A simple seed planted in a Lasalle classroom blossomed into an incredible learning experience for Lily Petrone, an eight-year-old student at Children’s World Academy in Verdun. 

Lily’s teacher, Kathleen Murray, invited her grade three class to identify and introduce fellow students to a real life hero. Lily took the idea and ran with it. It all started when a family friend, Anita Nowak, told Lily about Room to Read. The NGO was founded by John Wood, a former Microsoft executive who left a high-paying job to launch the world literacy program.

Lily learned that in the last ten years, Room to Read had established nine thousand two hundred libraries, constructed eleven hundred schools and distributed more than four million books in the poorest corners of the globe. She also learned through Room to Read that in the developing world, fourth-two percent of girls don’t go to school, because they can’t afford it.

“I was in my room thinking about it and thinking about what I had and they didn’t,” said Lily. She said she knew she had to do something to help. “I was just amazed by what he did,” she said, “how he sent kids from all around the world to school that can’t afford it.”

So, Lily made a modest pledge to raise two hundred and fifty dollars for Room to Read, which would be enough to send one girl to school for a year. She also chose John Wood to be the subject of her school project.

“The basis of the program is getting kids to take action so right from the get go there’s an invitation to determine who might be a hero for them outside of the school, says Murray. “It was really beautiful to see how far Lily was able to take this.”

The more Lily learned, the more she wanted to do. She aimed high and wrote a letter to none other than Montreal Canadien’s goalie, Carey Price.

“When we put that letter together and sent it out into cyber space and an answer came back, we were shocked,” says Lily’s Mother, Heather Hopkinson. Hockey Helps responded, sending Lily raffle tickets to sell for a very special prize, a meet and greet with the star goalie.

“I sent a letter to all the grade threes and they gave it to their parents and some of them donated and then it was just a relief because I saw that people were donating,” says Lily.

They donated in a big way. Lily raised a total of six thousand two hundred and twenty-five dollars, well beyond her goal of two hundred and fifty, and enough money to send twenty-five girls to school.

But she didn’t stop there. She had promised to introduce her class to John Wood, and she did. In fact she introduced the entire school to him, via skype. He praised Lily’s efforts and explained the impact of her project. 

“It’s incredibly important because there are so many children around the world who don’t have the same privileges that you students have, where the norm is for every child to go to school,” he told them, “in the poorest parts of the world that’s not the norm.”

The eight year old stood up and replied, “Thank you John Wood for helping kids everywhere. I hope I’m as cool as you when I grow up.”

Chances are pretty good, she will be.

Debra Arbec co-anchors CBC News Montreal with Andrew Chang weekdays from 5 – 6:30 pm.
Watch for her “Montrealer of the Week” segment Fridays during the 6pm newscast.
To see past profiles, visit: www.cbc.ca/montreal