Young student performers from more than 20 high schools, colleges and universities across Toronto will be going underground Friday, Feb. 8 to busk for a brighter future for their homeless peers in Etobicoke – one TTC token at a time.
Now in its third year, the Tokens4Change event saw Martingrove Collegiate Institute, Etobicoke School of the Arts and Humber College students join in with more than 400 students from across the city to sing, dance, paint, and improv at 13 of the TTC’s busiest subway stations and three PATH locations from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. All tokens and donations collected will benefit the homeless youth living at Etobicoke’s Youth Without Shelter (YWS).
Last year, the Tokens4Change event raised nearly $65,000 – the equivalent of more than 21,500 tokens. Those tokens, in turn, helped homeless youth living at YWS travel back and forth to job interviews, to school, to medical appointments and to counselling sessions – opening doors to the community services homeless youth need most.
This year, that goal has grown to $100,000 to fund both the transportation and essential support programs utilized by the 1,000 homeless youth served by YWS each year, said Judy Leroux, YWS’s development manager.
“Not only does that money support tokens and transit, but it also goes towards developing and supporting the key essential programs here at the shelter,” Leroux said. “What that allows our residents is not only the access to transit, but it also allows us to continue developing new programs, like last year’s introduction of a new employment program.”
Since opening more than 25 years ago, YWS has grown and evolved to not only offer a safe, warm bed for youth, but now offers a full circle of care, including counselling, an effective life skills program, employment guidance, placement in affordable housing, and a Stay in School Program, among many others.
In addition to raising funds and token for YWS youth, the Tokens4Change campaign has also begun creating widespread awareness of youth homelessness through a series of educational workshops in participating schools, said Leroux.
“That’s the newest component – in addition to performances on the day of the event, which we have always embraced, we’ve also tried to create more social awareness and change through the arts by bringing the arts into the schools to the kids beforehand,” she said.
Student work can now be spotted on TTC posters, TV and radio public service announcement ads, public art installations and in live busking across Toronto – including TV PSAs by Greenwood College students and PACT, “inspiration canvasses” by La Citadelle students and Cre8Cure on display at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, and an art installation representing what shelter means on display in the Sheraton PATH system by Upper Canada College students.
“When commuters walk by, they are going to be blown away with what has been created,” Tokens4Change co-founder Salar Javid said in a statement. “We have hundreds of student canvassers, actors, DJs, dancers and poets in the subway. It’s about youth for youth, it’s about art for empathy.”
This year’s Tokens4Change performers busked and collected tokens for YWS residents at Finch, Islington, King, Kipling, Osgoode, Queen, Queen’s Park, Spadina, St. Andrew, St. Clair, St. Patrick, St. George, Union stations, as well as in the Brookfield Place, Bay and Adelaide Center, Sheraton Hotel PATH locations.
Participating schools also included: Royal St. George’s College, Havergal College, Parkdale Collegiate Institute, Blyth Academy, Sir John A. MacDonald Collegiate, Branksome Hall, Loretto College School, Mentor College, Fieldstone Day School, Ryerson University, Chaminade College School, and University of Toronto.
Donations can be made online at www.tokens4change.com/donations or by sending a cheque to: Tokens 4 Change c/o Youth Without Shelter, 6 Warrendale Court, Toronto, ON, M9V 1P9