The United Way of Chatham-Kent (UWOCK) placed its trust in a teenager, and Caterina Dawson delivered.
Dawson, 19, chair of the 2018 fundraising campaign, revealed to a packed house at the Links of Kent Thursday morning that the campaign exceeded its $1.559 million goal, coming in at $1,565,140.
“I’m so excited, so thrilled to see it all come together. It’s amazing to go over our goal,” she said.
Dawson, who was still in high school at Ecole secondaire de Pain Court when she was named as campaign chair last June, found chairing the campaign an incredible part of her life.
“It’s been an amazing experience for me. Everyone has been so helpful,” she said. “I learned a lot; it take s a lot of confidence to do presentations and to speak in front of others. There is a lot of responsibility and you have to be able to take on a task.”
Darrin Canniff, mayor of Chatham-Kent and a former campaign co-chair, said the United Way campaign “defines a community.
“How the community comes together to accomplish a common goal, the passion, giving, people, volunteers and partnerships that develop. These are such important aspects of our community,” he said.
Canniff thanked Dawson for her efforts.
“I can’t imagine when I was 19 years old doing what Caterina has done,” he said.
Dawson admitted she was quite nervous at the opening of the campaign. But the support from UWOCK staff helped her quickly get over that.
She also came to realize how widespread the community support is for the campaign.
“It’s not all big-business people. It’s your neighbours,” she said.
As for why she took up the campaign torch in the first place, Dawson said she was following her passion.
“I’ve always loved helping people. And I hope to encourage other youth to become more involved,” she said.
Dawson began as a co-op student at UWOCK, and staff approached her to see if she’d be interested in chairing the campaign. She knew she’d have excellent support.
“Volunteers are a very big aspect in what we do and to make it work,” Dawson said.
She appreciates everything the United Way does to help improve the community.
“We do so much work to help so many people,” she said. “The real life changers are the people who are always on the go for UWOCK.”
Steve Pratt, in completing his first fundraising campaign as the new CEO of UWOCK, thanked the community for its contributions of time, skills and donations.
“You are essential in helping in to with the fight for the health, education and financial stability of everyone in our community,” he said in a media release. “Today marks a transition to new and innovative ways of doing things. To all of Chatham-Kent, I would like you to know that United Way is truly working for you.”