A local seven-year-old is the youngest child to ever receive the Great Kids Award in Alberta. Emily Parker-Ristau is that reward recipient and her story is one filled with a lot of heart.
Emily was nominated by Kathleen Dennis, program coordinator of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Red Deer, for developing her own foundation that all started with a child’s dream vacation.
Emily was five-years-old when she decided that she wanted to go to Disneyland. Many of her friends had visited the theme park and had come back with many stories and memories and Emily wanted to have those memories for herself. However, her mother, Pricilla Ristau, was a single mom attending school to become a social worker and funds were tight.
It was on one afternoon when Emily was participating in Green Deer, a campaign where neighbours, friends and coworkers work together to keep Red Deer beautiful by picking up litter, that an idea was sparked. While she was collecting recyclables, her grandma, Brenda Hubl, told her to sort the bottles and cans separately from the trash because they could be turned into money.
This information would soon transform the five-year-old’s life. Emily starting collecting bottles to have some extra spending money. After she had saved $40 Ristau asked her daughter what she wanted to spend her money on.
“I am going to take us to Disneyland,” said Emily.
Ristau tried to suggest other treats Emily could indulge in, but her daughter was not interested.
It took the five-year-old 10 months to raise $1,200. These funds were enough to take both her and her mother to her dream vacation destination. This money covered the cost for flights, hotel rooms and park passes for six days.
“It was even better than I imagined,” said Emily, who is now seven-years-old.
“My favourite ride was ‘It’s A Small World’, where they sing the song over and over.”
When they arrived back in Red Deer Emily asked her mother if there were other families in Red Deer that would like to go to Disneyland but did not have the money.
Ristau confirmed that there were many families in Red Deer that would enjoy a vacation like the one they had just experienced. It was then that Emily decided that she would continue to collect bottles and cans and donate the proceeds to other deserving families.
Thus ‘Emily’s Recycle & Dream Foundation’ was born.
The Foundation’s mission is to support families who face multiple barriers to experience a meaningful family vacation. It seeks to bring the dream of Disney to families who may otherwise never have the opportunity to experience such a vacation.
Since starting the foundation, an additional $6,000 has been raised by collecting recyclables. This will allow two families to share in the Disney experience.
The first family recently returned from their trip. Another family is going to be departing this October.
Emily’s Foundation has supplied applications to five major agencies in Red Deer including Family Services of Central Alberta, Central Alberta Women’s Outreach Society, Red Deer Native Friendship Society, the Youth and Volunteer Centre of Red Deer and Central Alberta Refugee Effort. The goal is to open up the Foundation’s benefits to a diverse group of families in the community.
Ristau said that Emily’s Foundation is thankful for all of the support that the community has put into her daughter’s vision.
Donations can be made in a couple of ways. Emily and her mother will travel to homes to pick up recyclables or beverage containers can be brought to Cosmos II Bottle Depot at 6332 Orr Dr. in Red Deer and ask that the proceeds be set aside for the Foundation.
Anyone who would like to support Emily’s Recycle & Dream Foundation can call 403-877-1391, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is also available on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/sendustodisneyland.