Son's 2-month hospitalization inspired mom's decision to support local charity
On the afternoon of March 17, customers of the fondue speciality store Zexyberry enjoyed hot chocolate while listening to live music.
Every once in a while, customers were encouraged to buy a chocolate-dipped strawberry — one of the store's delicacies.
But the free hot chocolate and music wasn't there to draw people in so Zexyberry could make a sale; it was there to attract patrons of Sunridge Mall and encourage them to donate money to the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta.
The idea for a fundraising event came from storeowner Leila Zarif. She said she thought donating money to the foundation would be a great opportunity for her local business to give back to the community.
"Cancer takes a lot of good people, so it's important to draw awareness," Zarif said.
One of a storeowner's goals, besides selling product, should be to play an active role in the community, Zarif said. From day one, she said she wanted to give back to the community as much as possible.
One of Zarif's sons was in the hospital for two months, and it was the daily visits to the hospital that inspired Zarif to do whatever she could to help sick children.
"I'm a mother of two myself, and cancer is something that affects most families these days," Zarif said. "So I got to know these people from the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta, and it was just so close to the heart. I can't imagine what families must go through when children are diagnosed with cancer."
Zarif's staff supports her decision to give back as much as possible.
Employee Olena Gurr said: "I've had some cancer in my family so I know how hard it is. I think this is a really great cause.
"I also think the charity is great because it's local. We're helping people right here, around us."
Although some of Zarif's regular customers, like Dian Bui, weren't aware that Zexyberry was having a charity drive on the weekend, they immediately supported the cause.
"I think it's great that they're doing this," Bui said. "They're going out of their way to advertise and fundraise for the charity, and not a lot of stores do that."
Determined to raise as much money as possible, Gurr stood outside the store encouraging patrons of the mall to come inside and raise money for the cause, while Zarif kept busy by preparing the next batch of chocolate-covered strawberries.
Zarif's goal for the event fell a little short, raising about $600 but hoped to raise $1,000. She said she plans to organize other fundraising events in the future, offering more chances to do a good thing for the community. Presently, there is still a donation box inside the store.
"Zexyberry is growing," Zarif said. "We get a lot of good feedback. Whenever people try our product, they always come back for more and send their friends and families to us. We're aiming to grow across Alberta and keep giving back to the community."
- By JEFF MEDHURST