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Difference Makers 2013: Hannah Beaton

They inspire confidence, promote awareness and restore dignity. They grab on tight to global issues, but they never lose sight of what’s happening in their own back yard. They are The Province’s 2013 Difference Makers, B.C. high school student-athletes who excel in their classrooms but are not bound by them. Join us today as we salute their efforts to make our high schools true institutions of influence, mini-villages with the power to affect positive change

Hannah Beaton remembers how tough it was living life on a shoestring budget.

“When I was younger, my mom was a single mom with three girls,” the senior at Langley Fundamental Secondary remembers. “A lot of times there were charities that stepped into our lives and helped us out. It had a huge impact on me.”

They say that adversity reveals true character, and in the case of Beaton, it affirmed a level of compassion so strong that it has made her who she is today at the age of 17: An old soul with a big-world perspective and plenty of old soles to go around.

For the past three years, in-between classes, homework and the rigorous demands of a training program that had made her one of the most accomplished track and field athletes in her provincial age group, Beaton has collected, cleaned and donated all manner of shoes to the needy.

She calls it Walk In Someone Else’s Shoes, and it’s an act of re-purposing with a purpose, of helping as many people as possible do the walk of life with dignity.

“My mom was working in a school in Surrey about three years ago and she saw a boy with ripped up shoes and he wore them every day, all winter, back and forth through the snow,” relates Beaton. “When I heard that, it tugged on my heart. So we went out and provided him with a pair of shoes. After that day, I realized how many people in my own community were in need of footwear.”

Her own family’s situation has since improved but there are still plenty of others in need. And from the first day she collected shoes in her community, set them up on a series of tables at a Langley elementary school, and watched as children were invited to pick the ones they wanted, the desire to help has just gotten stronger.

“I just remember they were running around, trying to find their size,” relates Beaton. “They were so excited about one small pair of shoes. They would put them on right there, and they would leave the old ones behind. They would just run out the door dancing in their snow boots. This is my way of giving back, of hoping that I can be somebody that can step up and help in someone else’s life. The main one helping us was the food bank. They helped us out a lot, and that is an example of the people that stepped into our lives and helped us.”

And if you’re thinking about how powerful the gift of compassion can be, how path-altering such a mission can have on a young person’s life, you’re not alone.

In January, Beaton makes her first humanitarian trip, heading off to Nicaragua to help build and school and provide medical supplies in the region. This fall, she will compete for the track team at Trinity Western University, while at the same time getting the opportunity to more fully refine her vision of helping others throughout her adulthood.

“I am going to go into nursing,” she says. “I’d like to do that here, but my main goal is go in and serve in developing countries.”

She adds that Walk In Someone Else’s Shoes will continue, perhaps at some level, in concert with the athletics program at TWU next year.

“It would be cool to have the track team donate spikes, and maybe we could find a school that needs them to start a track program,” she says, already thinking ahead.

Thankfully, when it came to following her heart, Hannah Beaton didn’t suffer from a case of cold feet. Instead, she dug in her heels and took a stand.

“Someone said to me ‘You’re changing your community one pair of shoes at a time’,” she says.

And, we might add, one step at a time.

Source: The Province – Howard Tsumura

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