For one Cambridge teen, collecting money for charity isn’t just a good thing to do – it’s a way to help strangers the way strangers once helped him.

Matt Rios is a Grade 12 student at Glenview Park Secondary School. On Thursday, his school held a Buskerfest event to raise money for families in need around the city.

Rios was front and centre at Buskerfest, playing bongo and conga drums to drum up donations.

It was a chance to show off the drumming skills he and his brother had learned from their father starting at a young age. It was also a chance to help people who might be in the same situation their family had been in a few years ago.

“Something like this was able to help Alex and I and our parents,” he said.

“I get really passionate about this stuff, because the community has given so much to my family.”

Six years ago, the Rios family was living at The Bridges shelter. Rios remembers wanting to be at out with his friends or playing in the snow with his brother, but instead having to stay around the shelter, where friends were hard to come by.

“As a kid, it can be really hard to find joy and happiness there,” he said.

It was especially tough during the Christmas season. Unable to afford presents, the family would have gone without gifts were it not for the generosity of strangers.

“We had nothing. People just came to us – that we didn’t even know – and they just gave us toys, toothbrushes, toothpaste,” Rios said.

All money raised through Glenview Park’s Buskerfest was to be donated to the Cambridge Professional Firefighters Association basket fund.

With reporting by Marc Venema