“I grew up being abused – physically, sexually, mentally. Like a lot of boys, I didn’t know how to ask for help. I kept things compartmentalized and cramped down. I’d have nightmares as my brain tried to cope with what was happening. . . .”
I tell Aidan’s story as part of the 2014-15 impact report written for Kids Help Phone, Canada’s only 24/7 counselling and information service for young people. As a charity with no government funding, Kids Help Phone depends entirely on the kindness of strangers, and friends, for the money, volunteers and expertise to carry out its mission, reaching kids in trouble through its phone line and, increasingly, the Internet, with its popular Live Chat service.
For this reason, president and CEO Sharon Wood, and the rest of the Kids Help Phone leadership, wanted the impact report aimed squarely at donors, partners and volunteers, both current and potential, to underline their importance to the charity’s mission.
Said Ms. Wood in an early interview: “Our lens for this report has to be our donors. They make the service possible. Donors save lives. With their support, they’ve enabled the call that has changed this kid’s life. . . . As an organization, we need to tell the story of the impact we’ve made. We need to do this by telling individual stories.”
This became the starting point for both the design and writing of the impact report. We would tell individual stories of important supporters and beneficiaries of Kids Help Phone, to bring its ongoing mission to life, to inspire further giving and to congratulate those who have already helped.
I interviewed the subjects to uncover the essential details of their stories. In contrast to the previous year’s illustrated report, the Thrive design team of Dwayne Brookson and Jeffrey Vanlerberghe opted for friendly and expressive colour photography of subjects, used large in their excellent layouts.
Dwayne, Jeffrey and I also worked with Jamie Slater, Kids Help Phone director of public relations, to develop the Cause and Effect theme of the report:
Cause and effect – one action leads to another. It is the direct relationship between the drive to do good and the good that is done.
Donors support our mission and the result is that youth across Canada find a safe haven, where they are accepted and protected and discover the skills to learn and grow.
A volunteer gives us their time. Their donation enables us to run events that raise the funds necessary to help even more young people at risk.
A partner shares their expertise and financial support, enabling Kids Help Phone to offer new and expanded services – whether it is reaching out to teen boys who are reluctant to ask for help or increasing the hours of our Live Chat counselling service, so that more kids can access counselling when they need it.
When you embrace our cause, the effect is directly measured by the number of kids’ lives saved.
In “Aidan’s Story,” we reveal how the young man was saved as he acted out and inflicted injuries on himself because of his abusive childhood. He learned how to cope and overcome his trying history with the aid ofKids Help Phone counsellors and other health-service professionals.
We picked up the idea of volunteers as heroes in another report story, “On Being a Kids Help Phone Hero,” looking at how participants and volunteers made the annual Walk So Kids Can Talk the largest fundraiser community fundraiser to date.
In Edmonton, Woldymyr “Wally” Jaciuk, then the regional vice president of BMO Bank of Montreal, took the hero concept to the next level, embracing his role as volunteer chair of the Walk with rare gusto. To raise awareness and promote participation, he donned a muscle-padded superhero suit and went bravely to bank branches and media events, raising a record $1.3 million (overall the Walk generated more than $3.3 million).
As a young man in his 30s, Aidan has himself come a mental health educator, advocate and public speaker, as well as serving as a volunteer and youth mentor at Kids Help Phone. He clearly wants to give back for all the support he received during his traumatic childhood. “I really appreciate all the people who helped,” says Aidan, “whether it is counsellors, volunteers or donors. As a kid, I used to think of superheroes as the ones who fly and wear capes. But superheroes are also the awesome people who want to make a difference in mental health.”
To download a full copy of the impact report, click here.