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Local youth wins award for philanthropy

Jayden Polgrabia wants every child to be able to go to summer camp

Jayden Polgrabia, a 13-year-old student at St. Michael Catholic Elementary School, is being given an Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy award in recognition of his fundraising for FACS Niagara.

Over the last several years, Jayden, with his sister Kaitlyn and friends, has helped organize a lemonade stand, which then grew to become an annual regional LemonAid Day, to help children served by FACS attend weeklong day camps or overnight camps outside the region.

The award is given by the Golden Horseshoe Chapter of The Association of Fundraising Professionals, and is intended to recognize “service by an individual aged 10 to 23 who demonstrates outstanding commitment to the community through direct financial support, development of charitable programs, volunteering, and leadership in philanthropy,” says a news release announcing Jayden’s award, which came as a result of a nomination by FACS.

Jayden told The Local he is happy to help with LemonAid events and raise money, “but it’s really nice to be recognized for doing it,” he adds. 

An experience this summer reinforces why he likes helping. “I went to sleepover camp this summer, and I was in activities with one boy,” he says. “I got to know him really well. We were in a sailboat all day together. He told me he was sponsored to come to camp. Obviously, I didn’t say anything, but it made me wonder if I sent him to camp, and it made me really understand how important this program is. Not every kid just gets to go to camp.”

On this year’s LemonAid Day, he says, “I had two friends with me. We got to hang out for the day and customers came and we sold lots of lemonade.”

And he loved doing it. “I love helping by raising money for people in need. I always try to find ways to help every day.”

His mother, Caroline Polgrabia, who admits to being pretty proud of him, originally helped turn the fundraiser into an annual event, but says Jayden didn’t need any pushing to be part of it — it’s who he is.

He talks of being a firefighter like his father when he grows up, “and he’s just 13, so he could change his mind a million times before then,” she adds, but she wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him choose a future that involves helping others.

Jayden has also played an active role in Mountainview LemonAID Day by raising awareness and encouraging participation in the event, even appearing before local municipal councils and mayors, and being part of radio, television and print media interviews.

In 2023, more than 100 families registered to be part of Mountainview LemonAID Day, raising more than $100,000 and funding more than 500 weeks of camp for local children served by FACS Niagara. Jayden and his family were among the top three fundraising teams this year.