Last week, a Skaha Middle School student got a big surprise when, in the midst of a school assembly, he was announced as the winner of the Enactus Okanagan College Summer Challenge for his business venture, Kids Matter.
Kids Matter runs family events throughout the Okanagan and uses the proceeds and donations to send underprivileged children to summer camps. At the awards event Oakley Pankratz received $200 to help run his business and send more children to camp.
It was a series of events that led 12-year-old Pankratz to create his business, starting with the tragic death of a friend he had made at summer camp.
Pankratz has taken that tragedy and turned it around, creating a business with the goal of running events to make money, not for profit, but to help send kids to camp.
It was the summer of 2012, and Pankratz was attending the Pines Bible Camp when a sudden windstorm tore through the area. Thousands of trees were blown down, wrecking the camp and, in one case, crushing a cabin and taking the life of 11-year-old Richard Fehr.
“I didn’t know him before, but I had made friends with him,” said Pankratz. “That was really sad. I got in contact with his mom and she said that Richard loved to go camping, to go to Two Pines and to go camping with her at Christina Lake.”
Fehr’s mother told Pankratz that because camping was her son’s favourite activity, she wanted to help other kids with disabilities and financial problems to go to camp.
“I thought about that and decided I could do something about that,” said Fehr. That was just the first key for Pankratz, who had been introduced to the Enactus Okanagan College Young Entrepreneur program, a Dragons’ Den style competition aimed at helping youth develop business skills.
“I thought that would be cool and I thought with my background, my personality I would do pretty good in there,” said Pankratz. The final inspiration came from a friend visiting Pankratz’ parents, who chatted about block parties.
“I thought wow, those are really good, maybe I could do something like that for my business,” he said. “I thought events and I thought sending kids to camp.”
The result was Kids Matter, a business that runs family and community events and uses those funds to send kids to summer camp that normally couldn’t.
“He was very involved, very energetic and he was very passionate about what he does, said Dillon Brown, the Enactus student who mentored Pankratz through the Young Entrepreneur Competition.
The business concept ended up as one of the winners in the competition for the middle school category, and Pankratz put the plan into action, starting with a spaghetti luncheon at his church.
“We also met the co-owner of Burger 55, Chris Boehm, and told him about my business and he was really cool,” said Pankratz. Boehm decided to lend a hand, and put on an event for Kids Matter.
“It was a really big full on event, with pony rides and balloons and a dunk tank. And then there is people along the way who have made donations,” said Pankratz. “Over the summer we have raised close to $1,000 to send kids to camp.”
Pankratz isn’t stopping there, according to Brown, who continues to mentor the middle school entrepreneur; Pankratz is already planning his next moves.
“I am looking at creating a website and over the winter I am going to keep perfecting my business model, getting more of those events like the one at Burger 55,” said Pankratz.
“I’ve got quite some ideas running in my head.”