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Zameer Bharwani’s high school club has partnered with Baycrest, a Toronto-based organization that specializes in research and care for elderly patients. Zameer Bharwani, a 17-year old high school student in Toronto who founded of Initiative for Neuroscience and Dementia (I.N.D.) two years ago. It raises awareness and money for dementia related diseases and he expanded to 7 high schools, raising about $10,000. He is photographed at Baycrest Hospital Aug 30, 2013. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

The Donor: Zameer Bharwani

The Gift: Creating the Initiative for Neuroscience and Dementia

The Reason: To raise awareness about and fund research into neurological diseases.

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Zameer Bharwani was in Grade 8 when Dr. Dugald Matheson, a neuroscientist with Prime Mentors of Canada, started helping out in the school's science classes.

Dr. Matheson taught the students about the brain and neurological diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's. Some students, including Mr. Bharwani, also visited families of people who suffered from the illnesses. "Their stories were just absolutely heartbreaking," Mr. Bharwarni, 17, recalled from his home in Toronto. "It really got me thinking that perhaps one day my parents could be affected by something like this."

By the time he got to high school, Mr. Bharwani decided to start a club to focus attention on brain disorders. In Grade 10, he created the Initiative for Neuroscience and Dementia and started awareness campaigns. The IND became so popular it now has 85 members at Mr. Bharwani's school, Marc Garneau Collegiate, and there are IND clubs at seven other schools.

The group has also partnered with Baycrest Health Sciences, a Toronto-based organization that specializes in research and care for elderly patients. Several students, including Mr. Bharwani, do volunteer work at Baycrest and so far IND has raised about $10,000, some of which has gone to fund research at the centre.

Mr. Bharwani, now in Grade 12, hopes to expand IND to more high schools and start it at the University of Toronto next year, where he plans to study engineering. "I know that there so many people affected," he said. "Alzheimer's is one of the largest causes of death that does not have a cure, that is not preventable and it cannot be slowed down. And you lose the function of your most vital organ, your brain. I can't seem to fathom that," he said. "It's a moral obligation to be the person to start to make a difference."

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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