Teenage non-profit founder celebrates organization’s fifth anniversary
William Short, founder of Short Circuit Dream Fund and organizer for the event Wings for an Angel, holds a butterfly in his hand Friday. Wings for an Angel is a provincewide butterfly release organized by the Short Circuit Dream Fund whose proceeds are used to fulfil the dreams of critically ill children in Newfoundland and Labrador. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
By Rebekah Ward
Special to The Telegram
More than 1,200 butterflies will be released simultaneously across the province today.
The five-location butterfly event this afternoon is the final fifth anniversary fundraiser for a local organization that aims to make sick children’s everyday lives better.
The Short Circuit Dream Fund (SCDF) was started in 2007 by then 14-year-old Marystown boy William Short. It grants wishes submitted by critically ill children that will help make their lives more comfortable.
“We try to supplement (the bigger) organizations,” William said. “What we try to do is give kids something that makes every day a little better. Not just a one-time trip, something that will really last.”
William was not a typical child. Though charity work and ambition both ran in his family, when Short decided to start a registered national non-profit at age 14 his parents thought he was a little crazy.
“He got up one morning and basically said he had a dream he wanted to start a charity of some sort. Didn’t have a clue what he wanted to (raise money for) at that point,” William’s father Eric Short said.
Once William had the idea to start a dream-granting fund, he stopped dreaming and went about teaching himself how to register and run a non-profit. All the money he needed to front for the first fundraiser was taken from his own savings, earned working on a Telegram paper route since age eight.
“That was the way I was. I already owned my own small DJ business,” Short said.
“I was the type of person that would research anything before I did it anyway. So I just looked up different things, I went on the Canada Revenue Agency website and made sure that I was following the right protocol, and everything like that.
William even surprised his own parents with his entrepreneurship.
“One day he came home to us and said, ‘Can I have a few people over tonight?’ His mother and I looked at each other and said, ‘OK, who’s coming?’ thinking it was some of his friends, or whatever,” Eric said.
“Then he started naming off hospital personnel, lawyers, and things like that. It was a board of directors meeting he was planning to have at the house ... Another time he came to us one evening and said he had an appointment to see a lawyer. We said, ‘What?’ He had made an appointment on his own with the local lawyer, to show him how to write a constitution for his charity.”
William was a shy child. But when he was first launching his charity, he decided to present it to his entire middle school at his ninth grade end-of-year assembly.
“I happened to be in the gym at the time, and you could hear a pin drop in the gym except for the words that everyone was saying, ‘He speaks!’” his father said.
“He was so shy he even had difficulty talking to his friends over the phone, right? But since he started this charity he’s been speaking in auditoriums of a thousand ... I guess he didn’t speak until he had a purpose to speak.”
Since then William has put a lot of time and energy into the charity, missing out on other aspects of his teenage years.
“My marks dropped a little bit, obviously, because I just didn’t have the time to put as much work into them as I normally would have,” William said.
“And my social life suffered. The friends I had then, I still have. But you know, it was difficult to get out there and make other friends.”
William, now studying business at MUN on the Terry Fox Humanitarian Scholarship, has maintained his dedication to SCDF, understanding the good his work has done. He has also grown attached to the individuals he has helped.
Today’s butterfly release is connected to Kendra, the second dream child SCDF helped, who died a couple of months after SCDF granted her an iPod touch and a laptop to communicate with her family from the hospital.
“Butterflies have always been directly connected to Kendra and her family,” William said.
“She loved butterflies herself. ... When her family went to visit her grave on Christmas or Boxing Day, in Labrador, there was a butterfly on her headstone. That doesn’t usually happen in the winter in Labrador. So butterflies have had a really strong presence in her family.”
Individuals purchased butterflies to be released in honour of their loved ones and will let them go at 5:45 pm from Bowring Park in
St. John’s, SUF Lodge in Dildo, the Track & Field Complex in Marystown, Bowater Park in Corner Brook and Queen of Peace Middle School in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The release is open to the public.