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Push for Changes Comes to Ontario
Push for Changes Comes to Ontario
Posted on 09/23/2016

(Pictured above: A smiling Joe Roberts leads a procession through the streets of Hawkesbury, including high school students, OPP officers, school board officials and others. Roberts arrived in the town Thursday as part of his "The Push for Change" campaign.)

Push for Change Campaign Comes to Hawkesbury

Campaigner for Homeless Youth Speaks to Students
from Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute and Other Area High Schools

Watch video of the visit at:
The Push for Change in Hawkesbury

(Hawkesbury) – A Barrie entrepreneur who describes himself as the “Skid Row CEO” was in Hawkesbury Thursday to raise awareness about youth homelessness, and funds to prevent it.

Joe Roberts spoke to about 200 area high school students at the Robert Hartley Sports Complex, after arriving in town for the Ontario leg of his "The Push for Change" campaign. The 49-year-old motivational speaker is pushing a modified shopping cart across Canada to raise awareness about youth homelessness and funds for the Raising the Roof “Upstream Project.” The program will run in high schools across Canada, helping to identify at-risk youth so they don’t land on the streets. At Thursday’s event, Roberts was presented with more than $550,000 in donations, including a $500,000 cheque from UA Canada, $40,000 from the Quality Control Council of Canada, $10,000 from the Wayne Gretzky Foundation, and $6,000 from the Ontario Provincial Police Association.

A hush fell on the arena, as Roberts told area high school students about his personal experience with the harsh realities of youth homelessness. In the 1980s, after struggling in a dysfunctional home, the Barrie native quit school and fled to the streets of East Vancouver. While there, he spent his time pushing a shopping cart, supporting his drug habit by collecting returnable bottles and cans.

While his concerned mother later found him and brought him home to Barrie, he soon hit rock bottom, contemplating suicide.

“I sat on the edge of my bed trying to muster up the courage to end my life, " he said. "I just didn’t feel like I could go on.”

If it had not been for the help and support of a caring OPP officer and others who got him into drug rehabilitation, he would never have been able to go to college, create a successful website development company and work as a motivational speaker.

Realizing his good fortune, in 2011 he began planning Push for Change, hoping to raise $18 million to help students facing personal challenges stay at home, stay in school, stay off the streets and stay on track.

While he is raising funds, his goal is also to motivate students to see their true potential and avoid negative self-images that can cause their life to spiral downward. The key is to try, he said.

“I want every young person to see how big their life can be,” he said. “Find your passion and get into action. Even if you do not really know what (final) direction you’re going to take.”

Students attending the event say Roberts’ story inspired them.

“I think it was really inspirational,” said Madison Pedersen, a Grade 9 student at VCI. “It shows kids that even if you make some bad choices in your life you’re still capable of doing amazing things.”

Roberts began his 517-day, 9,000-kilometre walk in Cape Spear, Newfoundland on May 1. He plans to finish in Vancouver on September 30, 2017.

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