Who inspired us in 2016?

The holidays are almost over. But it’s not too late for us to squeeze in our annual list of stories that inspire us—an Imagine a City tradition! We think you’ll agree that the incredible people highlighted below are a lovely reminder of everyday acts of kindness that add up to big change for people and families across our region.

Do you have a story you think should be on the list? Share in the comments section and let us know!

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Carly Goldhar (left) and Charley Rangel of the Odd Sox Project.

1. Putting their best foot forward: Carly Goldhar and Charley Rangel, both 10, are the perfect match. The best friends co-founded the Odd-Sox Project last November after learning how important a pair of socks can be to someone experiencing homelessness. The girls have organized sock drives throughout the region, collecting gently used socks—whether matching or not—and donating them to shelters in the GTA. “It puts a smile on our faces. It’s good to know that we can help people in need,” Charley told The Thornhill Liberal. “We just want to inspire people to be themselves, while also giving back,” added Carly. To date, the girls have donated more than 30,000 pairs of socks and have even started their own sock line. Way to go, Charley and Carly. You really know how to step up for our community!

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U of T student, Tarek Bin Yameen, says the eye clinics would not be possible without the help of non-profit organization, Mes Amis, and Dr. Ike Ahmed and the team at Prism Eye Institute.

2. Making the transition to a new country a little clearer: Tarek Bin Yameen and his family came to Canada as immigrants after the civil war broke out in Yemen. Now a second-year medical student, Tarek is using his personal experience to help other newcomers get the best start in Canada. With the help of St. Michael’s Hospital staff ophthalmologist, Dr. Myrna Lichter, the U of T student is organizing a series of free vision clinics for Syrian refugees. To date, nearly 500 people have been treated, ensuring their health remains a top priority despite juggling the demands of settling in a new country. “When I see these newcomers in Canada, when I see the children, they remind me of my own personal experiences that I had as a kid,” Tarek told CBC. “This country gave me an opportunity to come here and study here and I’m paying it forward.”

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Joe Roberts (right) is joined by a crowd of supporters on his Push for Change journey.

3. A journey to end youth homelessness: In 1989, Joe Roberts was battling a drug addiction, homeless and pushing a shopping cart through the streets of Vancouver. Today, he’s still pushing a shopping cart—but this time it’s across Canada to raise awareness and funds to prevent youth homelessness. Joe, the former President and CEO of a successful multimedia company, fortunately found a life off the streets. But although his experience remains in the past, he knows first-hand the struggles homeless youth still face today—as well as the potential they have to turn their lives around when given the chance. Joe’s cross-country trek began in St. John’s this past spring and will end in Vancouver next fall. You can follow his 9,000 km journey by visiting The Push for Change website.

And although these three stories are pretty amazing, we just couldn’t help adding one more to the list!

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Joshua and Abigail Dunbar with Mayor John Tory.

4. A duo delivering big community change: Abigail Dunbar, 10, and her brother, Joshua, 9, aren’t playing around when it comes to creating change in their Jane and Finch neighbourhood. The siblings made headlines this summer when they spearheaded an initiative to improve a local playground—not just for their own enjoyment, but for all children in their community. “I would like to have on it a wheelchair ramp, an accessible swing, big slides,” Abigail told CTV News. With the help of Future Possibilities for Kids, the duo have wrote letters to everyone from politicians to school board trustees, have an online petition with more than 350 signatures, and have even met with Mayor John Tory. With these community superstars leading the charge, we anticipate big results in the coming year!

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