Leading by example: 13 year old Evan Cukier supports Empowerment Squared programs
Evan Cukier is a 13 year old fundraising rock star! He is a student at Gatestone Elementary Public School and recently raised almost $1,000 to support newcomer and marginalized kids to participate in Empowerment Squared’s Sports and Recreation program.
Evan is in grade seven, and his favourite subjects are gym and math because he likes to solve problems and loves being active and playing sports. His favourite basketball players are Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors, and LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers. He appreciates his teacher Miss Gould because she is really kind and calm.
Evan and his mother Abigail sat down with Joana Fejzaj, Empowerment Squared’s Manager of Partnerships and Community Development, for an in-depth conversation over Zoom to learn more about the inspiration behind Evan’s decision to raise money to give newcomer and marginalized kids a chance to play sports, build confidence, and develop skills through soccer and basketball programs activities.
Joana: Evan, what do you like to do for fun?
Evan: For fun, I like playing video games with my friends. Since the pandemic started, I’ve been online a lot more because it’s how I see my friends and it’s fun for all of us to interact together virtually. I also enjoy playing board games and card games with my family. We also love to watch television. Right now we are watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Superstore and Modern Family.
Some people may be wondering if you are a Fortnite or Rocket League fan? Is there a game that you think we should all be playing right now?
I really enjoy playing Madden, NBA 2K and FIFA. For racing games I recommend Forza Horizon and Motorsport. There are also mobile games that are very popular like Among Us – this is a murder mystery game and it’s pretty cool. Mario Kart is fun because you can play with us with eight other players. Just Dance and Rock Band are also fun games to play with family.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you came up with your fundraising idea and what you’ve been doing to raise money?
For my bar mitzvah I have to do a good deed which is a mitzvah project. At first, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and so my mom asked me to research local organizations that I might want to donate to. When I started to do research, I learned how to make a donation online, and different types of fundraisers that I could do as a way to raise money. I wrote down my top five ideas and showed them to my mom. I decided that for my fundraiser I would run two kilometers every day for an entire month, and ask people to support my running by making a donation to Empowerment Squared.
I ran at different times, but every day I ran two kilometers. I am in school from 9:00 AM – 11:20 AM. My first week I ran after school at 3:30 PM, and sometimes I ran during my school breaks. It took me about twelve minutes to run two kilometers. Once we were done, my sister Hannah and I had a quick snack and got back to class.
What was the reaction from your family and friends when you first told them about what you wanted to do?
Everyone in my family was very proud of me because they thought it was a good thing to do because every child should have the same opportunities because they all deserve a chance.
What inspired you to want to give back to your community and to help those around you?
Sometimes I see people on the TV in the hospital and they don’t have enough money for their care and it makes me very sad. It’s upsetting that some people don’t get the same opportunities as others. It’s not fair and everyone deserves a chance.
Abigail, where does Evan get his philanthropic spirit from?
Even at a young age, Evan has been very compassionate and emotionally intelligent and has always been helping others. When I would pick him up from daycare and school, the teachers and other parents would tell me that he was very caring and took care of the other kids. My husband Howard and I support charities, but we have never done anything like what Evan has done in the past few weeks. Since the kids were young, every year they contribute to their Tzedakah, a Hebrew word meaning righteousness, used to signify charity, a part of spiritual life in Judaism. At the end of the year, the money that the kids have saved for charity, Howard and I match it. For us as parents, It’s important for our kids to know that others don’t have what you have. As I’ve gotten older I am realizing that life is not fair, and we don’t all start with the same chances in life. I want both of my children to recognize their privilege and their personal responsibility to help others, and to appreciate what they have.
Evan, what role did your family and friends play in helping you stay on top of your running and achieving your goal?
My family has provided me with so much support! My mom helped me set up the fundraiser and emailed her friends to let them know what I was doing. Mom also helped me learn how to communicate with people like Empowerment Squared, and encouraged my daily run. My sister Hannah ran with me which made the running more fun. My dad was always there to cheer us on and gave us freezies. My friends thought that what I am doing was great.
Why did you decide to support the Sports and Recreation program at Empowerment Squared?
I found Empowerment Squared’s website when I was searching the internet and I thought that the website was very fun and positive. I liked that Empowerment Squared has a lot of after school programs. They looked like good programs and your staff look nice! I wanted to support the Sports and Recreation program because I love sports and also because it helps children build confidence and every child should have an opportunity to play sports and participate in activities. So I decided to email the Executive Director Leo Johnson, and I told him my age and what I wanted to do and he got back to me right away and connected me to Lisa-Marie who helped me set up the fundraiser. That’s how I got started!
What do you know about the young people and the families that we support?
I know that you help refugees and newcomers who come to Hamilton and that sometimes they can’t speak the language. You help them with learning how to read and write and I think that’s a really good thing to do. It’s sad that some people have to leave their country and go somewhere else, but it’s good that you help them so they know what to do when they come to Canada.
What do you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
You should research and learn more about things that are happening and figure out how you can help. You have to set your mind to what you want to do and once you do, tell your friends and family so they can help you. You can do small things like picking up garbage at the park, you can help by making a donation to a hospital, help at your school, or like what I did, run and raise money to help kids play sports.
This interview will be shared with the wonderful people in our community. Is there anything that you would like to say to all the people that have supported your fundraising efforts?
I would like to say that you supporting me got me to where I am. Thank you to all of you for thinking of me and supporting me through your donations and also for your inspiration and believing in me. Particularly my uncle, his text messages reminded me to keep going and to have a good run. You are all very kind and generous.
What has this experience taught you?
This experience has taught me how good it feels to help others. I learned the process to donate online and how to communicate what I am doing through email. I also learned how to talk about my idea and that if you set your mind to something you can accomplish it.
To learn more about the work we do at Empowerment Squared or to follow in Evan’s footsteps and support opportunities for newcomer and marginalized youth, you can make a donation online or reach out to the Empowerment Squared team.