A warm drink on a chilly December day: They’re calling it the ‘Hot Chocolate Stand for Hope.’
“People come here and they get a smile on their face hopefully and it makes their day a bit better having a warm cup of hot chocolate for a good cause,” said Maia Bell-McLenan, a 15-year-old who has organized an annual hot chocolate fundraiser for the last eight years.
This year, Bell-McLenan is raising money to send girls in developing countries to school. Neighbours are able to swing by, grab a cup of hot chocolate and donate as much as they would like.
“People can pay like, I don’t know, 10 cents to like $20,” said Bell-McLenan. “If people are, let’s say, walking [by] and they don’t have money, we’d still invite them to have hot chocolate… money isn’t the whole thing, it’s more about the giving back part.”
Each year, Bell-McLenan raises money for a different cause, from water pumps to tetanus shots. When she first began the tradition, she was only seven years old.
“We were walking to school and she’d seen the Plan Canada book that said buy water for a school and she didn’t understand, why would we buy water for a school?” said Angelika McLenan, her mother. “So I explained that we’re pretty blessed here to have water and she said ‘well, I want to buy water.'”
So she did.
“My mom was like you don’t have the money to get it, and I was like, I’m going to raise the money to get it,” Bell-McLenan recalled.
Over the years, Bell-McLenan has raised more than $6,000. Now, at 15-years-old, it’s time for her to hand over the reins to the younger generation. This year, Bell-McLenan let her 11-year-old friend, Annika Akeroyd, choose the cause and is teaching her how to run the stand.
“I think it’s something I want to do because well I mean, once you get to see other people and get to give them things, but also you’re raising money for a really good cause,” Akeroyd said. “And that’s, I mean, when you’re able to help out other people it feels really nice.”
Akeroyd and Bell-McLenan raised $885 this year and hope to raise even more next year.