An Adventure in Champion City | YESS Gala for Youth 2016

On April 22, guests of the YESS Gala for Youth entered the moody metropolis of Champion City, a place of back-alley villainy and high-flying heroics. Who would win the night in the battle between good and evil?

Guests arrived at the Renaissance Hotel and wove through the dark alleyways of Champion City to reach the super-secret soiree in the shadows. The Champion City alleys were the perfect place to mingle with Batman, Superman, and Wonderwoman on the lookout for trouble. Prowling through the crowd were Catwoman and the Joker.

YESS Gala For Youth 2016 DecorThe elegance of themed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres contrasted with shady back alley dealings. The finest counterfeit Champion City Jewellery was on offer, and metropolis’ best libations were stashed in Lex Luthor’s Liquor Cabinet, sponsored by The Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group. The Riddler offered the chance to beat him at his own game at the Riddle Wall, with prizes from Simons. Guests could also step right onto the cover of their own comic book at the photobooth provided by One Step Beyond Photography.

YESS Gala For Youth 2016 ActivitiesAt dinner, guests finally met their mysterious host: Lex Luthor himself, who claimed to be on the path to redemption and seeking a new place in society as a philanthropist. The Champion City skyline surrounded the ballroom, lit with spotlights of our sponsors’ own heroic logos in a presentation by Owen Brierley and Edmonton Digital Arts College. Tables were set in graphic black and white with the pop of colour of superhero-themed centrepieces, sponsored by Interpipeline.

YESS Gala For Youth 2016 Decor

René Cloutier of Nordic Mechanical Services, Presenting Sponsor of the YESS Gala for Youth, greeted and thankedguests on behalf of YESS. The Honourable Amarjeet Sohi brought greetings from the Prime Minister and offered powerful words on the unified effort required to end youth homelessness. The dynamic duo of Mayor Don Iveson and Honourary YESS Patron Sarah Chan praised the community of YESS supporters in Edmonton.

Deb Cautley, Executive Director of YESS, brought not a speech, but a story. The story of a boy who had been abused by his parents for fifteen years and finally thrown out of his home. He slept outside in a park near the house for five nights, then another two nights at the fence by the backyard. Finally he was allowed back in the house, only to be given a slip of paper with the address to youth shelter. For two months, YESS was this boy’s home. During the day he attended his first year of high school, and in the evening YESS staff helped him study and offered him support and counselling. It was the first time he felt like part of a family, the first time he had felt loved in years.

The boy of this story then took the stage: Jay Ball, General Manager of FC Edmonton. Jay offered words of encouragement to the youth of YESS and praised their resiliency and the strength each carried with them—strength that could grow with YESS’ help.

“There is much more to my story,” Jay said. “But I attribute my success as a human being to YESS. Walking through that door saved my life and gave me hope. It changed my story. Change your story and it can change your life.”

The ballroom erupted in applause for Jay’s bravery, wisdom, and strength. We are so grateful to have former YESS youth share their stories of hope and resiliency. Thank you so much, Jay, for sharing youth powerful words with our guests.

Even with Batman, Superman, and Wonderwoman in attendance, our guests proved themselves to be the true heroes of the YESS Gala for Youth, raising over $60,000 during dinner to provide basic needs to youth who are experiencing homelessness and need it most. Over 60,000 meals are served in the Nexus shelter every year, and the amazing support of our guests will go a long way in making sure our youth can always find what they need at YESS.

The evening rolled on to the exciting live auction, emceed by the one and only Danny Hooper. Bidding took off faster than a speeding bullet on fantastic items like a trip for two to anywhere WestJet flies with all the EIA perks, paired with a condo rental at Big White Ski Resort (donated by René Cloutier, WestJet, and Edmonton International Airport), a trip for two to Yellowknife including flights, accommodation, and a golf package (donated by Canadian North, The Explorer Hotel, and the Yellowknife Golf Club), a barbecue dinner for 24 at the Sawmill Restaurant Group (donated by Tom Goodchild), and a masterpiece by Giselle Denis painted live at the gala!

YESS Gala For Youth 2016 Remarkable Moments

But the excitement wasn’t over yet. Lex Luthor took to the stage to reveal his whole bad guy-turned-philanthropist act to be a hoax! His fiendish ways still very much intact, Lex summoned his henchmen, the Joker and Catwoman, to rob the guests of their Champion City jewels. The villains ran rampant and Lex relished his victory—until Batman, Superman, and Wonderwoman swooped in to save the day! They apprehended the villains and march them out of the ballroom to cheers from the crowd.

With our guests and their Champion City jewels safe and sound, Crystal Pearce from Hillberg and Berkmade a draw for much finer fare than back-alley baubles: jewellery sets from the collection at Hillberg and Berk.

The evening drew to a triumphant close with the sweet taste of dessert—white chocolate cranberry tart, avocado ice cream, and macaron with dark chocolate ganache, made possible by Dentons—and the rocking sound of Samantha King and The Retrofitz.

YESS Gala For Youth 2016 Sponsors

We would like to thank the superheroes of the YESS Gala for Youth: our sponsors, guests, donors, volunteers, and staff, for bringing this Adventure in Champion City to life. You helped us raise over $218,000, which will empower our youth on their journeys to brighter futures.

To see all the photos that were captured in Champion city, click here, or visit www.onestepbeyond.ca!

Thanks to all of our sponsors this year, including:

Presenting Sponsor: René Cloutier and Nordic Mechanical Services

Dinner Sponsor: Collin Bruce Mortgage Team

Silent Auction Sponsor: Canterra Hotel Suites

Live Auction Sponsor: Carlson Construction

Gift Sponsor: Crystal Glass

Welcome Sponsor: The Violet Chocolate Company

Dessert Sponsor: Dentons

Jewellery Sponsor: Hillberg and Berk

Centrepiece Sponsor: Interpipeline

Gift Bag Sponsor: MC College

WiFi Sponsor: SC Systems

Wine & Spirits Sponsor: Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group

Event Photography Sponsor: One Step Beyond Photography

Audio Visual Sponsor: Inland AV

Printing Sponsor: Cowan Graphics

Decor Sponsors: River City Events

Accessory Sponsor: Simons

Projection Mapping Sponsor: Owen Brierley and Edmonton Digital Arts College

Outdoor Advertising Sponsor: Pattison

Venue: Renaissance Edmonton Airport Hotel,

Media: CityTV and Dinner Television, SONiC 102.9

Event Designer: Samantha Kelch, sk events

Volunteer Sponsor: Boston Pizza Northern Alberta

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Guest Post: The Power of YESS

I recently took a tour of YESS’ facilities. Being a complete outsider with only a very broad idea of what Youth Empowerment & Support Services stands for, I went in expecting to be surprised, but that ended up being an extreme understatement. I jumped on board the tour because I was hoping to make a difference through my company, Burst Energy, who provides inexpensive electricity prices to both residential and commercial.

Tommy, YESS’ Sponsorship Specialist, walked me around one of their three robust buildings and explained how YESS is one of the only “full service” homeless shelters. You can’t really appreciate what they mean when they say full service until you see it firsthand. Does that mean that they provide beds, food, and blankets? Doesn’t everyone do that?

Well, it turns out that what I thought was a lot, only scratched the surface of what they actually do. Beds, food, and blankets are important, but YESS ensures that every aspect of the kids’ lives are addressed, including their physical, mental, and emotional well being. The youth who go to YESS are searching for help to rebuild their lives. YESS provides them with the help, much needed resources, support, and individual guidance through all of the different programs they offer. I knew that I had to support this work.

Since our conception, Burst Energy has made it our mandate to supply energy to Albertans at an inexpensive rate because nobody should struggle to pay for electricity. This matched perfectly with the incredible work at YESS.

To better support YESS, we are proud to announce The Power of YESS program. If you sign up and use the referral code “YESS”, we will give you some of the cheapest electricity rates possible and donate each month to Youth Empowerment & Support Services. The best part is that the donation comes off our bottom line!

Residential – $2 CAD every month.

Commercial – $2 CAD per 2,000 kWh every month.

If only 500 people sign up this year we will still be providing YESS with $12,000 annually. It’s our way of making a difference by doing what we do best: providing electricity.

Let’s help make life brighter for these youth!

To find out more about the Power of YESS Program visit burstenergy.ca.

~ blog post written by David Mendenhall, Burst Energy

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The Christmas Shoes

It was December20151230-145903.jpg 23, and there was still one Christmas wish we hadn’t yet been able to fulfill. One of our youth always dresses up. His everyday attire is a suit, tie, and torn dress shoes that have seen better days. On this young man’s Christmas wish list was a pair of spiffy, black, dress shoes. Size 12. Triple wide. Not the easiest type of shoe to find, and we hadn’t really had time to hunt for them. It was looking like the new shoes just weren’t going to happen.

And then we read a message that Burkhard, a generous Edmontonian, had sent us through Facebook, offering to purchase the steel toe boots that were on another wish list that we had posted a photo of. If the youth had already received boots, Burkhard said he’d be “more than happy to fulfill someone else’s wish.”

We knew that the next day was Christmas Eve, and that most stores don’t carry triple wide shoes, and that the chances of anyone having time to search for something so specific with such short notice was slim – but we passed the Christmas wish on to Burkhard anyways.

And sure enough, to our surprise, we received a message from Burkhard on Christmas Eve day. It said, “I’m on the hunt for the shoes, so far I have not found anywhere that carries triple wide. Any idea where I might find them?”

The search was on. We googled and made phone calls, trying to find a store that was still open and that carried triple wide dress shoes, while Burkhard searched every shoe store in the mall and drove around to other stores as well.

And just after 4PM on Christmas Eve, Burkhard delivered a pair of size 12, black, triple wide, men’s dress to our shelter, making a Christmas wish come true for one youth experiencing homelessness.

It’s a gift that goes far beyond what is inside the box. The thoughtfulness showed the young man that someone cared; that he was important and had value. And we have no doubt his perfect fitting, Christmas shoes will give him a new sense of confidence and take him great places in 2016 as he works towards stability and independence.

 

Thank you Burkhard, and all the amazing Edmontonians that helped make Christmas miracles happen at YESS.

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Without a Home for the Holidays: Camille’s Story

I grew up in BC with my parents. Although we have a loving family, in time, problems arose. Things came to a head when I was having problems at school and asked to enroll in an alternative high school program. My mom refused and was really angry, and things got so bad that I moved to Edmonton to live with my aunt and uncle.

Despite everything, I missed my parents desperately. When Christmas came, I begged to go home for the holidays. My mom thought that our relationship wasn’t ready and said no. The rejection hurt pretty badly. I became bitter, which was difficult for my aunt and uncle, and I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Eventually my aunt and uncle asked me to leave.

When I came to YESS I imagined the other kids being “street kids”—bums and thieves. But the other kids were just like me. I made friends and started to bond with the staff. There were rules to follow and chores to do, but I found that these were teaching me how to be an independent adult.

Being surrounded by supportive, non-judgmental staff changed everything. Within eight months I got a job, started saving money, and accessed Student Aid programs to continue my education.

Once the time came, I found it hard to leave YESS—it felt like leaving home all over again. But this time, I knew that I was strong and capable of success. And I know that if I need them, YESS will be there for me.


YESS needs your help to give hope to more kids like Camille. Donate today.

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Give Health: Amanda’s Story

I was born in Regina, though I spent most of my life moving around Alberta and Saskatchewan. I grew up surrounded by violence and addiction. My mom would try to stay sober, but she’d always slip. I was using drugs and drinking by the time I was 12. I’m the oldest of ten kids, and I spent a lot of time cooking, cleaning, and looking after my brothers and sisters. I was used to it though – my mom kept having more kids, and they became more dependent on me as time went by. I was the mom and the big sister all the time.

I didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy my youth, and when I did have time, I usually experimented with drugs or drank. My siblings and I ended up with Social Services time and time again over the years, but they always sent us back.

No one ever taught me how to deal with my feelings or anger, so I used to get into a lot of fights. I ended up at EYOC and another halfway house called CSS. I used to think my friends were my family, but I ended up in trouble over and over and they were never there for me.

I eventually ended up on the street.  Again, it seemed like my street friends were like my family. We tried to look out for each other, but when you’re hungry and you have nothing to eat, drugs will make the hunger go away, at least.

YESS has helped me a lot when I was down and out, and even when I started trying to make changes. They were supportive through a lot of phases of my life. I’ve suffered, lost and gained a lot over my life, but overall I think I’m successful. I’ve got my own place, am 9 months clean and I have a job. All that hard work has paid off.

The gift of health is yours to give when you send a #GiveChristmas card. One “Give Health” card gives five youth the mental health and addictions support they need to move forward into a healthy, fulfilling future. Visit www.givechristmas.yess.org to help a kid like Amanda.

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Give Hope: Brandon’s Story

When I was three years old, Children’s Services removed me from my home due to my parents’ addiction issues. I was placed directly in a group home for toddlers, until a foster home could be located. I spent eight years in one foster home. But as I got older, things started to change. I was starting to understand my situation more: that I wasn’t living with my real parents, that my home life was different from my friends’ at school. It created a lot of anger that I couldn’t understand. Why was I here? Why was I taken away from my family? All of this wondering about where I came from started to build up in me, and I started to act out.

Brandon1

My foster parents decided they couldn’t have me in their home anymore. I was bounced around in group care with no sense of stability and no real parents or family. Eventually I was couch surfing because Children’s Services had no other placements for me. When I had nowhere else to go, I slept on slides in playgroups, or laundry rooms in open apartment buildings.

At 17, I came to YESS. I met people who could help me manage my anger and build my confidence. Once I wasn’t obsessed with the past anymore, I could start to think about the future. I’ve caught up on school and I’m finally getting my high school diploma. I want to go to post-secondary, but I don’t know what I want to take yet. I love music, but I also love space and the universe and the idea of exploring it. Maybe that comes from my desire to know where I came from—but on the larger scale of where we all come from. It’s like I’ve finally found my place.

The gift of hope is yours to give to youth in need. One “Give Hope” #GiveChristmas card provides the necessities to one youth for one day. When a kid like Brandon doesn’t have to worry about where he’ll sleep or where his next meal is coming from, he can focus on his potential and start to feel positive about the future. Your gift will change a life. Visit www.givechristmas.yess.org

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Give Transportation: Zach’s Story

A police officer came by our Whyte Avenue building to drop off a wallet that had been lost on the train. It belonged to one of our youth living in Graham’s Place—Zach—who was at work. The officer offered to drop the wallet off with Zach if he was nearby, but he was at work at West Edmonton Mall on the other side of the city. The officer looked concerned: how would Zach get home if he didn’t have his wallet, which held his bus pass?

Meanwhile, Zach was at work and noticed that his wallet was missing. He called the house parent at Graham’s Place to let her know that he would probably be late for curfew. If a bus driver would not let him ride for free, he would have to walk the 10 kilometres home. He had done it before.


The officer was shocked that Zach would walk all that way. He said that if he got a call out in the west end and had time, he would try to find Zach to drop a bus ticket off for him.

Zach returned home to Graham’s Place shortly after his shift, well before curfew. He told a story about a police officer who stopped at the transit station and given him a bus ticket, as well as his name and badge number. Zach was amazed at the kindness shown to him, especially by a police officer. It was a remarkable experience all around, and a great meeting of the community and our youth.

The gift of transportation is bigger than you might think. One “Give Transportation” ‪#‎GiveChristmas‬ card provides a ten bus tickets to our youth, who need to get to school, to work, to medical and counselling appointments–and they need to be able to do it without riding transit illegally. Visit www.givechristmas.yess.org to help a kid like Zach. Your gift will change a life.

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Gifts In Kind: Where Do Your Donations End Up?

Giving back is simple. It starts with a decision to just lend a helping hand to someone in need.

Maybe you saw a story on the news saying that a local charity was low on food donations so you started collecting cans of soup from family and friends to help restock the shelves. Or maybe you finally outgrew a beloved, comfy hoodie and you just wanted to pass it along to keep someone else warm.  Whatever your reason for taking the step to donate, we’re really glad you did!

Here at YESS, the two most common types of donations we are gifted with are what we call “monetary donations” and “in kind donations.” Monetary donations are just that –  donations in the form of cash, cheque, or an online process. In kind items, on the other hand, are donations of tangible goods – like food, clothing, toiletries, or gifts for the kids to enjoy, like a video game.

So what exactly happens to these donations after they are dropped off at YESS?

The process begins with our facilities team. They carefully sort all of the items, going through boxes of food, bags of donations, and trunks full of stuff. Our facilities team sees everything from boxes of socks and deodorant, to strange items like cans of paint and leg braces.

Things like toothbrushes, deodorant, makeup, personal hygiene products, razors, soap, and clothing make their way to our donation room. Many kids come to us with only the clothes on their backs.  These kids will visit the donation room and carefully flip through hangers of donated clothing.  Some will need an entire set of clean clothes, others may just need a dressy shirt for a job interview.

Food donations are sorted by our kitchen team, who decide what items need to be used right away and what can go in the fridge or freezer and added to the menu later in the week. Food is then transported to one of our three buildings – our Whyte Avenue building, which houses our Nexus Emergency Shelter and Graham’s Place; the Armoury Resource Centre, where our daytime programming takes place; or to Shanoa’s place, our residential home in west Edmonton. Things like cereal, soup, pasta, canned meat, jams, crackers, granola bars, sauces, and other snacks end up on our pantry shelves. Perishable items like milk and meat end up in one of our oversized fridges or freezers.

And what exactly happened to that can of chicken soup you dropped off?

It was warmed up and placed in the ice cold hands of a youth who had nothing but tattered mittens to wear on the harsh winter streets, and with it came nourishment, comfort, and strength.

You can be assured that every donation, big and small, is loved and appreciated at YESS.

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YESS Champions: The Home Depot Canada Foundation

The Home Depot Canada Foundation has become personally invested in taking action through The Orange Door Project to bring housing options and hope to the kids that YESS assists.

In collaboration with community partners, thought leaders, Home Depot’s suppliers, customers, and associates, the Orange Door Project focuses on improving spaces through renovations and repairs as well as supporting programs that give youth the resources to build brighter futures.

Not only did The Home Depot Canada Foundation provide YESS with a substantial monetary donation, but they also sent an important message to the many youth that YESS serves – the message that someone cares, and that they’re not alone.

But the hard-working and dedicated team didn’t stop their generosity there. They also sent a crew of over thirty men and women, and covered the cost of all supplies to give YESS an incredible makeover as part of the Home Depot Celebration of Service campaign.

Some of the improvements included tearing out an old patio and rebuilding it, building a new shed, donating a gazebo, replacing the siding on our garage, making landscaping improvements, and installing new flooring.

The Home Depot Canada Foundation is wholeheartedly committed to helping YESS change the lives of the youth we serve. Whether it’s providing funding to provide critical support programs or engaging the volunteer efforts of Team Depot associates to help improve housing accommodations, they’re proud to work with YESS to make meaningful contributions that help young people prepare for independent living.

YESS is eternally grateful for these heroes in orange who stepped up to help us “zen out” our spaces for our clients’ comfort. Having a serene, clean, beautiful space for our kids to lay their heads down at night really sets the tone for prosperity in other aspects of their lives.

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YESS Champion: Collin Bruce Mortgage Mentor Team

Collin Bruce is a driven, dedicated, and generous man surrounded by a loving family and a committed team of professionals. A strong supporter of YESS, he is always looking for what we need and finding ways to help.

As the leader of the #1 mortgage broker in Canada, his team sponsors and attends YESS functions like gala and golf, and they host a barbeque each summer for the youth attending our day programs at the Armoury Resource Centre.

Recently, Collin funded some commercials to profile the situations of youth who are at risk and experiencing homelessness, and the importance of YESS in the community. These features are meant to connect to youth so that they know YESS is there to support them, and also to increase understanding and compassion by the general public for both our youth and our organization.

Collin provides a generous donation every year for recreation, knowing how important it is for youth to de-compress and have some fun; after all, they are still kids. He also understands the harsh realities of our youth and gives monthly to offset the costs of transportation, housing, and supports, knowing that beating poverty is a complex issue and multi-faceted support is a critical element to changing young lives around.

Collin understands the importance of art, both for positive expression and sheer joy. He has purchased our youths’ art for his new offices and each year supports SONiC’s guitar auction, donating $10,000 regardless of what amount the bid reaches. At Christmas, we know we will see Collin with gift cards and treats for the kids.

He learned philanthropy from an early age from his parents, who also find so many ways to support the kids of YESS. We are so fortunate to have Collin Bruce, his family, and his team on our side.

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