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Stepping up to help out others
Hannah Beaton knows the feeling of being helped by others, so the chance to reciprocate was an easy decision.
"When I was growing up, my mom (Cindy Pervan) was a single mom and was taking care of me and my sisters," Beaton said.
"It was really hard for her because she was also going to school, taking care of us, taking us to school, taking care of all our needs as well as being a good mom and loving us."
Beaton, an 18-year-old Grade 12 student at Langley Fundamental, is the youngest of three with older sisters Amie, 24, and Ellie, 23.
The family was helped by their local food bank and the Christmas Bureau and that aid left a lasting impression on the Langley teen.
"There were a lot of people that helped support us," Beaton said.
Three years ago, Beaton's mom came home one day from her job as a special education assistant in Surrey. She told her youngest daughter about a little boy who was walking to school every morning — in the snow — with a pair of shoes that had holes and were held together by tape.
The family ended up buying the boy a pair of snow boots.
It prompted Beaton to do something bigger by beginning Step in Someone Else's Shoes, a program which collects and redistributes shoes for students in need.
"I just thought there must be a lot more kids like him out there that need shoes," she explained.
Beaton — who was attending White Rock Christian Academy — asked her classmates for any old shoes they might be willing to donate and set up a donation box in the school's foyer.
The box was soon overflowing with donations.
When Beaton changed schools a few years ago to Langley Fundamental, she brought the program with her.
She collects the shoes, washes them herself and then brings them to local schools that has students who could benefit from some proper footwear.
Beaton goes into the school and sets up a 'store' where the kids get to choose like they are shopping.
"At first they are really timid, but then they would get comfortable with me, and before you know it, they are running around in the store and dancing around," she said.
"It is cute how excited they are."
She figures that if a parent can save money on not having to purchase shoes, they can use that money on something else to benefit the kids.
Since beginning the program, Beaton estimates she has redistributed 450 pairs of shoes to needy students.
And on Thursday (April 3), Beaton was the recipient of the Pete Swensson Outstanding Community Youth Award.
The award is given to a Langley secondary student in recognition of their athletic, scholastic and community efforts. Personal qualities such as leadership, work ethic and initiative play a major role in determining the winner.
It is named after Pete Swensson, the Township's first recreation director who was committed to the overall development of youth.
She was one of eight nominees: Georgie Antle (D.W. Poppy), Aidan Kits (Langley Christian), Julianna Matson (Walnut Grove), Brian Portner (R.E. Mountain), Michael Pratt (Brookswood), Devon Stam (Credo Christian), and Amy Whitton (Aldergrove).
"It is a great honour to receive such a respected award," Beaton said.
"The calibre of the others who were nominated was so impressive.
"It inspired me to know that so many others in my community are making such a difference."
"She really wants to make a difference in her school and her community and that is a huge part of her," said Mark Rempel, the principal at Langley Fundamental.
"She is a pretty amazing young lady."
Rempel described her as very engaging, humble and positive.
In addition to her work with the shoe program, Beaton is involved at the school on student council, and is also active both in the community and abroad.
She helps co-ordinate a program called Family Sports Night to promote play and strengthen family ties and went to Nicaragau on a humanitarian trip with her school's Global Education Class, where they helped rebuild a school.
"Through dedication and willingness to help others, Hannah has had a positive impact on people she interacts with," wrote Anita Hopton, a counsellor at Langley Fundamental, in Beaton's nomination letter.
Kristin Renville, an outreach director for Langley's Southgate Church, worked with Beaton on the Family Sports Night program, with Beaton now having taking over the program from Renville.
"I meet many youth (and) Hannah is exceptional," wrote Renville in a reference letter for the Swensson Award.
"Many times finding help for outreach events is a task in an of itself, but in Hannah's case, she showed the initiative, she tracked me down, volunteered and then proved herself more capable than many adults."
"Hannah came in and immediately showed initiative, leadership and compassion," Renville wrote.
"She came with ideas, led games and made positive connections with the families.
"I was surprised to find out she was a high school student."
"She shows leadership beyond her years and will be impacting her community for years to come."
And Beaton does all of this while also performing as an elite level track and field athlete.
She grew up playing several sports — soccer, softball and volleyball to name a few — but has settled on track and field, and specifically, heptathlon.
The heptathlon consists of seven events — 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin throw and 800m — held over two days.
"I have done so many different sports since I was little so it was really hard for me to just pick one sport," Beaton said.
"So I still get to do my jumping, my throwing, my running, I get to do them all in one sport."
She credits her stepfather, Ward Pervan, for teaching her the nuances of some of the throwing events from his background in the sport.
Beaton has competed both locally with the Langley Mustangs Track and Field Club, and nationally, finishing fifth in the heptathlon at the 2013 Canadian Legion youth track and field championships.
Beaton is ranked fourth in the country in javelin at the junior age level.
And in the fall, she joins the track and field program at Trinity Western University, where she plans on studying nursing.
She called Trinity Western her dream school.
"It is close to home, I love the environment — it is relaxed and faith-based — plus the track team is growing," she said.
Beaton plans to study nursing.