan, age 17, Burlington, Ont: In the last three years,
        Andrei has supported the New Mentality, a provincial project made up
        of youth who promote mental health awareness within their local
        communities. Andrei developed grant proposals and received $5,000 in
        funding, initiated an advertising campaign, built a network of young
        people and developed presentations and focus groups for community
        organizations and schools.

    -   Darren Cole, age 15, Toronto: From filling 10,000 backpacks with
        school supplies to sorting food at the local food bank, Darren has
        been helping people in need since he was six years old. In Grade 9,
        Darren took his efforts further by creating TOPS for Teens, raising
        money for his school, and just over a year ago, created the group
        Kids Against Canadian Hunger, which encourages local schools to raise
        money for Food Banks Canada.

    -   Jeneece Edroff, age 15, Victoria: A finalist for the second
        consecutive year, Jeneece was born with a genetic condition called
        neurofibromatosis, and in just over eight years, has raised more than
        $1.25 million for Variety, The Children's Charity, through an annual
        penny drive. In October 2008, the Jeneece Edroff Society was founded
        to continue her efforts.

    -   Jenna Lambert, age 18, Harrowsmith, Ont: Born with cerebral palsy,
        Jenna joined Y Knot Abilities, a program that adapts sports for
        children with physical disabilities and their able-bodied siblings.
        Wanting to share the experiences and help others find joy in sports,
        Jenna swam across Lake Ontario when she was 15, raising $240,000.
        Since then, Jenna has inspired many in her community to raise funds
        for her cause and in September raised awareness for Y Knot in Ottawa
        by completing a 270 km ultra-triathlon.

    -   Seb Roberts, age 19, Vancouver:  Seb founded Bavubuka All* Sports
        as part of the Bavubuka Foundation, a program that connects youth
        with recreation to transform lives and unify diverse communities.
        Since 2006, Seb has collected and raised funds to help distribute
        more than 2,000 pounds of sports equipment and clothing.

Along with Jane Wu (2008's winner), a panel of high profile individuals selected this year's winner and finalists. They included: Craig Keilberger, founder of Free The Children; Monica Patten, President and Chief Executive Officer, Community Foundation of Canada; Danielle Silverstein, Executive Director, Jays Care Foundation; Carlos Bustamante, Host, YTV's The Zone; and Brad Offman, Vice President, Strategic Philanthropy, Mackenzie Investments.

For more information about the search and finalists, go to www.mackenziefinancial.com/teen.

About the survey:

The Mackenzie survey results are based on a Youthography national online survey conducted from July 22 to August 4, 2009. The final sample consisted of 533 respondents; total sample is accurate 19 times out of 20: +/- 4.25%.

More information on charitable giving and the Mackenzie Charitable Giving Fund, which allows you to leave a legacy of giving, can be found at www.mackenziefinancial.com/giving.

Mackenzie Investments: Mackenzie Investments was founded in 1967 and is a leading investment management firm providing investment advisory and related services. With $62.6 billion in assets under management as of November 30, 2009, Mackenzie Investments distributes its services through a diversified network of third-party financial advisors. Mackenzie Investments is a member of the IGM Financial Inc. (TSX: IGM) group of companies. IGM Financial is one of Canada's premier financial services companies with over $118 billion in total assets under management as of November 30, 2009.

SOURCE Mackenzie Financial Corporation

For further information: For further information: Trish Tervit, Environics Communications, (416) 969-2809, ttervit@environicspr.com

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