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Guelph teen's initiative to help polar bears gathers momentum

'It feels really good,' says Sean Hutton. 'It means more people are getting the message on climate change'
20210317 Sean Hutton AD
Sean Hutton, centre, stands with his classmates as they complete the Polar Bear Walk. Supplied photo

It may not be his home, but a local teenager is helping polar bears by supporting arctic conservation efforts of the World Wildlife Foundation through fundraising walks.

“They are such a beautiful animal,” says Sean Hutton, a 15-year-old student at St. James Catholic High School and founder of the Polar Bear Walk. “I like animals people tend to be afraid of.”

Due to the pandemic, Hutton explains this year’s event will consist of symbolic walks taken by students, which can range from a kilometre to 10 kilometres. Each participant in the walk is asked to donate two dollars. 

This year, a total of 10 elementary and secondary schools across the Wellington Catholic District School Board will be participating.

“It feels really good,” says Hutton about the response, “It means more people are getting the message on climate change.”

As the ninth annual event, Hutton hopes to raise $2,000. Raising $225 so far, Hutton will be accepting donations in person or online until March 19. 

Hutton says the walk developed when he was seven-years-old after his Grade 2 teacher taught the class about the Arctic.

He explains out of all animals, polar bears are one of the species most affected by climate change.

“I thought I should do something,” Hutton recalls, “Give the polar bears a voice.”

Getting the idea to make more students walk instead of drive, Hutton says he proposed the idea to the principal of his elementary school, who approved of the plan.  

The first walk took place around January 2013 from Hutton’s house to the school. Hutton remembers collecting roughly $100.

“It was a pretty good start,” he says.

A few years later the WWF learned about the Polar Bear Walk and reached out to Hutton to ask if he would like to partner with them to help the polar bears.

“I was pretty excited,” Hutton says about the partnership, “The World Wildlife Federation does a lot of good conservation work.”

As the walks grow with interest, Hutton says this year’s walk was supported by his entire class in the TERRA program, which focuses on outdoor education, character development, leadership, team building, faith and land stewardship.

“Students were all interested and willing to promote the polar bear walk,” says Hutton.

After graduating high school, Hutton wants to do more for Arctic conservation by becoming a biologist for polar bears and working with the WWF.

With next year being the 10th anniversary of the walk, Hutton hopes to have schools walk together when the pandemic is over.

“Hopefully things will be better next year.”

To donate go here.

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Ariel Deutschmann

About the Author: Ariel Deutschmann

Ariel Deutschmann is a feature writer and reporter who covers community events, businesses, social initiatives, human interest stories and more involving Guelph and Wellington County
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