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Message from Margo

December 1st was the launch of our new holiday fundraising campaign, “YESS is Home for the Holidays.” As this is my first message as Executive Director, I thought I would explain the rationale behind our new campaign.

Winter can be a brutal and unforgiving season in Edmonton. For most of us, the holiday season offers some light, love, and connection during the coldest, darkest months. For YESS kids, this season emphasizes what they don’t have: a home. A home is not just the shelter and basic needs a house provides—a home is full of warmth and love and family. For youth experiencing homelessness and difficult realities, YESS is home in every sense of the word.

The purpose of the #YESSishome campaign is to bring awareness to the intangible and most necessary component of YESS: our staff. Much of our fundraising goes to pay for staff salaries—a cost that is less tangible, but definitely the most impactful. It is YESS staff who provide the warmth, love, connection, and safety of home.

It is our front-line staff who might identify a potential suicide risk and work to create a support plan. They are the ones teaching youth how to cook a healthy meal, do laundry, and buy groceries on a budget. They are the ones giving First Aid and CPR in emergency circumstances. They give hugs, model respectful relationships, teach cleanliness and personal hygiene, and share dating and life advice. During the holiday season, they are the ones planning and creating experiences like dinners and sleepovers and gift openings to create celebrations and fun that we take for granted. And before they do all of this, they work to build trust with kids who have experienced high levels of trauma.

So, our campaign is simple. For YESS youth, YESS is home for the holidays. Help us keep our home full of the family that helps youth from difficult realities heal and move into sustained, healthy independence. Help us continue to make YESS home the whole year round.

Make YESS home for the holidays and all year round with your donation at YESS.org/YESSishome.

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Letter from a Donor

The harsh realities of homelessness can be difficult for the average person to face. We received this touching letter from a donor who was initially startled to meet a homeless youth, but wanted to do right by all young people experiencing homelessness by donating to YESS.

“Late last week my husband entered an ATB vestibule to access the ATM machine, about 2 a.m. He walked in on a young man sleeping on the floor, who was startled into wakefulness. Unsure what to do and concerned, my husband walked out again. The young man followed him out and said, ‘I’m sorry, please go in, I am leaving’. My husband watched him walk away and then went inside. When he told me this story the next day, my heart just broke. We talked about how being so startled and uncomfortable caused him to not act like he normally would.

“If he could go back for a do-over, he would have given the young man his gloves, toque and coat. He would have called me to get up and come over with warm food. We would have asked the young man if we could take him anywhere to be safe and warm.

“That young man said, ‘I’m sorry’. No, no, no, child. We are sorry that you do not have a home where you feel you belong and safe and loved. And that we did nothing to help you, just let you walk away. Alone.”

Thank you to our donors who have made our youth feel seen and loved this holiday season. Your gift will make a difference throughout the year. Give today at yess.org/YESSishome.

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Meet Our Youth: Mariah

I was 18 years old when I had my son. When I found out I was pregnant it was right around the time I stopped drinking/using. I became very dedicated to having my baby. When he was born I never felt so much love in my whole life. I felt this new kind of love. I named him Heyden Ryker and he was born December 15, 2012. My life completely changed after that. I went to Breamar High School for three years and my son went to the Terra day care at the high school.

I struggled so much having to take care of my son. I felt like I was all alone. All of my natural supports were so unhealthy. My family didn’t want to help me and I was carrying the burden of being responsible for the well being of my whole family. I was not only going to school and taking care of my son but also taking care of my whole family. I struggled with domestic violence with my son’s father. It was really hard to be together in this relationship and also try to take care of my son.

The best thing I ever did as a parent was show my son all of the love in my heart. He will be 5 years old this year.  He is so calm and loving and gentle. I lost my son due to the domestic violence. I was unable to give him a safe place and take care of him properly with all of the negative people in my life. I lost my son and then everyone disappeared. No one was there for me when I wanted to try and get him back either. I gave up on everything and myself.

I thought a family was when everyone helped each other out no matter what. I felt like everyone had turned their back on me and I felt so betrayed. My son’s father went to jail around this time and it was the first time that I was alone, in my whole life. Even though my relationships with people might not have been good for me or my son it was the worst thing that could have happened at that time in my life to have no one. The worst thing to feel was being by myself and scared and unable to cope without them.

At that time I found the Armoury and the YESS shelter. I was using and drinking and eventually tried to take my own life. I actually overdosed and was taken to hospital. I just couldn’t deal with the fact that I had tried my very best and no one would help me. The betrayal and abandonment and not having my son in my life took away my ability to care or desire for change. All of the love that I felt when I first had my son was gone and I was angry, bitter and sad. I then became an IV user. I was so gone that I even forgot I was a mother. I didn’t want to feel. I was in this place for about a year long, scrambling around Whyte Ave with a toxic group of people I thought were my friends. YESS was the only place that I had. I would go to the shelter and the staff would remind me that I had a son and they would push me to try and come up with a plan to change my life around.  For a whole year this was a daily occurrence with staff. I was missing my visits and it was because I didn’t want my son to see me that way. I still felt like I wanted to give up but the staff just patiently waited for me to want to shift and change. They told me I didn’t belong on the streets. And I didn’t. I was bullied and used and taken advantage of. My addiction got so bad I didn’t know if I would make it.

I don’t want to focus on my past anymore. I feel like I hold on to a lot of things but I accomplished so much in my treatment programs. I would go to meetings all the time, all throughout the week.  I disciplined myself so strongly because I wanted change. I had enough of Whyte ave and the people I thought were my friends. I had enough of people telling me I couldn’t do it and I couldn’t get my son back. I am so resilient. I always have been but I didn’t see it until I had gone through treatment. I now see myself as someone who helps people and I see myself as a leader. I want to help people, even the ones who hurt me in my past. I want to go to school and I want to do big things with my life. Treatment taught me that there is so much more to life…there is a moment where you tell yourself this is enough and I am done. I had to discipline myself to remind myself EVERY DAY that I did not want to go back to where I was.  I worked so hard to build up all my supports to be where I am today.

It is still so hard. Every day I have thoughts about how easy it would be to go back to the way things were but then I play that tape forward and realize what I would be choosing. All of that is over for me. I can feel it and see it and I am reminding myself. It is a relief that I know I don’t want that anymore. The repetitive cycle of insanity…it can stick with you. I feel like I have a lot of people who really want me to make it. Even when I didn’t think I could. I have people in my life who want to see me be the best person and mother I can be. I only started to see it when I got clean. If I never went through treatment I would not be who I am now.

I needed to go through all of this to be who I am today. It was hard and unfair and I didn’t deserve any of it and I didn’t ask for any of it. I only wanted good for my son. I never saw myself as someone who would end up the way that I did…but it happened. I never saw myself as that person.

Every day I see all the good things in my life. I want to help youth who are going through similar situations.  I want to help youth that struggle because I know it and understand it. I want to be a good role model and lead by example. I don’t want to repeat the cycle of so many aboriginal families. I want to be successful. I want my son to grow up better than I did.

My greatest achievement would be going to high school while I was raising a child. I am now going to upgrade and I only need one more course. I am going to go to Norquest and when I applied I thought I would need so much more upgrading but I only need one course to set myself up to get post secondary education. That is amazing and I am so proud of that.

I also finished 90 days of treatment at Poundmakers and went into the aftercare program and spent 6 whole months in the treatment process. I never wanted to do anything for myself it was always for my boy.  Treatment was for me and I feel so proud of that. I did this for me and no one else and I am clean today and that is a huge accomplishment. I have had my own apartment for a whole year and have done this without any issues…which is so amazing. I will move into a two bedroom apartment with my boyfriend and we will have the second room so that I can get my son back.

If I have to narrow it down to whom I would choose to thank in my life I would say Dolphin from YESS and my boyfriend. I have known Dolphin since I first became homeless. He encouraged me do these goal charts and I was so angry and unwilling but he was so patient and persistent at the same time. Trying to get to know me and help me. I learned how to sit with my feelings and I had never had that before. To help me process what my choices are and why I make them and what I really want to do. He made me angry at first because I did not want to sit with my feelings but then later I would thank him. He was always there and making sure I was okay and reminding me of what I surround myself with. He didn’t give up. I feel so grateful and happy that he came into my life. And my boyfriend, he started in my life as my best friend and now we are together. When we met I was going though all these things and so he knows everything. No matter what he stayed loyal to me. He would help me get to appointments and encouraged me to rebuild my relationship with my son. We would talk about the future. We are finally in a place where we are living out the future that we had envisioned for ourselves. He is so loyal and has been by my side. I never knew someone could love someone as messed up as I was.  He loves my son and wants to be a part of my life and my son’s life and this means the world to me. He really helped me get to where I am today.

My biggest advice to someone who is going through what I went through. Don’t give up on yourself. It is all about whom you surround yourself with. Seek out supports and look through all your resources. Go to meetings and talk to people that have changed and want to change. Learn to love yourself; you would be amazed at what is possible.

You can make a difference in the lives of youth during the holiday season and all year round at YESS.org/YESSishome.

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Meet Our Youth: Jude’s Story

Jude lives at Shanoa’s Place, one of our long-term residences that provides a home environment and constant support for youth who are working on big goals like school, sobriety, and employment. Jude sat down with us to tell his YESS story, from being scared and newly homeless to feeling confident and looking towards the future. The connections he built with our staff helped him discover his true self and his goals.

What was life like before you came to Shanoa’s Place?

I was isolated and lonely and scared to rebel against my parents and their religion. My family are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

When you first came to Shanoa’s place what was it like?

It was a little scary because I was coming off the streets and I had never been in this situation before, but everyone at the house was very friendly and welcoming.

Can you share one of your first memories of Shanoa’s Place?

I was really sick when I first came to Shanoa’s Place so I immediately went to my room and tried to sleep. I also hadn’t had a private room for a month because I was couch surfing and staying at Nexus [YESS’ overnight shelter]. I remember the occasional screaming and one of the youths knocking on my door saying he wanted to meet the new kid. Little did I know, the screaming came from my roommates yelling at their computer games and my other roommate who just wanted to meet me really bad. I became really good friends with everyone that week.

What are some positive changes that have happened since you’ve been here?

I learned to stand up for myself and I found my self. I learned who I really am and I’m still learning. I’m a lot more confident than before. I’ve also learned how to take care of myself.

How have you learned to take care of yourself?

My parents used to take of everything. They monitored and criticized everything I did. I now have learned how to look for jobs and go to school by myself. I’ve learned how to become motivated.

I also learned how to make friends on my own because I was only ever able to meet Jevoha’s witnesses. I was only allowed to meet “parent-approved friends”.

If you can give advice to younger people who are going through the same thing that you did, what advice would you give them?

Think for yourself. When you’re raised in a certain situation it can be scary to remove yourself from the bubble but you have to think for yourself. I’m infinitely more happy on my own. So do what makes you happy. There isn’t any point in life if you don’t do what makes you happy.

What do see for yourself in the future. What goals do you want to accomplish?

I want to continue to grow and find myself. One day I’d like to have kids of my own and show them that there’s more to life than being a sheep. I want to teach them from a young age to think for themselves. People shouldn’t have to go through all the pain of facing homelessness and being separated from the family in order to think for themselves and make their own choices.

You can make a difference in the lives of youth during the holiday season and all year round at YESS.org/YESSishome.

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YESS is Home

YESS is Home

A former YESS youth shares her story

I was a high risk youth, with little to no support. I adore my parents but addiction was and is their biggest struggle. My first experience with homelessness was at twelve years old. I simply stopped going home to physical and verbal abuse and the types of men my mother brought around.

Over the next few years I lived what I knew—drinking and abusing drugs. I lost count of how many times I dropped out of school, or how many times I had hurt myself in some way. I had nowhere to go, and no connections to anybody or any resources. I was not capable of making the changes I needed and was convinced I would not live to see adulthood.

When I found YESS, I was taken in and given a safe place. I was never one to trust easily but something just felt right. A youth worker showed me how capable I was and taught me how to take responsibility for my actions and take control in my life. At YESS I slowly stopped abusing drugs. I was allowed to be sad and I was allowed to be heard. I was allowed to feel; something I had never experienced before. I stopped self-harming and I developed healthy boundaries.

My experience with YESS was life changing. I went from a child finding heroin needles around the house to a young adult with safety, security and a future.

YESS was my home not only during holidays, but also throughout the year. I knew I could always count on them. YESS changes lives; I know it saved mine.

You can make a difference in the lives of youth during the holiday season and all year round at YESS.org/YESSishome.

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St. Boniface School Visits YESS

This guest post comes from the Grade 6A Class from St. Boniface Elementary School and their teacher, Mr. Charrois. During their visit, the students wrote encouraging notes for our youth that were left on the beds in our shelter and posted on the walls in our residential program.

In anticipation for our IB PYP Exhibition and to ignite social change, the Grade 6 students from St. Boniface visited YESS (Youth Empowerment & Support Services) this month. We were served a delicious lunch from Red Seal Chef Tiffany and her amazing kitchen staff. Then we were given a tour of the building by Jen and Mo. Finally, we completed an activity for Edmonton’s youth in need that we left on their beds.

After returning to school, we reflected on the experience and here is what a few of us thought:

St Boniface School Students

 When we went in, it made me feel sad and made me feel way more privileged than before and made me want to be more thankful for things that they don’t have and I do. Now I have a different perspective on homeless youth throughout the city and the world. (Jacob)

I felt glad that we could learn more about youth homelessness so that we can take action and help make a positive change in our community to help kids who are affected by homelessness. I feel so disappointed that parents would abandon their children as soon as they weren’t their responsibility. (Student)

When I went to bed last night, I was happy to know someone will get my letter, and I hoped that it would make an impact on whoever that person was. (Sophie)

We cannot wait to see what actions we can take to help YESS be a safe and caring place for our youth!

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Art for All

This interview appeared in our Summer 2017 Newsletter. We are re-posting it ahead of Visual Voices: Telling Our Stories Through Art, the YESS Youth Art Show and Sale, opening Thursday, October 19, 2017.

Earlier this year we put a call out for a new YESS Artist in Residence with support from the Edmonton Arts Council. Our Artist in Residence leads the Interactive Art Program at ARC. The art program is constantly evolving, but it’s always a favourite with our youth. The Interactive Art Program is proudly sponsored by Simons, who hold the power of art near and dear to their vision. “What resonates with us most at Simons is the ability to contribute in a way that taps into the creative positivity of the youth and help others see the potential,” says Yvonne Cowan, Director of Store Operations for Simons.

Local artist Allison Tunis was selected to be YESS’ new Artist-in-Residence in the spring. Allison is an Edmonton artist whose work in embroidery and mixed media primarily explores body positivity. She has a graduate degree in Art Therapy and has already worked extensively with youth from difficult realities.

We met with Allison as she began to set up shop at ARC to ask her a few questions.

Interview with Allison_01You already have experience with this demographic. What drew you to the artist in residence position at YESS?

 This position seemed like it was tailor-made for me. I do have quite a bit of experience working with this demographic – I’m trained as an Art Therapist from the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute, and did many of my practicum placements working with youth from difficult realities. When I moved back to Alberta, I worked at the Old Strathcona Youth Society for nearly two years, and participated on the Youth Connect committee and currently work for the Action Alliance for Youth Inclusion (AAYI) group (a local group of non-profit agencies working towards inclusion of high-risk youth) as an administrative assistant. This residency position is a perfect combination of working on my own artwork, and helping youth to use artistic expression in new ways.

 What are you hoping to accomplish with our youth through the Art Program?

 Through this program, I’m really hoping to introduce to the youth the ways that Art and Activism can be used as healing tools. This is the basis of my own work – raising awareness of feminist and body diversity issues, whilst working through some of my own history. The skills that I’ve learned as an artist, an art therapist, and an aspiring activist, are very useful in developing healthy coping mechanisms and methods of self-expression, and I think the youth would benefit from exploring different avenues for how art can contribute to their lives.

In your opinion, what is it about art that makes it such a powerful medium for therapy?

 The powerful aspect of art is that it can really be what you want it to be. You can use it as a diary, as a therapist, as a voice to raise awareness, as a form of meditation, and so on.  It allows for individuals to engage in a variety of different ways, whatever their comfort level and experience level is. As well, regardless of what most people think, artistic skill is not required for making art. It’s accessible to everyone. The benefits of art don’t just magically appear if you are able to produce realistic looking portraits, they are there if you are doing abstract expressionism, if you are finger painting, if you are embroidering, if you are colouring in colouring books. Art can be something different for each person, and it can be a very powerful way of expressing what’s inside when you are unable to put it into words.

Is there a particular project or art style that you’re most excited about sharing with our youth?Interview with Allison_02

 I’m really interested in sharing that art doesn’t have to be traditional “Art” media with the youth. I work mostly in embroidery, which is a traditional craft medium and not usually considered Fine Art. I’d like to show the youth that their skills and histories can be used to make unique art, whether it’s repurposing items they find out in the world, or beading techniques that they learned from their family. I’m also thrilled that there is a high chance that we will be creating a colouring book with the youth, which is something that I have done in the past and am happy to pass on to the youth.

Our youth have learned so much from Allison! Come see their work at Visual Voices: Telling Our Story Through Artthe YESS Youth Art Show and Sale. Opening night is Thursday, October 19, from 6:00PM-8:00PM and the showcase will be open October 20-21, 10AM-4PM, at our Armoury Resource Centre (10310 85 Ave)

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Meet Our Youth: J.L.’s Story

This piece was one of the most talked-about works at the Youth Art Show last year. Titled Yin and Yang, its graceful fish and pale colours invoke a sense of calm, and incredible artistic talent is clearly on display. Everything about it seems so effortless, but for its artist and former YESS youth, J.L, the journey to this tranquil place was a long one of perseverance, focus, and patience.

“In grade 10 I started to feel a lot of depression, so I stopped going to school,” says J.L. “My mom thought I was lazy… I was kicked out of my home.”

After staying at friends’ houses for a while, J.L. found her way to the YESS Nexus shelter. Without school or a stable place to stay during the day, J.L. fell in with a rough crowd. She had already been a cutter for most of her life, and her life became a spiral of cutting and drinking to cope with her depression and loneliness.

Through it all, J.L. still had a goal to continue her education and was admitted to Graham’s Place, one of our long-term residences. She completed her grade 11 coursework, but still struggled with addiction.

“All of the staff at YESS would always try to get me to make better choices. They would encourage me to work on my art and would try to suggest treatment and stuff like that. Even though I had a bed, I was always choosing to sleep in the River Valley… It can be super tough to make good choices.”

J.L. moved to our other residential program, Shanoa’s Place, in the west end to help empower her to break some of her negative cycles. She continued school through the Boyle Street Charter School and completed her high school diploma, but she knew she had more work to do before she could look to a brighter future.

“I started drinking again… Changes don’t happen overnight,” says J.L. “It was bad because I was drinking in residence. I kept falling off. I left the program.”

J.L. tried returning home, but the addiction and mental health issues among her family members made it difficult for J.L. to overcome her own obstacles.

“I knew I needed to put the effort in myself,” says J.L. “So I started staying at shelter again.”

J.L.’s struggle with addiction came to a terrifying head when she was on a binge one night and was badly beaten up. Her worst injury was her leg, which she tried to treat herself with a makeshift splint. She continued to walk on it for a day before seeing a doctor, and found out that her leg was actually broken. J.L. needed four surgeries where screws were put in her leg, followed by six months of physiotherapy and bedrest.

“This incident really sparked me to wake up and start taking care of my body,” says J.L. “Ever since then I haven’t touched drugs. Every time I think about it I feel my leg and I remember to take good care of my body.”

Once she had recovered physically, J.L. turned her sights back on her goals for her independence. She applied to the Housing First program for adults and to a post-secondary social work program—and she was accepted into both!

J.L. worked so hard on her goals for her education and a brighter future. What advice would she give to someone facing similar obstacles?

“I would say it takes a long time to learn what you know now and it takes a long time to unlearn it. I would say there are people you don’t even know who care about you. I would say that you matter. I would that who you surround yourself with makes all the difference, and that could mean you surround yourself with hardly anyone for a while, only with positive people you can find and connect with.”

J.L.’s future is so bright, and she has the drive and passion she needs to make it reality. Though her focus is forward, J.L. has many positive memories from her time at YESS.

“They helped me with every single thing. They were my support. They gave me the energy and the courage to make better choices. They encouraged me. At the time I thought all the things they wanted me to do were so small, but all those little choices were so good for me.”

Like her artistic skills, J.L.’s path to health and happiness took a lot of practice, focus, and bravery—one good decision after another. Her Yin and Yang fish prove that there is hard work beneath even the calmest surface.

Congratulations, J.L., on everything you’ve achieved so far. We know that the skills you’ve learned to become healthy and independent will serve you well in your goals and dreams for the future.

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17th Annual YESS Charity Golf Classic

We celebrated a gorgeous September day with the 17th Annual YESS Charity Golf Classic driven, once again, by our champions at GrassChopper Landscaping Ltd.! Our golfers, volunteers, and staff had a great day of fun in the sun at The Links in Spruce Grove.

After a greeting from new YESS Executive Director Margo Long, golfers enjoyed their breakfast to power up for the day. Then it was time to jump into their golf carts and putt-putt-putt their way around the links!

Golfers had no fear of going hungry out on the course. The Collin Bruce Mortgage Team had bevvies for all; Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group were making cajun chicken tacos and pouring samples; McCoy Global had a BBQ and champagne and orange-flavoured cotton candy; The Organic Box kept everyone healthy with fresh fruit cups; River City Events brought their mini-doughnut machine; and of course we could count on Boston Pizza to bring a few slices for our friends!

YESS Golf 2017 Collage 1

 

Golf wasn’t the only game on the course. At the Jump Outta Bed hole, there was a chip n’ charity challenge. From chipping to putting, GrassChopper Landscaping hosted a putting contest at the putting green. There were two big hole-in-one prize opportunities hosted by Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group and Next Step Events, but neither was won–though we’re sure if you asked the golfers, you might hear about a few close shots! And the Kerry Harty Investment Group from CIBC Wood Gundy hosted a “big driver” competition where they challenged golfers to tee-off with a massive golf club! It was definitely a big hit!

After a gorgeous day out on the course, golfers returned to the clubhouse for dinner and speeches, including the final address from Deb Cautley as Executive Director of YESS.

“I think this year has been the most spectacular year for working with our youth where they’re at. We’ve seen some really great stuff happen this year. We’ve seen a lot of kids graduate, we’ve seen a few go to post-secondary, some of them have been on a helicopter flight. Thanks to the generosity of supporters, they’ve been to Oilers games, Oil Kings games, and concerts, and they had opportunities this year to be just like any other kids. That doesn’t happen without people like you…

“This is the last speech I’ll ever make unless someone asks me to make a toast at a wedding or something. But this is my last speech for YESS. It’s time. It’s time to pass on the torch. It’s time for new ideas, new energy, new pitbullishness. So as I leave, I’m leaving with hope. I hope that you’re all pleased with how I’ve stewarded your investment in these kids. Every cent goes towards something for the kids. I hope you’re pleased with that. My next hope is that you will continue to support this amazing agency. And this agency is amazing not because of who the ED is—it’s amazing because of the staff. Because of the volunteers. Most of all, it’s a astonishing because of the kids. I hope you’ll continue supporting this organization and helping these kids reach their potential. My last is hope is that as Margo takes over what is definitely not an easy job, not a simple job, I hope you will give her the same support and appreciation you’ve give me for 18 years. And with that I say, Cautley out.”

YESS Golf 2017 Collage 2

After the standing ovation for Deb settled down, Trevor Ross from presenting sponsor GrassChopper Landscaping Ltd. thanked golfers for their continuing support of YESS. He recalled a job site his crew once had near the Bissell Centre. As the days passed, they saw clients coming and going, sleeping in doorways before the centre opened. Trevor realized then how important it was for people facing difficult realities to find support and resources before their circumstances could become this hard. That’s why Trevor supports the work done at YESS.

“YESS is there for youth at a point in their journeys to make sure they have opportunities to succeed,” said Trevor.

And even though it was a beautiful day out on the course and a lots of fun with new and old friends, this golf tournament is truly about supporting our youth. Thank you so much to all our sponsors, guests, donors, and volunteers who joined us at our golf tournament!  This year we raised almost $46,000 to help us continue offering youth who are experiencing homelessness in Edmonton the support and resources they need.

Check out all the golf photos from One Step Beyond!

Sponsors

Presenting Sponsor – GrassChopper Landscaping Ltd.
Marked Ball Sponsor & 50/50 Draw Sponsor – Impark
Eagle Sponsors –  Collin Bruce Mortgage Team, CIBC Wood Gundy – Harty Investment Group, Sherlock Holmes Hospitality GroupWhite Knight Construction
Birdie Sponsor – Jump Outta Bed
Auction SponsorCarlson Construction
Gift Sponsor – McCoy Global
Golf Cart & Valet Sponsor – Gryphon Benefits & Insurance, Sun Life Financial

YESS Overall Sponsors

Boston Pizza
CityNews
Cowan Imaging Group
Inland AV
One Step Beyond Photography & Video
Pattison Outdoor Advertising
The Organic Box
River City Events & Big Top Tent Rentals
Simons

Special Thanks To

Air Canada Foundation
Next Step Events
The Links

Auction & Prizing Contributors

SUITS by Curtis Eliot
Edmonton Eskimos Football Club
Mark Pryzbilla
Sherbrooke Liquor
FLAMAN Fitness
Pattison Outdoor Advertising
Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group
CityNews

 

 

 

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Discover Atlantis | YESS Gala for Youth 2017

On April 28, we led guests through the veil of legend and reality to Discover Atlantis, that lost oasis of beauty and antiquity. What treasures and mysteries would be found under the sea?

Discover Atlantis photo collage 1

Guests arrived at the Shaw Conference Centre and entered an ancient agora. There was lots to explore, from the Dionysus Harvest of Grapes wine pull to the Ornaments of the Gods jewelry raffle with Hillberg and a Berk to the Greek Game of Chance. There was also a photo booth with One Step Beyond Photography. A signature cocktail reminiscent of the blues of the Mediterranean, sponsored by Impark, paired perfectly with hors d’oeuvres of tartar, edamame bruschetta, and–we were in Greece after all–spanakopita! Fashion displays by Simons set a classical mood with toga-like dresses and beautiful crowns.

Discover Atlantis photo collage 2

Then it was time for guests to plunge into Atlantis! Mermaids, octopii, and jellyfish floated amongst the pale pillars of the lost city. The many treasures of the silent auction sponsored by Canterra Suites Hotel enticed our guests. Tables were set with shimmering tablecloths in blue and silver. Centrepieces sponsored by MC College were inspired by coral and underwater flora to gorgeous effect. Each centrepiece boasted a pair of Sparkle Ball earrings by Hillberg and Berk available for blind auction, with all proceeds going to the YESS Health For 2 program to support pregnant youth.

The booming voices of Poseidon welcomed guests to the kingdom of Atlantis. Greetings were brought from the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, MP and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities; the Honourable Thomas Dang, MLA; and Mayor Don Iveson and Honourary YESS Patron Sarah Chan. Our emcee, auctioneer, and messenger of the gods for the evening was Mark Scholz.

YESS Executive Director Deb Cautley spoke about the power of family. For the youth at YESS, sometimes family are people and positive influences they choose rather than the one they were born into. The experiences and relationships youth have at YESS can echo through the rest of their lives. Many youth return to YESS years after they’ve “graduated” from our programs, to share their new life milestones and successes with the staff who helped them years before. With the theme of family in mind, Deb welcomed former YESS youth Camille Ripley to share her story.

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Camille grew up with a difficult relationship with her mom and stepdad, constantly under threat of being kicked out no matter how quiet or out-of-the-way she made herself. Her worst fear came true when she was 14 and she came home to find her room empty and her belongings packed. Her parents had decided to send her to a foster home. Camille was eventually allowed to return home again, but only after her parents found out that she was being mistreated by her foster family. Life at home was as tense and difficult as ever. For her 17th birthday, Camille asked to stay with her aunt and uncle in Edmonton so she could attend an alternative school program. Her parents agreed and bought her a bus ticket. Camille started at a new school and made new friends who introduced her to drugs and alcohol that helped numb the pain and trauma of her childhood. It became too much for her aunt and uncle to handle and they asked Camille to leave. They gave her the address for YESS.

At YESS, Camille found other kids who had stories similar to hers. She quickly bonded with staff and took great comfort in having supportive people to turn to. “That is the constant I’d been missing my whole life,” said Camille. “There were rules to follow and chores to do, but they were all to help teach me to be an independent adult.” No matter what, YESS staff were there for her. Camille left when she was 18, but YESS continued to be her rock. She eventually enrolled in the Child and Youth Care Program at MacEwan and graduated in 2002 with honours–cue applause! Camille has now been a social worker for 15 years and is the support for kids who need it most. As Camille wisely noted, “The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways sometimes.”

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Then it was time to enter the gladiator ring of the live auction sponsored by Carlson Construction–bidding paddles at the ready! Items like rare Burgundian win from Keith Graham, a pack from Blind Enthusiasm Brewing Company, a tour from Bioware, a travel package from WestJet and the Edmonton International Airport, top-of-the-line fitness equipment from Flaman Fitness, a year-long parking pass from Impark, a BBQ for 24 people from Tom Goodchild, a dinner party packed from YESS Chef Ellen Mitchell and River City Events/Big Top Tent Rentals Ltd., and a night on the town with a tailored suit to match from Simons, Mayfield Dinner Theatre, DoubleTree by Hilton, and Prestige Limousine, a division Greater Edmonton Taxi Service Inc. The rarest item of all came from the muse herself, Giselle Denis, who painted throughout the evening and auctioned off her masterpiece.

A fashion show of the Simons spring/summer 2017 collection turned the acropolis into a runway! Models floated past in gorgeous modern ensembles and antiquity-inspired headdresses.

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Guests held their breath for the evening’s finale: an under-the-sea-themed epic by Firefly Theatre & Circus. Acrobats emulated deadly sharks, jolly crabs, and shipwrecked heroes to gasps and applause from the audience.

At last it was time for the Lost City of Atlantis to disappear into the sands of time once again. But we privileged few now know its secrets, and perhaps a few walked away with a few treasures ourselves. Thank you so much to all our guests, sponsors, hosts, volunteers, and staff who made the 2017 YESS Gala for Youth the most successful gala yet, raising $220,000. Your support of our programs and resources means our youth can discover their potential and find the support they need to bring their dreams to life.

Relive the splendour of Atlantis with One Step Beyond Photography.

Thanks to all of our sponsors this year, including:

Presenting Sponsor: Nordic Mechanical Services

Dinner Sponsor: Collin Bruce Mortgage Team

Cocktail Sponsor: Impark

Table Wine Sponsor: Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group

Centrepiece Sponsor: MC College

Raffle Sponsor: Hillberg & Berk

Sorbet Sponsor: Dentons

Silent Auction Sponsor: Canterra Suites Hotel

Live Auction Sponsor: Carlson Construction

Welcome Sponsor: The Violet Chocolate Company

Hero Sponsors: Bold Design and Norpoint Sandblasting and Painting

Agora & Overall Sponsor: Simons

Agora & Overall Sponsor: The Organic Box

Media & Overall Sponsor: City TV & Dinner Television

Media & Overall Sponsor: SONiC 102.9

Photography & Overall Sponsor: One Step Beyond (Photography & Video)

Decor & Overall Sponsor: River City Events/Big Top Tent Rentals

Audio Visual & Overall Sponsor: Inland Audio Visual Limited

Signage & Overall Sponsor: Cowan Graphics Inc.

Advertising & Overall Sponsor: Pattison Outdoor Advertising

Venue: Shaw Conference Centre

 

 

 

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