Manager of Fund Development, Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area
Photography by Curtis Comeau
WHY SHE'S TOP 40: She ensures children have access to mentorship and educates youth about making the right choices.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT EDMONTON?: “You can do anything that you want here and you get the support — whether it’s the city, the province or a community group — if you have an idea to do something here, you can do it. You won’t get shut down.”
When Danisha Bhaloo was 12 years old, her father passed away, leaving her mom to raise two kids on her own. Bhaloo’s mom registered both daughters with the Big Brothers Big Sisters in Edmonton to ensure they had another positive influence in their lives while she worked two jobs. Bhaloo performed activities, set goals and bonded with two mentors until she turned 18 — the age the program ends. But, she is still in touch with her last mentor. “It was a huge part of my life, in the sense of having someone there to do things with, like festivals — things I didn’t know existed in Edmonton,” says Bhaloo.
Now, Bhaloo ensures that other children have a constant, positive presence in their lives as the manager of fund development at the Big Brothers Big Sisters, which has since amalgamated with Boys & Girls Clubs in the Edmonton area. “I think the organization is important for the community, because it’s prevention,” Bhaloo says. “Research has shown that if you have a mentor, you’re more likely to succeed in different areas in life, whether it’s less likely to bully or less likely to be victimized. At the end of the day, you’re saving money by being proactive instead of building jails for the youth that you didn’t catch.”
Along with supervising the special events planning team, Bhaloo applies for grants, fundraises and convinces corporations to sign over big cheques. It all adds up to about $6 million annually.
Raising money and bringing awareness to good causes is something at which she’s become a pro, parlaying her skills into her volunteer work with several organizations, including the World Partnership Walk, Make Something Edmonton, the Edmonton John Howard Society and the Festival of Ideas.
Another organization that is near and dear to Bhaloo’s heart is the Ismaili Council for Edmonton. There are about 5,000 Ismailis — a sect of Muslims — living in Edmonton, says Bhaloo, who is Ismaili herself. She was involved as a youth and was recently appointed to be the chairperson for the youth and sports aspects of the council. She organizes activities for 2,500 Ismaili youths. “It builds a sense of community,” says Bhaloo. “Our goal is to engage youth who aren’t engaged in the community. There are a lot of youth who are at risk in the community, so it’s about educating them about the right choices.”