St. Martin de Porres School student Elena Carritt, centre, with her friends Emersyn Moores, left, and Vayda Lundrigan. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Nine-year-old Red Deer girl raises mental health awareness

Elena Carritt, of St. Martin de Porres School, is “awe-inspiring,” says administrator

A Grade 3 crusader for mental health passed out free yoga and gym passes to her peers at a special assembly Monday at St. Martin de Porres School in Red Deer.

Nine-year-old Elena Carritt had rounded up 22 prizes — designed to help improve mental health — by approaching 20 local businesses on her own and asking for donations to help her school mark Mental Health Awareness Month.

The school’s assistant principal, Kristie McCullough, marvelled at seeing such dedication from an elementary student.

Never in my 20 years of teaching have I ever seen somebody so young become so passionate about something,” says McCullough, who was “awe-inspired” by Elena’s actions.

Classes at the school had been learning about the importance of maintaining good mental health. And Elena was struck by how closely having a good state of mind is connected to a person’s general health, activity level, and even ability to connect with others.

She started making anti-stress balls by pouring flour into balloons. After sharing a few of these balls with her friends and selling a few more for $2, Elena decided to give an anti-stress ball to each class member in honour of Mental Health Awareness Month.

Since making upwards of 30 anti-stress balls “stressed me out,” Elena talked to her mother about what else she could do to help promote good mental health at school.

Her mom suggested she could approach businesses to ask if they would donate prizes linked to pillars of mental health.

Elena rhymes these pillars off easily: “Social connections, having an activity, nature, quality sleep, good nutrition, art, self-care and relaxation.”

She summoned up the nerve to approach businesses on her own.

“Most of the people were very nice. And the more I talked, the more confident I became,” she said.

Elena gathered up prizes, including a spa day, a free massage, passes to recreation centres and yoga classes. There were also gift certificates for healthy lunches, a gardening kit and an original work donated by a local artist.

Students from the school had their names drawn out of a basket and the prizes were awarded amid cheers from the assembly.

McCullough believes Elena helps to exemplify the caring spirit and altruism that is encouraged at Red Deer Catholic schools.

While the student is interested in raising mental health awareness, this won’t necessarily become her career one day: “I want to be a chef and have a French bakery,” Elena said with a smile.

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