A Montreal teen who set up a personal protective equipment (PPE) pop-up store has raised $5,765 for the Montreal Children’s Hospital’s Healthy Kids Fund.
Vanessa Vassalos, 16, opened Essentiels COVID-19 on Parc Avenue in July during her high school’s summer break.
Her goal was to find a meaningful summer job that could help people during the COVID-19 pandemic, so she set out to donate part of her proceeds to the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
Last Friday, Vassalos delivered a cheque for $5,000 to the hospital, along with an additional $765 she collected through donations.
“It was a huge excitement,” Vanessa said.
In a letter given to Vanessa, the hospital’s foundation thanked her for her donation. “You and your family continue to make it possible for children to benefit from the best medical care and expertise of our doctors, nurses, and staff,” the letter read.
Her father, Steven Vassalos, said the moment was meaningful for the whole family: at the bottom of the cheque was a special dedication: “in loving memory of Stefanos Vassalos.”
Stefanos was Vanessa’s older brother, who died just a few days after he was born at the Montreal Children’s Hospital — a place where the family says he was seen with great care.
“It was a really sentimental moment for all of us,” said Vanessa’s father.
Second location in Westmount
After Global News’ story about Vanessa’s efforts aired, she says she received an unexpected call.
“It was a shocker,” Vanessa said of the caller, who was none other than Westmount Mayor Christina Smith.
“I first saw what Vanessa was doing in the news and I was so inspired that this young woman would dedicate her free time and her summer to ensuring that more people had easy access to necessary COVID-19 supplies,” said mayor Smith in a statement to Global News.
It prompted Smith to pick up the phone to offer help in finding a location in Westmount so she could open a second pop-up shop.
“This pandemic has been really tough on the commercial sector and there were empty stores in the Victoria Village and I thought it would be a great pop up shop for the area,” Smith said. “Gerard Fellerath owns a commercial building on Sherbrooke and is a really great active member of the community, since his space was empty, he let Vanessa open her shop for a few weeks.”
With the help of friends, Vanessa opened her pop-up shop in Westmount for a month.
“I think this young woman is such an inspiration and I was so impressed with her entrepreneurial and community spirit,” Smith added.
While the Westmount location has closed, COVID-19 Essentiels remains open on Parc Avenue.
Although Vanessa is back to school full time, she says she learned some valuable lessons, including that everything is possible.
“100 per cent, it’s really motivating,” said the teen.