North York Mirror
They already share the same first name and call themselves “baby friends,” meaning they have been close since they were toddlers.
Now, two North York teenagers are turning their attention to helping youth.
Lauren Brown and Lauren Runnalls, both 17, are in the process of setting up the Regent Park Youth Theatre Program.
They have been working on securing grants and funding, getting mentors for the program in place, setting up a website and focusing on dozens of other details, with an eye to launching an annual summer theatre troupe next year.
On Monday, Nov. 26 they held their first fundraiser called a Day of Gifting at a home in the Bayview-York Mills avenues area.
The event included a jewelry sale, door prizes and musical performances by pianist John Agius, singer and songwriter Sarah Fisher and students from Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts.
Admission was the donation of a new, unwrapped gift for a teenager. Financial donations were also welcome.
The Laurens figure they raised almost $400, and that doesn’t even include the 15 per cent from the sale of jewelry going to the theatre program.
“It was our first fundraiser. I think it went well. It definitely was a learning experience,” said Runnalls, a student at Cardinal Carter.
Brown, a student at Bishop Strachan School, agreed.
“We had a great turnout, for what we were hoping for,” she said.
“I think we were about 30 (people attending). It felt like a lot more than 30.”
Brown first came up with the idea for the theatre program while talking to her mom, Sandra Brown, who is now the foundation president because the Grade 12 students aren’t yet adults.
Mother and daughter were discussing making a contribution to the community.
“For me, it was kind of a brain-storming session between me and my mom,” Brown said.
“She grew up in Regent Park and I’ve always been interested in theatre so it was a great marriage of ideas.”
Because Runnalls also loves theatre, Brown invited her to be part of the program.
The group will give Regent Park youth an outlet to express themselves artistically and help bring the community together, Runnalls said.
And it will teach participants theatre skills and be an enjoyable place to get together, Brown added.
The group’s first production next summer will depend on how many teenagers join the program.
“We want to do something that you can bring kids to. Not kid-specific but you can bring the family to,” Brown said.
She and Runnalls are also working on setting up a scholarship for the participant who is most committed to the program.
The theatre group is also seeking volunteer mentors to lead workshops in theatre/drama, costume design, makeup artistry, directing, how to market a production, etc.
For more information, visit www.rpytp.ca or call 416-453-2533.