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.

Discover Atlantis photo collage 3

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.”

Discover Atlantis photo collage 4

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.

Discover Atlantis photo collage 5

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




Read more

YESS Volunteers Bring the Joy

The last week of April is National Volunteer Week! Every year, hundreds of volunteer commit thousands of hours to make our work with youth experiencing homelessness possible. They support our Programs staff, our Facilities team, and our administrative departments. They create positive experiences for youth, donors, and staff. We truly could not do our job without them!

For National Volunteer Week, we want to share Rick and Dianne’s story. Rick and Dianne have been making Christmas dinner for our youth since 1999! Every year, they share their time and their love over Christmas with youth who call our shelter home.

Thank you so much to Rick and Dianne, and to all our volunteers–longtime and brand new–who make YESS’ work possible!

Tell us a bit about yourselves!

Well, I’m not really sure where to start. I’m 60 years old and have been married to my wife, Dianne Westwood, for thirty years. That said, our relationship actually started a number of years before that. We both grew up in the same small town in Saskatchewan, then went to Saskatoon for post-secondary education, Dianne at the U of S, and me at technical school. Dianne is my strength and keeps me focused and going straight ahead. We’ve lived in Edmonton since 1986. In our first years of marriage, I was going to engineering school at the U of A, and if not for Dianne’s support and encouragement, I would have never made it through. I’m very proud of Dianne; she has been a manager with MacEwan University’s Centre for the Arts for more than 28 years. I have worked in both government and private industry over the years and presently, I’m am an engineer with the Alberta Energy Regulator. We don’t have any children, but have two small dogs, Pumpkin and Rogue, that keep us occupied. We like to make home-made wine, and we also travel as often as our time allows. Over the years we’ve had great driving trips to the Northwest Territories and Yukon, and visited all of our Canadian provinces. We have been lucky enough to make our way to Europe a few times, and even spent a short time in Africa and Asia.

What inspired you to start volunteering with YESS?

Both Dianne and I have done a bit of volunteering over the years. Before I started studying at the U of A, we spent a few months as volunteers with CUSO in Mozambique. Unfortunately, the war that was going on in the country at the time, which was just after Mozambique gained independence from Portugal, intensified in the city we were working in. A car bomb went off early one morning not far from where we were living, and it was recommended we leave. I was able to begin studying at the U of A shortly after our return to Canada, and Dianne spent several months volunteering as an ESL tutor before beginning a new job at the downtown YMCA. Basically, we were familiar with volunteering.

To answer your question, thought, through most of the 1990s, we would invite an elderly neighbour over for Christmas dinner. After she passed away, we resumed travelling to Saskatchewan for Christmas with family. After a couple of years, we decided that we would like to stay in Edmonton for the holidays, but did want to do something helpful somewhere. Dianne contacted YESS as we felt the help they offered for young adults was much needed and very worthwhile. Kids whose circumstances made their lives much tougher than ours deserved something at Christmas; offering to cook Christmas dinner wasn’t much, but it was something we felt we could take on, plus we knew that our help would give the shelter’s cook the opportunity to have the day with his family.

We are a bit unsure of the first year that we volunteered to cook at YESS, but we think it was 1999. We did miss cooking at Christmas in 2002, but haven’t missed any years since then.

If there was one thing you wish the community knew about YESS, what would it be?

I think that many Edmontonians aren’t aware enough of some problems that exist in Edmonton. We hear about the efforts that the City and a number of wonderful supporting agencies are doing to address issues, homelessness and hunger to name a couple, but we don’t hear much about troubled youth and the efforts that agencies such as YESS are doing to help support them and provide life skills training for them.

What special memories do you have of spending Christmas with the youth of YESS?

Over the years of volunteering at Christmas at YESS, we have lots of fond memories and have met wonderful volunteers, staff and clients. Nancy Ng is has been a volunteer cook for most of the years that Dianne and I have Christmas day at YESS. Nancy is a great traveler and mountain climber and has told us of many of her adventures; something we have enjoyed a lot and look forward to hearing on each occasion we meet. Really though, the hustle and bustle of preparing and serving dinner for 20 to 30 people makes for a busy piece of the day! The kids always appreciate our efforts and nearly every one of them takes a moment to say “thank you”. I especially like it when they come to us and say the food reminds them of Christmas dinners at their Grandma’s house; I like to think that these are beautiful memories for them, and that is very special for us! The staff at the Armoury are always helpful to get things set up, and the youth have their duties in clearing up the dishes after the meal. Once all is done and we are heading home, we always feel that we’ve accomplished something that we can be proud of…it isn’t much, but it is something we’ve been able to contribute.

What are your words to live by?

Be honest and respectful when dealing with people and they will respond in kind.

If you are interested in volunteering with YESS, please visit for more information!

Read more

Smile for the YESS Camera!

Chris Thombs of is a familiar face at every YESS event, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find him in any photos. That’s because Chris is always the pro behind the camera capturing every smile, laugh, and crazy moment at YESS events over the past 6 years! You can check them all out at

Thank you so much, Chris, for all of your hard work! We can’t wait to smile for the camera at the YESS Gala for Youth!

Tell us a bit about yourself!

Where to start? Today I am a working photographer that specializes in “making you look good” by creating imagery of you, or of what you care about, for any professional or personal use. Before the career change in 2009 to becoming a full time professional creative I was in the Army with the Princess Patrica’s Canadian Light Infantry for 21 years. That service made me care more about my adoptive city of Edmonton and to put down roots here.

How did you first get involved with YESS?

Back in 2010 I finally had the opportunity to finally get to go out for “Homeless For A Night” and participate instead of just donating money and stuff to YESS. So a couple of friends and I went down to participate bringing our donations and spent the night. And since I am a working photographer I had my camera in tow as always I documented the night, and handed off the images to Shelly. Two months later Shelly called me and asked me what I knew about golf, and if I would be interested in volunteering to cover the Charity Golf Tournament with photography, and I responded HECK YAH! Tell me when and where! So ever since myself and One Step Beyond has covered YESS’s marquee events doing event photography, photo booth, video productions, and even some executive portraits.

Why are you passionate about supporting youth facing difficult realities?

I have friends that went to YESS for help when they were in need, I have seen the good work they do, and my experience working over seas makes me want to help our own youth in Edmonton.

What are some favourite moments you’ve experienced at YESS events?

There are so many great moments and
memories I have from YESS events (I have photographic proof of that). But for me it is hard to distill down to finite moments, but I can share what I feel; touched in the heart, joy, and hope at every event.

Why is in important for you to give back to your community?

Every one deserves a chance at anything, and everything.

Read more

Christmas Giving

Christmas at YESS would not be the joyous time it is without the help and dedication of our volunteers. Nancy Ng has been serving Christmas dinner to our youth for the past 12 years. She has made sure that hundreds of youth have had a warm and welcoming Christmas Day as they all sit down to eat together. It means so much to us and our youth that she chooses to spend this precious time with us, a gift in itself.

Tell us a bit about yourself! I work as a writer for the Government of Alberta. I am also a non-fiction author. My first book (No, Really, Where Are You From?) was published in 2012, and it is being sold in different venues and bookstores around Edmonton. I’m currently working on my 2nd and 3rd book. I always look forward to all the festivals this great city has to offer in the summer, especially Heritage Days.

What inspired you to start volunteering with YESS? I had a very chaotic and unstable childhood, so I understand what a lot of the kids at YESS are going through. I never got to use YESS when I was a youth, but I could still relate to a lot of the youth at YESS, as it was a very difficult time in my life.

It means so much to me to know that the youth get this little bit of happiness and stability on Christmas Day.

As I’m older now and my life is no longer turbulent and uncertain, I still feel the presence of my youth. It’s heartbreaking to know that these youth have no place to go on such a day as Christmas (or any other day). I feel they need Christmas more than I do, and that is why I wanted to volunteer at YESS on Christmas Day. I have a warm and safe place to return to every single day of my life, but not these youth. I feel regardless if you’re a homeless youth or an adult, everybody deserves a place to go to that is warm and inviting, and have food for them, and not be outside walking around stressing where they can get some shelter or where their next meal is coming from. Nobody deserves to live that way.

If there was one thing you wish the community knew about YESS, what would it be? The one thing I wish the community knew about YESS is their life-changing programs and services to help homeless youth get back on their feet again. Whether it’s giving them structure, helping them with their resumes, or providing them with warm beds, YESS is there for these youth. As our economy becomes more volatile and ever changing, so are the family dynamics and structure. Edmonton is very lucky to have this organization help our homeless youth.

What special memories do you have of spending Christmas with the youth of YESS? There have been so many special memories of spending Christmas with youths at YESS. The ones that stand out for me the most are seeing the happiness in the youth’s faces throughout the years, when I see them at the Armoury or at the YESS headquarters. They know they’re in a safe and warm environment, and it shows in their faces. That means so much to me to know that they get this little bit of happiness and stability on Christmas Day, amidst their chaotic and turbulent everyday realities. It’s the least I can do and I will never forget that. I hope one day I can have the opportunity to bring my children in to also volunteer, so they can see what I see.

What are your words to live by? My words to live by are: It’s going to get better. I promise. In line with my philosophy is one of my favorite quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt: You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”

Thank you so much, Nancy, for being a strong and positive force for our youth over the past 12 years and for giving the gift of your time and service. Thank you for sharing the true meaning of the holidays with us!

Read more

YESS Youth Making Her Dreams Come True

Dear Staff at Youth Empowerment & Support Services,

Sixteen years ago I stayed at YESS after having a significant breakdown in my relationship with my mother. Since then my life has travelled a wonderful road, and I have always credited the staff at the shelter as a significant factor in my success.

The staff at YESS treated me in a way that everyone else in my life was not able to—with dignity and respect. Their attitude towards me helped to nurture something inside me that was rapidly dying. As a troubled teen it was easy to start seeing yourself the way the rest of the world sees you—as worthless—and without the YESS staff I can’t imagine how I ever would have found the belief in myself to move forward.

One afternoon, a youth worker from the shelter conducted a simple exercise with us: she had us visualize the ultimate reality that we could be living ten years from now, and she had us write it out. I believe that I wanted to live in a log cabin, with a kind and loving husband, and have a career as a police officer. I left the youth shelter with a self-determination that saw me through college, completing a law degree at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. This coming August I am blessed to be celebrating the completion of my law degree; in October I celebrate five years of marriage to a kind, educated and loving man, and at the end of the summer my son—a healthy, well-adjusted, and interesting young man—begins high school.

I have thought many times over the years how critical my time at YESS was. The staff there were truly amazing. They believed in me—an act so simple, but so determinative of whether I chose to live the reality of how others saw me, or live it how it could be.

While I haven’t bought a log house yet (law school is awfully expensive!), I am well past any dream that I could have dared to contemplate when facing life on the streets at 16.

– Former YESS Youth

Read more

Youth Finds the Power to Change His Story

Ask any of the YESS staff at Nexus or ARC and they’ll all agree: Sherwood’s journey has been amazing to watch and his gentle, positive personality a joy to work with.

Sherwood had already started to change his story when he arrived at YESS. He had just finished detox and knew he needed to find somewhere supportive to stay if he was going to keep up his sobriety. That is what he found at YESS.

“I talked to the staff here, telling them what I needed,” says Sherwood. “And I stayed involved in the groups and activities offered at ARC. Having somewhere to go was very helpful. I didn’t have to aimlessly walk around all day… and then I had somewhere to sleep at night. It kept me safe.”

Soon Sherwood was connected with resources to help him achieve his goals to maintain his sobriety, find a job, and get his own place.

“Sherwood came to me when he heard about the work experience program,” says Claire, YESS Employment Coordinator. “He was very excited about the food portion of the work experience and started his food safety program right away.”

As he was getting support for his employment goal, Sherwood also worked with Erin, an AHS Addictions Counsellor, to get a referral to a treatment program to help him maintain his sobriety. With Erin’s help, Sherwood was admitted to his first-choice treatment program at Shunda Creek. He always made his check-in calls to YESS Programs staff to share his progress and his feelings about the treatment process.

Our staff were so proud to watch Sherwood achieve one goal after another. It was no surprise—from his first days at Nexus and ARC, staff found Sherwood to be positive, driven, and patient with both others and himself.

After his amazing months at treatment, Sherwood returned to YESS programs and found resources to help him find long-term housing. Just over a week later, Sherwood moved into a sober living program. In a few months, Sherwood had gone from seeking emergency shelter to committing himself to his sobriety and achieving independence.

“I mentally took an inventory of how my life had been collapsing over the past couple of years, and told myself that I didn’t want it to keep going downhill,” Sherwood says. “My advice would be don’t be afraid to express where you’re at. Showing vulnerability will lead you to success… If you go and tell someone you want to use, they can help you out in that moment, they can teach you things in that moment.”

There’s so much for Sherwood to be proud of! What would he say are his top achievements?

“Getting past addiction. Building myself up to say I don’t need to use anymore, which has gotten me to 137 days clean! Working at becoming part of my family again. And having a plan to start budgeting, which I’ve never done before.”

Staff at Nexus and ARC know that while Sherwood’s time with YESS is over, his success is just beginning. The positivity and resilience he showed while he was in our programs even inspired other youth who share some of the same goals.

“I can only imagine where he will be in another few months,” says Claire. “His passion will surely take him to wherever he wishes to be.”

Congratulations, Sherwood, on all your hard work and all you have achieved! We know the future is bright for you!

Read more

16th Annual YESS Charity Golf Classic!

We celebrated the first day of September with the 16th Annual YESS Charity Golf Classic Driven by GrassChopper Landscaping Ltd. Golfers, volunteers, and staff braved the chilly morning and were rewarded with a gorgeous afternoon at The Links in Spruce Grove.

1Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for golf champs! Pancakes, eggs, bacon, fruit, and pastries were all on offer thanks to our friends at CIBC Wood Gundy. Once our golfers were fueled up for the start of the day, they sped out on their carts for their first tee-offs.

There were plenty more opportunities to nosh once golfers were out on the course. Collin Bruce Mortgage Team had warm coffee in the morning and cold drinks for the sunny afternoon; Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group had “yorkies” (mini Yorkshire puddings–so delish!); Investors Group brought the BBQ vibe with smokies and all the fixin’s; and who else could be counted on to bring the pizza but Boston Pizza! Not to be outdone, our own YESS chefs served up sliders at the 9th hole.

2In between bites it was time to play golf–and some other games too! There was a chip shot challenge with Pattison Outdoor Advertising and a sit n’putt challenge with McCoy Global. True putting glory could be won at the putting green contest with GrassChopper Landscaping Ltd. There were two $5000 hole-in-one challenges hosted by SK Events and Investors Group and a . Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation (or ABCRC, as their friends calls them) had a great trivia game where players matching the recyclable material with the items they could be recycled into–did you know that plastic is recycled to make clothing?! Crystal Glass offered golfers the chance to send their drive right at a windshield. It’s possible the most fun was had at Jump Outta Bed’s team photo contest (check out all the day’s snaps on their Twitter feed).

3As teams rolled back into the clubhouse wearing far fewer layers than they’d had on at the start of tournament, there was one more surprise in store: massages from City Centre Wellness! Certainly the best way to come off the golf course is to go straight to the massage table.

Golfers, volunteers, and staff gathered back in the clubhouse for dinner and to hear from Deb Cautley, YESS Executive Director, and Trevor Ross, President of GrassChopper Landscaping Ltd., Presenting Sponsor of the YESS Charity Golf Classic. Deb described the pride she felt seeing the Edmonton community come together this summer for the people of Fort McMurray. It’s the same community that comes together for YESS–it’s why we see the same amazing supporters year after year at this golf tournament! We are #AlbertaStrong.

4In his speech, Trevor remarked that the YESS Charity Golf Classic and GrassChopper Landscaping Ltd. got started the same year. With a lot of determination and hope, Trevor started his business and now years later, his company is the presenting sponsor of a major fundraising event to give back and support a local charity. We happen to know a little bit about living on determination and hope as well, and we are so grateful to have GrassChopper Landscaping Ltd. on our team to support youth experiencing homelessness in Edmonton.

5Thank you so much to all our sponsors, guests, donors, volunteers, and staff who joined us on this great day out on The Links!  This year we raised over $39,500 to help us continue offering youth who are experiencing homelessness in Edmonton the support and resources they need.


Presenting Sponsor – GrassChopper Landscaping Ltd.
Breakfast Sponsor – CIBC Wood Gundy
Platinum Sponsor – Pattison Outdoor Advertising
Eagle Sponsors –  Carlson Construction, Collin Bruce Mortgage Team, Investors Group, Nordic, White Knight Construction
Birdie SponsorCrystal Glass
Golf Cart SponsorGryphon Benefits & Insurance
Go Green SponsorAlberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation
Golfer Giveaway SponsorMcCoy Global
Marked Ball Sponsor & 50/50 Draw SponsorImpark
Ping Pong Contest SponsorJump Outta Bed
Auction SponsorIncite

YESS Overall Sponsors

Boston Pizza
Burke Group
CityTV/Dinner Television
Cowan Imaging Group
Inland AV
One Step Beyond Photography & Video
River City Events
SC Systems
Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group
The Links at Spruce Grove

Read more

We Are Loyal to the Pavement

This piece was written by Kristina, who shared it with us on Facebook. She is a champion of the YESS cause and presented this piece at a local event.

We are loyal to the pavement. The only stable thing in our lives, we pound on it – it never shifts. The most important thing to remember is that no matter what brought you here, you’re not wrong. Your reason is good enough. You are good enough. There is no wrong reason. And even more important, you are strong enough. You are winning, even on days you feel like you aren’t, every day that you wake up you are winning. The odds are against you; a harsh reality. We are embraced by adversity, as youth on the street. We are synonymous with struggle. We are transparent to privilege. We earn every right we have, we fight for it, scream for it, we walk some dark paths for it. As youth our ability to fight for solutions falls short of our age, to prove our opinion is worthy – it is “wise” enough to know better. We fight to be our own advocate. We fight to be heard. We battle ourselves in a teeter totter of knowing we can always do better and coping through the position we’re standing in. We face the internal battle of leaving the comfort we’ve found in those dark places and reaching for the light, the end of the battle – a different dream for everyone. We struggle to imagine our success, how we will get there and who will hold our hands. Many things will come and go, they will tear you down and leave you feeling broken. You will lose friends, you will lose things you love along the way. I promise you will heal. You will meet new friends and you will find love in new places and new things. You will one day wake up and realize, the success you struggled to imagine is internalized in who you are and the battles you’ve won. You will wake up and see the courageous person that brought you here. You will push for greatness, because you deserve it – you are worthy. You have a beautiful gift to offer the world. Success is defined as the “accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”

Find you purpose, whatever it is. Reach for your dreams, dear child dream big. Embrace who you are and all you’ve become – be proud of who you are. I promise you this is true, I know because I was there too. We need to empower our youth, especially those fighting their battle on the streets. The strength and drive of a youth who grew up on the streets is parallel to the spirit and drive of many of the business people I’ve come across in my professional life. I’ve walked the pavement; I paced the alleys at 3am and faced the wounds that came along with it. I resented the stereotype cast on me as a “degenerate”. I faced endlessly the judgement, that I had been or done wrong – that I wouldn’t be where I was if I had been a better person, a better kid. I fought that belief, I challenged them – I wanted to prove them wrong, not for them – for me. I fell and when I fell, I fell hard. I embraced that struggle, I cried and I screamed and I moved on. I found support in the people who held me up and I worked hard at it. Until one day, that day came, my 19th birthday (I was in BC). The day I become an “adult”. That was the day, my focus changed from fighting for my own privilege, my own rights and it became about fighting for their rights, their privilege – their right to childhood. You’re right to not have to pound the pavement. Stay strong my friends, stay innocent and humble.

Read more

Canadian Western Bank Shares the H4AN Love

Canadian Western Bank is the proud presenting sponsor of the 15th Annual Homeless For A Night–in fact, they have been the presenting sponsor of H4AN for nine years! CWB has been a huge part of this amazing event that continues to bring the community together to support youth experiencing homelessness in Edmonton.

For this year’s milestone event, we sat down with Lacey Jansen, Community Investment Coordinator at CWB, to share the #H4AN love!

What inspired Canadian Western Bank to participate in Homeless for a Night?

CWB is committed to connecting with and supporting youth in the communities where we operate. We want young people to succeed and Homeless For A Night allows us to not only support YESS’ efforts with local at-risk youth, but also to help members of our community gain perspective on the difficult realities faced by these teens on a daily basis.

How many years have you and CWB been involved in Homeless for a Night?

CWB is proud of our long-standing relationship that first started about a decade ago. We’ve donated nearly $500,000 through various initiatives, sponsorships and employee matching grants, and have been the presenting sponsor for H4AN since 2007.

How do you inspire your employees to get on board with H4AN and to raise pledges?

Our employees have told us that they greatly value the work that YESS does in our community, and so we have people that come out and participate year after year. We also have a culture based on values that include integrity, respect and caring – these are all qualities that our people have and so giving back in the community is something that they want to do. I think knowing how YESS is so important for a young person going through a difficult time or faced with situations out of their control, is enough of an inspiration for employees to get involved. But it also helps that H4AN is a really unique experience. Not many people can say they’ve camped out in TELUS field, in the middle of the city. At the end of the day, our employees are just great at getting out to our community initiatives whether that’s fundraising for a cause or volunteering their time.

What is the most challenging part of H4AN?

I think the event really is about coming together to learn about what local youth are experiencing, but also to say to ourselves “I can help change this.” So the challenge then is in how we can make an impact once we leave the event.

What about your favourite part?

Hands down, the best part of the evening is the sharing of stories from the people who have been positively affected by YESS. Seeing these young people flourish and taking a different path for their lives is so heart-warming and inspiring. Just knowing we’re all there, forgoing some of our comforts, for the same mission – to help youth in our city.

How does CWB’s participation in H4AN strengthen your team and build camaraderie among your employees?

It definitely helps to bring us together. We have 8 branches and our corporate office in Edmonton and surrounding areas, and so it’s an opportunity to bring together people that we don’t often get to see and to do something meaningful together. I’d definitely encourage other businesses to sign-up a team – it’s the kind of experience that will leave people talking and sharing stories for years

Read more

A Big Milestone for H4AN!

This year we are hitting the milestone of the 15th Annual Homeless For A Night event in support of YESS! Of course there have been changes over the years: the event has changed venues, changed entertainment, staff has changed over—since it started, we have even changed our name! We have watched this event grow: we see new faces at the event year-after-year, hear new stories about what inspired new participants to give to YESS.

But some of the most amazing parts of Homeless For A Night are those that stay the same. Seeing familiar supporters every year who are so dedicated and so dear to us. Hearing the voices of people united for a common cause. Watching a community sleep outside so hundreds of youth don’t have to.

Of course, the experience of Homeless For A Night comes nowhere close to being on the streets. We would not want to create that experience for anyone. We would not want to shatter the bonds between people and their parents, ruin their childhoods. We would not want to take their education or their school experiences away from them. We would not want to make them watch their friends turn away from them. We would not want them to starve or turn to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain of such profound loneliness.

Because that is what homelessness looks like. Those are the things that cannot be fixed just by placing a roof over someone’s head. Those things need more care: counselling, guidance, trust, love, hope. The things that YESS provides to youth who show up at our doors.

All we can do is invite people to step outside their comfort zones and imagine a life with far less luxury. And remind them over and over again to imagine a little more, teach them what homelessness means beyond not having a house or a bed to sleep in.

2 (2)

A lot has changed about Homeless For A Night over the years, but the experience has remained the same. Just one night talking about the harsh reality of youth homelessness among a group of like-minded people who want to make a difference can change the world. It certainly changes the lives of youth who come to YESS and find the programs and resources Homeless For A Night participants support.

These 15 years would not have been possible without you. To our participants—new, long-lasting, one-timers—to our sponsors throughout the years, to all the volunteers who make the event possible, to all the friends, family, coworkers, teammates of participants who have contributed through pledges…


You have given youth who have had the odds stacked against them for most of their lives a chance to change their stories. That is what we do and what Homeless For A Night is all about.

We invite you to #FighttheNight with us, to fight against youth homelessness, to be part of changing the stories of hundreds of young lives every year. You can find out more at HomelessForANight.YESS.orgToday is the last day to register if you want to participate in the 15th Annual Homeless For A Night!

Read more