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Meet our Outstanding Canadians: Brennan Wong

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Brennan Wong is a social activist, innovator, public speaker, and 19-year-old student from Richmond Hill, Ontario. Motivated by his experiences with Free The Children, Brennan has advocated for a variety of issues ranging from health equity to education, and has founded several entrepreneurial initiatives that engage young people to take an active role and make a difference in the world. A 2012 volunteer trip to Ecuador when he was just 14 years old inspired Brennan to create an empowered and compassionate culture of youth who would champion and drive social good - not just in their own communities, but in communities around the world.

A year later, Brennan founded Pledges for Change, a student-run non-profit and global movement that encourages and supports young people in unleashing their potential to take action. The organization has three objectives: (1) launch initiatives that activate and harness the potential for youth to make a difference, (2) collaborate with partners across the non-profit/private/public industries to create a more youth-friendly volunteer sector, and (3) engage in leadership and advocacy on behalf of young volunteers around the world. To date, over $20,000 has been raised for Canadian charities that deal with issues such as hunger, bullying, mental health, and homelessness. igniteFAIR, one of the organization's biggest initiatives, is an annual volunteer fair that takes place in cities across Canada and helps connect young people directly with volunteer opportunities in their community. Through Pledges for Change's programs and projects, thousands of young adults have pledged over 24,000 volunteer hours in their neighbourhoods.

For his dedication to volunteerism and his work in the non-profit sector both at home and abroad, he was recognized as one of Canada's Top 20 Under 20 in 2014, an award bestowed upon young Canadians who demonstrate exceptional leadership, innovation, and achievement.

"To me, this honour is more than just a celebration of all the grant recipients and their work to empower young people across the country,” says Brennan. “It is a recognition that Canada's kids are the future generation of innovators, problem-solvers, and change-makers to solve an ever-growing list of complex, global challenges. We need to continue to rally around the people and charities that support our youth!"