The 2016 DAREarts Leadership Awards Triumphs Human Spirit

The 2016 DAREarts Leadership Awards was a remarkable evening at The Carlu, hosted by Jeanne Beker that raised over $325,000 for DAREarts empowering at-risk kids and brought young people from around the world to celebrate 20 years.  Six youths were recognized for exercising the DAREarts values of Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence in their lives.  The students spoke from the heart.

Setting the stage, Prime Minister Trudeau sent a video message to the youths and DAREarts.  He said, “… Never underestimate the power of art.  It inspires us, it challenges us, it can push us to be better, or shock us into action. It can be beautiful, it can be angry, it can even be both at the same time. But mostly, it can change the world.”

Ryan Durham-Sanca, 18, was introduced by Mark LeBlanc for Northbridge Insurance. Ryan won against countless moves, family addiction problems and ADHD. He volunteers at DAREarts’ summer camps, is graduating from high school, plans to go to Police College, and can’t wait to someday be the best dad ever. “DAREarts helped me make friends, find myself and smile. At DAREarts, I realized I had a choice in how I acted and a responsibility to be my best self.” 

Taelor Heather Licardo, 15, introduced by Yanzhi Chen for Scotiabank, is originally from Serpent River First Nation. Before DAREarts, she was in the principal’s office daily for bullying. Because of DAREarts’ emphasis on Respect, she is now a role model at school, a Master Corporal in Cadets, and aims to be a police officer or a lawyer. “My passion is to make sure that DAREarts is within me all day every day.”

Delenn Kershaw, 15, introduced by Alan Convery for TD, explained how DAREARTS helped her tackle depression that began when her dad died and encouraged us all accept mental illness as something that can be overcome. “This program should be available to all young people across Canada and in the Territories, so that they don’t turn to a life of crime or hurt themselves.”

Dante Scholar, 17, introduced by Judy and Derek Patina, is looking forward to attending Humber College next year, but he often cannot afford bus tickets to school. He loves sports, mentors younger DAREarts kids and dreams of being a lawyer. “I want to do pro bono work and help the community.”  Before he started DAREarts in gr. 6, his anger frequently landed him in the principal’s office. “DAREarts gave me a better outlook. Instead of feeling bad about being different, I learned not being like others actually makes me a better leader.”

Djordje Lukic, 17, was introduced by Jonathan Stephenson for Guy Carpenter. Originally from Serbia, Djordje overcame anxiety, achieved self-discipline and discovered his identity as an artist through DAREarts. He has been accepted into the Paris School of Art in France next year.  DAREarts taught me that I can control my life and that I can take action and work very hard to change it for the better.”

Jada Sofea, 15, from the northern First Nation of Webequie could not attend and so Kaitlyn Ferris and Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon read her speech. A straight-A student, Jada is taking charge of her own destiny by moving to Thunder Bay to complete high school, go to Lakehead University and become a lawyer. Her passion is hockey!  “DAREarts provides the kids in our community variety, exposure to new things and a chance for us to learn and work as a team.”

Senator Murray Sinclair, introduced by DAREarts Founder Marilyn Field, was also honoured for leading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He spoke to the youth: …”You will face those times when you will wonder whether or not this is the thing that you really should be doing….  Just remember that there are people who have been there before you and learn from them.  Learn what it means to be true to yourself – and to live in balance with all that you bring to this world.”  He then reminded us all that we must provide opportunities for our young people, because opportunities – especially when life is hard – provide hope.

To celebrate DAREarts’ 20th birthday, auctioneer, Matthew Penstone presented a special ‘Birthday DARE’ for folks to sponsor a child at $1,000.   Twenty-eight generous individuals took that challenge!  Other auction items helped raise another $43,000 – from Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland to Canoe North’s trip on the Yukon to Northbridge’s box at the Air Canada Centre to Air Canada’s flight simulator to painted paddles by artist Gerda Neubacher and Charles Pachter.

Since 1996, DAREarts’ unique approach of using the arts to empower at-risk kids has unlocked the potential of over 200,000 youth.  By engaging in hands-on arts workshops, they develop confidence, courage and leadership skills to ignite change in their lives with hope for their future. Be sure to read this captivating ‘Huffington Post’ story by a first-year grad.

Enjoy CBC Radio’s Mother’s Day interview with founder Marilyn Field and grad Dante Scholar.

DAREarts’ work is made possible through partnerships with many leading Canadian corporations, artists, arts organizations and educators across the country. We are especially grateful to Northbridge Insurance for supporting DAREarts nationally, and to lead sponsors, Scotiabank, TD Bank Group and the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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