On April 27, we invited YESS Gala guests down the rabbit hole into a land of fantastical whimsy… Wonderland!
Guests arrived at the Shaw Conference Centre and entered the lush gardens of our heroine Alice’s imagination. We mingled with the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar, the Queen of Hearts, and Alice herself, brought to life by the wonderful cast from Rhythm FX. There was an abundance of hors d’oeuvres from the garden including carrots on a bed of spices, roasted mushrooms, and potato churros. For the brave, there was also a chance to take on the Queen of Hearts at her favourite game: croquet!
Inside the hall was an enchanted forest filled with treasures: our silent and live auction items, a raffle for 100 bottles of wine generously provided by the Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group, and another raffle for a 2-karat diamond ring and a “pay it forward” pendant piece to be gifted to a YESS youth provided by Paris Jewellers.
When gala MC Ryan Jespersen took the stage, he wasn’t alone. He was joined by the one and only Cheshire Cat, who of course had more riddles than answers for our guests! Ryan and Cheshire invited Mayor Don Iveson and Honourary YESS Patron Sarah Chan to the stage. Sarah talked about harnessing the potential of all youth in Edmonton, and Mayor Iveson spoke to the commitment of front-line workers in organizations across Edmonton and how they make our city’s goal to end homelessness possible. Cheers to that!
YESS Executive Director Margo Long had exciting news for her first YESS Gala: a new vision for YESS. We recognize that our goals and promises must align to make sure we are doing our best work in empowering our youth and working with other youth-serving agencies. Our vision is to walk beside traumatized youth on their journey towards healing and appropriate community integration. How will we do that?
- We focus on prevention and diversion out of homelessness
- We focus on healing trauma through relationship
- We focus on walking beside youth to minimize falling through the gaps
- We focus on collaboration (with everyone)
Special guest speaker Denise Ogden took the stage to share her story.
“It takes a village, a community, caring people to support families through crisis. I know this firsthand when I became homeless at 16.
“So let me provide some context. I’m 1 in 5. Meaning ….I live with a mental illness called depression.
“For those that don’t know…Let me tell you what depression is like. For me anyway. My rose colored glasses are replaced by shades. Everything I see is dark. Hope is replaced by fear. Living is replaced by wanting to die and not really knowing why. Depression is like a bag full of symptoms you carry over your shoulders. I know my bag is too full to carry when I have constant thoughts of suicide. Going down the rabbit hole. Thoughts are dark. The deeper you get in, the harder it is to get out… At 11 years old, when depression starting to take hold of me, I didn’t know what was happening. And you know, neither did my poor parents.”
As Denise struggled with her feelings, she developed an eating disorder and began cutting herself. She attempted suicide. She was in crisis, and as her parents and sister watched without any idea what to do, they were in crisis, too.
“A psychiatrist told my family I was just a sad little girl. Really not the answer you want to hear when English is your second language and you don’t know how to help your daughter, your sister, and you don’t know how to keep her alive.
“The day before my first day of grade 11, I was cutting and banging my head against a wall, to stop the pain. I was deep deep in the rabbit hole. My dad picked up the phone book, found the number for YESS and dropped me off at the YESS Shelter, now known as Nexus.”
The staff at YESS provided Denise with the support she desperately needed. They also reached out to her parents and walked them through the pain and confusion they were experiencing. YESS staff mediated conversations that needed to be had, and within a month, Denise was back at home with her family.
“It takes a village, a community, a group of people who care to walk with families and our youth.
“And as a parent of 6 year old twin daughters, who I hope are not going to be 1 in 5, I know we are going to be all right because behind me, I have my own village of family friends’ community and once upon a time, long time ago, I had YESS.”
We are so grateful to Denise for sharing her story. Our guests were touched by her experiences and her testament to the power of supporting youth.
As dinner was served, dancers from the School of Alberta Ballet took the stage to perform “Tea Party” and “Roses” from the Alice in Wonderland ballet. These young performers were amazing and certainly brought the famously zany tea party to life!
Throughout the evening, guests were able to peruse the many enticing items on offer in the silent auction. This year guests could also contribute to “Give a Dream” experiences for youth like a robotics experience at the TELUS World of Science or a shopping and adventure experience at West Edmonton Mall.
As guests prepared to take their first bites of dessert, the cast of Wonderland characters serenaded everyone in the hall with a round of “A Very Merry Un-Birthday”! The dessert itself deserved it own round of applause for presentation. Thanks so much to Executive Chef Serge Belair and the entire culinary team at the Shaw for creating a delectable 3-course dinner for our guests.
Quick as a flash, the live auction was going, going, gone! And with that, it was time for us–and the Chesire Cat, of course–to say goodnight to our guests. As Lewis Carrol wrote:
Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out–
And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, we merry crew,
Beneath the setting sun
Thank you so much to all of the guests, sponsors, donors, performers, and volunteers who brought Wonderland to life at our YESS Gala for Youth! We are so excited to share that this year’s event raised $195,205.
We are so grateful for your support as we walk beside traumatized youth on their journey towards healing and appropriate community integration.
One Step Beyond Photography + Video
River City Events
Pattison Outdoor Advertising
Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group
The Organic Box
Live Auction Donors
Silent Auction Donors
|Italian Centre Shop
|Alberta Food Tours
|Big Valley Jamboree
|Marie-Pierre Castonguay Photography
|Brian Mason, MLA
|Marlin Schmidt, MLA
|Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
|Cactus Club Café
|Mayor Don Iveson
|Nicole Goehring, MLA
|Oxygen Yoga & Fitness
|City of Edmonton
|Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge
|Premier Rachel Notley
|Cookies by George
|Rabbit Hill Snow Resort
|Costco Sherwood Park
|Randy Boissonnault, MP
|Councillor Aaron Paquette
|Resorts of the Canadian Rockies
|Councillor Andrew Knack
|Richard Feehan, MLA
|Councillor Ben Henderson
|River Valley Adventure Company
|Councillor Bev Esslinger
|Royal Tyrell Museum
|Councillor Sarah Hamilton
|Shaw Conference Centre
|Councillor Tim Cartmell
|Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group
|Councillor Tony Caterina
|Councillor Scott McKeen
|David Eggen, MLA
|David Shepherd, MLA
|Steam Whistle Brewing
|Dr. Bob Turner, MLA
|Sunshine Village Ski Resort
|Sutton Place Hotel
|Edmonton Eskimo Football Club
|Telus World of Science
|Edmonton Folk Festival
|The Comic Strip
|Edmonton International Airport
|The Explorer Hotel
|Thomas Dang, MLA
|University of Alberta Botanical Gardens
|Estefania Cortes-Vargas, MLA
|Fringe Theatre Adventures
|Greenland Garden Centre
|Yellowhead Brewing Co.
|Yellowknife Golf Club
|Hotels on Whyte
|Interstellar Rodeo Music Festival