Stephen McPhee of Airdrie was presented with a Calgary Stampede Western Legacy Award at the BMO Centre in Calgary Nov. 15.
The 16-year-old was nominated for the 2017 youth award a few months ago for raising funds and awareness for homeless youth across Alberta through Stephen’s Backpacks Society.
His mother, Nancy McPhee, said he was presented with a custom-made Stetson hat and a silver buckle with his name engraved on it.
“It was quite an honour and he’ll be doing some work throughout the year for the Stampede, like maybe some mentoring and attending a few engagements and things like that,” she said. “It wasn’t expected at all because, I mean, you’re among such amazing people that do such great things.”
The annual award is for youth that make contributions to their communities and act as role models. McPhee founded Stephen’s Backpacks Society in 2006 after deciding he wanted to do something to fight homelessness.
The organization fills hundreds of backpacks with school supplies, toys and toiletries for individuals in need.
“The Stampede just has this to honour children in the community that are making a difference in keeping with the Stampede culture, which is reaching out and embracing everyone of different cultures,” Nancy said.
McPhee has autism and sensory issues but Nancy said he was very humbled to receive the award.
“Stephen is very humble. He’s received probably in the 20s in terms of awards and things and he always tends to put the onus back on the kids, the attention back on what he’s fighting for,” she said. “When he won this award, he was like, ‘Wow. There was a lot of people there tonight. Hopefully more of them know that there’s kids that are in trouble now.’
“He didn’t go into school and tell one person – that’s just who he is. It’s not about him – it’s about his mission, always.”
McPhee was also presented with a certificate from Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards Nov. 17 on behalf of the House of Commons, recognizing him for receiving the award.
“It just brought it closer to home,” Nancy said.
McPhee’s father, Jim, passed away earlier this year after a long battle with cancer, but that hasn’t stopped the McPhees from carrying on with the society’s mission.
“I just really thank each and every one (of you) who gave us that hope to go on this year,” Nancy said.