In her 11 short years, Tara McMahon has already raised funds for cystic fibrosis, Habitat for Humanity and the United Way and has donated her hair to kids stricken with cancer – and shows no signs of slowing down.
“This young girl, she’s an amazing person,” said John van Rhee, program manager at Youth Assisting Youth, a charitable organization that provides peer mentoring to kids six to 15 years of age, with which Tara is involved.
van Rhee was one of several people who nominated Tara for an Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year Award, bestowed by the Ontario Community Newspaper Association (OCNA). He happened to have made the CN Tower Climb for United Way with Tara last year.
“We’re in awe of her,” said van Rhee. “She’s so community conscious for her age, just so giving.”
Tara has participated in the Toronto Polar Bear Dip at Sunnyside Beach for the past four years and even encouraged her mom to take part even though she was hesitant.
“One of my mom’s friends told me about it. My mom didn’t want to do it at first,” she told The Villager.
Starting in 2009, Tara became involved with the Starlight Foundation for Childhood Cancer by donating her hair.
“If my hair grows by May, I’m going to cut it off – I’m going to be bald,” she said.
In 2009, Tara walked the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon for Cystic Fibrosis with a friend and a year later began volunteering with Girl Guides of Canada and got involved with the environmental group Earth Buddies at Howard Park Public School where she is a Grade 6 student.
“Yeah, it’s pretty awesome,” said the Roncesvalles Village resident when asked how it felt to be nominated for a Junior Citizen of the Year.
She was one of 150 children across the province who was nominated.
“The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow and they are dedicating their time and energy to making a difference within their communities and around the world,” said the OCNA in a statement.
Nominees may be involved in community service; young people who are contributing to their community while living with a physical or psychological limitation or individuals who have performed acts of heroism or bravery. Nominees between the ages of six and 17 are also recognized for being ‘good kids,’ who show a commitment to making life better for others.