Central Alberta has a plethora of volunteers and outstanding leaders, but few as young as 17-year-old Kelsey Olsen, who has recently been honoured for her efforts within the Lacombe community.
Olsen was presented with the Violet Richardson Award by Soroptimist International, Red Deer Chapter for her volunteer efforts in a locally-based organization as well as her participation in her school and community.
“It was kind of the first major recognition I’ve received, so it just made me feel awesome. It’s so hard to explain. Even when I applied, I wasn’t really thinking that I’d receive the award,” said Olsen.
The Violet Richardson Award is given to a young woman who is between the ages of 14 and 17 who volunteers actively in their community and school. In addition to the recognition of her achievements, the winner receives a financial award for herself as well as a donation to an organization of her choice.
Olsen is a Grade 12 student who works hard to maintain her grades, takes time to participate in school sports and has danced for many years. All of these interests have led Olsen to become involved in community groups that aim to facilitate these interests for others.
Olsen’s love of sports brought her to the Lacombe Parks and Recreation Board two years ago. Since then, she has used her position on the board to provide input about facilities and programs that might benefit people in Lacombe.
“I like playing sports and I have played on my school’s basketball, volleyball, rugby and badminton teams and I have participated in some community running events. I have been dancing since I was about four. In Grade 10, I planned a weeklong summer dance camp for young girls with two friends who are also dancers. We charged a nominal fee to cover t-shirts and food and 14 girls between the ages of six and 10 participated,” she said.
The camp that Olsen offered is one of several community impact projects that she has been involved with. For the past three years she has been involved with her school’s Rotary Interact Club. Through them she has had a hand in projects that include building a school in Haiti, raising money for micro-loans in Guatemala and her current project, which is to provide a well to an orphanage and the surrounding community in Africa.
Olsen has been a part of A Better World for years, and cares passionately for each project she becomes involved in. As her school club attempted to raise money for A Better World’s current well project, there were doubts about being able to achieve their goal of $4,000. They asked the Lacombe Rotary Club if they would match $2,000 if the school club could raise that amount.
Through the Violet Richardson Award, Olsen was able to donate another $500 to the cause, bringing their total over $2,000.
“A Better World needed $4,000 more to get the well built, as they had already raised money for the project. Our club said we would raise the remaining $4,000. That’s a lot of money for us to raise in one school year and we wanted to get the orphans their well as soon as possible, so we asked the Lacombe Rotary if they would match our fundraising efforts,” she explained.
“If we raised $2,000, would they match that to make $4,000? They agreed. With the donation from the Violet Richardson Award, we have now reached our goal. A Better World will be able to build the well. I can’t tell you how excited I am about that. There are a lot of things we take for granted in Canada and clean water is one of them. So many people in the world don’t have that basic necessity.”
Olsen was visibly moved as she received her award. She spoke passionately about her cause and made a note to thank the Soroptimist women for their influence and willingness to help her achieve her goals.
“I thought that a lot of the women at the ‘Live Your Dream’ event were just great role models. The speaker that they had there (Sean Liv) was very inspiring. A lot of the Soroptimist women that I spoke to were just really kind and you could tell that they are passionate about helping women and being good role models,” Olsen said.
Olsen said she is excited to be able to play a role in helping A Better World achieve their goal of bringing a well to a deserving community.
“I was really happy about the award because we were aiming to get $2,000 for the well so that we could build it, and we weren’t sure at the time if the Rotary Club would match us, so really we were aiming for the whole $4,000. We didn’t really know if we’d be able to make that but the $500 put us above $2,000. It was exciting.”