Colin Grimm turned his royal encounter into a family affair earlier this fall.
The fourth-year French Language and Literature student joined his younger brother, Quinten, in Toronto in October to pick up their Duke of Edinburgh International Award program Gold Medals from Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
For the first couple of years after completing the program, timing never allowed for Grimm to attend any of the ceremonies. But when his younger brother also completed the program, the ‘Brothers Grimm’ saw a chance at a special moment for the family.
“It never really worked out the years prior, for me, and then when he was done, we kind of talked about it that since we’re both done we can attend the ceremony together,” Grimm said. “Our parents were able to come down from the Sault. That was great for them to be a part of it.”
Growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Grimm was intrigued by the program while he was in high school. However, there was one obstacle.
“In the Sault, only one high school does the program – and it wasn’t the one I went to,” said Grimm, who had friends at that particular school and took it upon himself to join their group.
Founded in 1956, the Duke of Edinburgh program challenges young people between the ages of 14-24 to step outside their comfort zones through a series of volunteer opportunities and physical challenges. There are three levels to the award – bronze, silver and, eventually, gold – with each level requiring an increased level of commitment to the program. Each level must be completed before moving to the next, with participants allowed to stop whenever they chose.
“Sometimes, it was a struggle to do all the activities, but you always had that bigger goal in mind,” Grimm said. “If you do bronze, you might as well do silver. And if you do silver, you might as well go ahead and do gold.”
With a minimum of three years to complete the entire program, gold participants must demonstrate consistent commitment in service, skill and physical recreation for a minimum of 12 months, along with completing a four-day ‘adventurous journey’ and a five-day ‘residential project.’
Grimm, 21, earned his award by volunteering with the Sault Symphony Orchestra, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library, the Algoma Festival Choir, Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving, Sault Minor Hockey and at his high school. His final gold level adventure saw him hike for five days along the coastal trail of Lake Superior, from Sand River to Orphan Lake.
“We would hike each day, put up our tent, make the food, pack up the next morning and walk again,” Grimm said.
Upon completion of the gold level of the program, participants receive a pin and certificate to mark their achievement and are able to attend a ceremony presided over by the Governor General of Canada or a member of the Royal Family.
“I did do more because of the program than I probably would have done normally, which I think is great,” Grimm said. “It helps you with your independence, to be able to juggle so many things in a specific period of time, like volunteering, your school work and regular work if you have a job, which I did have at the time.
“It’s not as daunting as you may think, but there is definitely some commitment and time dedication involved. If you have the will and the discipline to do it, it’s a great experience. Getting the actual award was sort of a stamp of approval.”