Giving was a part of Ava James Sidoli’s childhood. Now in her last year of high school, the Ottawa teen has led a charge in helping the less fortunateWhen you get the message at age five that it’s a good thing to help people who are less fortunate than you are, it sticks.
Ava James Sidoli and her mother Elizabeth Sidoli would go door to door to gather food for food banks even though there were times they struggled themselves. “My mom was a young single mother,” says James Sidoli, “and we didn’t have a lot ourselves. But there was always someone less fortunate than we were, so we helped them out.” They often had people dropping donations at their door that were then delivered to the Ottawa Food Bank.
Using social media was also a big help in getting the message out for collecting donations. “Ava and I were lucky,” says Elizabeth. “We had a lot of family support, but Ava would see kids at school without a lunch or snack and ask if I could pack something extra for them. Her great-grandfather is the founder of Harvest House, a rehabilitation centre for young men in the Ottawa area, so the idea of helping families that are hurting was always there.”
Then in 2019, the COVID pandemic hit. To fill the need, James Sidoli started ‘Only Takes One’.
Turning again to social media— and this time, with support from her friends and high school—James Sidoli set out with a $200 goal, to benefit the Ottawa Food Bank and the Kanata Food Cupboard, but collected thousands of pounds of food and $5,000 to be split between the two organizations. “People were really generous,” says James Sidoli.
Since 2019, Only Takes One has raised between $55,000 and $60,000 for the two food banks. Another fundraising project provided backpacks for CHEO and the Boys and Girls Club. “Local businesses like the Tanger Outlets and Carlingwood Mall helped with the backpacks,” says James Sidoli. “They provided gift cards to help purchase 200 backpacks, ten Chromebooks and binders and school needs to fill the backpacks. And each organization received 100 backpacks to give out to kids in need.”
James Sidoli was named youth ambassador for the Ottawa Food Bank in 2019, and along with a team of 25 other young people, raised $25,000—including a $5,000 donation from actor Ryan Reynolds— for the organization.
This holiday season, James Sidoli partnered with Amazon and gathered over 700 toys for needy children. “You have no idea the amount of space 700 toys takes up,” says Elizabeth, Ava’s mother. “And thankfully, a Stittsville charity named Lion Hearts Inc. kindly allowed us to use some of their storage space and their van to get toys delivered. Staff at Amazon & Lion Hearts Inc. are also helping with sorting and distributing these toys to five local charities. We really appreciated their help.” If collecting 700 toys isn’t enough, James Sidoli again supported the Ottawa Food Bank and at Parenting Times Magazine’s press time, had raised $1,500.
Following James Sidoli’s high school graduation this May, she’s considering pursuing studies in early childhood education or courses to become a paralegal. Regardless of where she ends up, it won’t stop her from paying it forward. She hopes the contagious community spirit that she has created will continue.
“I’ve been so thankful for my friends and family and their support,” says James Sidoli. “As well as my high school, the school board and local MPs. I might take a bit of a break this spring to keep my grades up and attend my high school graduation,” she says, “but I know I’ll keep doing something.”
“I’m so proud of what she has done,” Elizabeth says. “I never would have thought that a dinner table discussion with my then-13-year-old daughter would have ended up with thousands of dollars donated to the food bank, backpacks for youth in need, and 700 toys for deserving children at Christmas.
“If one kid can do all that,” Elizabeth says, “then imagine what hundreds of kids can do. It all really starts with just one.”
“We didn’t have a lot ourselves. But there was always someone less fortunate than we were, so we helped them out.”
— Ava James Sidoli
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Only Takes One’s awards
2023 Mazda Canada’s ‘Rising Legends’ Award for young Canadians who are creating meaningful change in their communities (nominated)
2023 Faces Magazine Awards (nominated)
2022 RBC Spirit of the Capital Youth Award – Entrepreneurship & Innovation category
2020 Association of Fund-Raising Professionals (AFP) Youth Philanthropist Award