Aaliyah Gallant-Barons, Niko Kremmydiotis, and Cole Hayward

When a disease like ALS strikes, people often rally around their loved ones and resolve to make a difference. The realities of the disease are such that every member of the family is impacted — including children and youth — inspiring them to take action for a future without ALS.

ALS Canada is fortunate to have volunteers who contribute to the organization in meaningful ways, which includes donating their time and talents to fundraising for research and community-based support. The contributions of young fundraisers in communities across the province do not go unnoticed. For National Volunteer Week, we are sharing the stories of three young fundraisers for ALS Canada: Aaliyah Gallant-Barons, Niko Kremmydiotis, and Cole Hayward.

Aaliyah Gallant-Barons

Ten-year-old Aaliyah Gallant-Barons is one of the youngest fundraisers at her local WALK for ALS in London, Ontario. In fact, in 2017 she was the second largest WALK for ALS fundraiser in the community, raising just under $10,000. Over the last three years, she has raised over $20,000 for ALS research and community-based support, all in memory of her grandfather, Ed Rossol.

“My Papa was so brave and dealt with ALS with dignity, courage, determination and his great sense of humour,” Aaliyah says. “I loved him very much and he loved me. He was my hero!”

To reach her goal for the WALK for ALS, Aaliyah, at the age of 7, converted her Papa’s garden shed into an art studio and sold her Art for ALS. The following year she had a garage sale and has written a song for a music fundraiser using a guitar her grandfather gave her. This year, she plans on developing a virtual lemonade stand video in hopes of reaching corporate donors to help support her fundraising efforts.

“Every night I think about my Papa and I always say to myself that I will reach my goals and find a cure for ALS to help others and their loved ones. I believe one day we will find a cure.”

For all of her efforts, Aaliyah was presented with a Canada 150 Award in the category of youth/students that have made extraordinary contributions in their community through responsible actions, leadership and innovative thinking.

“Aaliyah is an amazing, dedicated girl,” says Charlene Spector, ALS Canada Regional Manager for South West and Grey-Bruce. “The love of her grandpa is an obvious drive to her success.”

Niko Kremmydiotis

In lieu of birthday gifts, eight-year-old Niko started fundraising for ALS Canada in memory of his grandmother, Yiayia Asimina. His initial goal was to raise at least $300 — but in just four months, he raised a a little over $2,100.

Age does not have to be a barrier to fundraising and making an impact. Along with completing his own version of the Ice Bucket Challenge, Niko also presented his fundraising mission to his class and teachers, and set up a station at a local fitness studio to sell bookmarks he created with the help of his mom and dad. His fundraising efforts even travelled with him over the summer, as he brought his bookmarks on vacation to sell to family and friends.

“This has been such a learning experience for him and for all of us,” shares his mother, Katerina. “Fundraising for ALS Canada has forced him to step out of his comfort zone, discovering that he could do a lot more than what he gave himself credit for. We are so proud of him!”

Cole Hayward

When Cole Hayward was just two years old, he lost his father, Jake, to ALS. At such a young age, he started walking with “Team Hayward” at the London WALK for ALS – it was from that point forward that ALS became his cause of choice and he started fundraising to make a difference for others living with the disease.

Five years ago, after the WALK for ALS, Cole decided that he wanted to host his own fundraiser, doing something he loved to do: skateboarding. Thus, Sk8 for ALS (a skateboarding competition to raise awareness and funds for ALS) was born in memory of Jake Hayward.

At 15 years old, Cole has raised just under $5,000 for ALS Canada through his unique fundraising event, something that has brought many young people together to support the cause.

“Everyone in the community has been so supportive, but my family and friends have supported me the most,” he says. “My biggest tip to other young fundraisers is to get as many people involved as possible, especially with sponsorships and advertising. Figure out what you want to achieve and make it happen!”

Of course, Cole’s strongest motivation has been his father’s memory, but also the desire to make a difference for others who are going through what he and his family did. Both he and his mother, Stephanie, are committed to raising money for ALS in any way they can.

“This year marks the fifth anniversary of Sk8 for ALS,” says Stephanie. “And we are working to make this our biggest and most successful event yet.”

April 15-21 is National Volunteer Week. Each day this week, we are sharing the story of a different ALS Canada volunteer who dedicates their time and talents to creating a future without ALS. Learn more about how you can get involved.  

Posted in: Volunteers