Sophia Gran-Ruaz remembers the moment she was inspired to start her charity, Snug as a Bug, Kids Helping Kids. As she was walking along a street she saw a group of children she immediately identified as homeless. She told the Toronto Sun she was overwhelmed with empathy; Gran-Ruaz (then 11) promptly made the decision to go to Toys R Us and similar stores and ask them for donations.
Gran-Ruaz’s empathy stemmed from her own stint as a homeless child. When she was just under a year old, her mother ran into financial difficulty and the pair lived in shelters. Unfortunately, Gran-Ruaz’s story is a reality for many children.
According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, one in 50 kids – more than 1.5 million – experience homelessness in America each year. These children are twice as likely to experience hunger and four times more likely to get sick than other kids their age. Perhaps worse, homeless children have three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems compared to non-homeless children.
The memories of starting her life as a homeless child inspired Gran-Ruaz to try to reach out to those in need. By the age of 10, she had started interviewing homeless people she met on the street.
Following her encounter with the group of homeless kids, Gran-Ruaz started Snug as a Bug, Kids Helping Kids at the age of 11. The young organization leader fought hard to earn respect for her charity. "It was hard at the beginning because [potential donors] didn’t take me seriously at first," she told the source.
Her efforts paid off. The organization provides shelters in the Toronto area more than 3,000 care packages every year. Moreover, Gran-Ruaz recently won Canada’s Top Teen Philanthropy Search. She will receive $1,000 toward a college tuition and $5,000 to donate to Hockey for the Homeless.
Gran-Ruaz is pleased about her award, and she is also happy to have additional funds to give to her cause. "I’m really honored and I’m glad to hear that despite what you hear on the news, people are really good-hearted and willing to help out people in need," she said.