12-year-old Ont. figure skater donating backpacks for Ukrainian kids in Poland

Twelve-year-old Oscar Oliver usually spends his time practicing figure skating, but in early April, he will be heading to Poland to help kids of his age who fled the war in Ukraine by donating backpacks filled with essentials.

Oliver’s “Buy a Backpack” campaign is raising money to give Ukrainian refugees new backpacks filled with essentials they might not have been able to bring with them from home when they fled: school supplies, toys and toiletries.

“A lot of them don’t have anything, so just to give up my sport [right now] to try and give them something would be a really nice gesture,” he told CTV News Channel on Sunday.

“I’m a kid and I know how [I] would feel if I didn’t have any of that.”

The pre-novice figure skating champion is from Barrie, Ont. and is a dual Polish and Canadian citizen. He said that having a backpack full of your own belongings is hugely important for kids.

“For me it’s very important because it has everything I need in there,” he said of his own backpack. “If I were to leave and I didn’t have any of that, I would feel lost.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, more than 2.2 million refugees have fled into Poland, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the majority of whom are women and children.

Oliver said that he knows children in that situation are scared.

“That’s why I decided to launch a ‘Buy a Backpack’ campaign,” he said.

“So they’re not only just scared, they can also have something that is useful in their lives, so I can at least help them a little bit.”

He and his mother will be traveling to Poland in the week after Easter to deliver the backpacks to refugee contact centres.

People interested in helping can donate to their fundraising campaign online. Currently, they’ve raised the money for 214 backpacks.

“Our goal is about 300, right now,” Oliver said.

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