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Community Living

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Every year for the past nine years, Grade 10 students at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School have researched local charities and presented their findings to their peers and teacher. It’s been a civics class assignment, and the top groups have earned a shot at winning $5,000 for their charity from the Youth Philanthropy Initiative (YPI).

But due to the recent restructuring of the program, 80 schools, including HHSS, have been put on the wait-list.

“It broke our hearts to put the school on the wait-list,” said Holly McLellan, executive director of YPI Canada.

Students are still doing research projects this year but there is no money involved.

YPI was founded by the Toskan Casale Foundation in 2002. The foundation was formed by the same family that co-founded MAC Cosmetics and established the MAC AIDS Fund in the mid-90s.

YPI is intended to connect students to social issues, local charities, philanthropy and their communities. Since launching, more than $14 million in grants have been distributed by youth worldwide.

A total of $45,000 has been distributed to nine local organizations in Haliburton County and more than 1,400 students have participated. Community Living Haliburton County received the money last year and used it for renovations.

The program has continued to be in high demand, resulting in a decision to launch YPI Canada, an independent charity.

“A few years ago we realized that we’re going to need to start bringing on more partnerships,” said McLellan.

The majority of the money for these grants has come from the family, but now that will change. They are seeking funding partners, including organizations, businesses and individuals. Haliburton is in the seventh spot on the wait-list, which means odds are good that the program will be back for the next school year. 

“We’re really confident. We’re bringing in a lot of new interest,” she said.

In the next three years, McLellan says they intend to distribute $1 million in grants across the country and offer the program to more schools. 

“All we want is to support local charities and get young people involved.”

YPI Canada has three staff and costs $350,000 per year to run. These expenses are subsidized by long-term national partners such as TD Bank.

Despite scaling back the program, YPI granted $275,000 to charities through 55 schools this year. This is about half the amount they gave out last year.

Before becoming a registered charity, it distributed anywhere between $700,000 and $950,000 across Canada.

For more information or to become involved, visit

Mark Arike, The Highlander, Haliburton Ontario

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