There were many highlights to this year's event, but three past residents who returned to share their stories definitely had a big impact on the hearts and minds of those in attendance. The young men reconnected with those who were so meaningful to them when they lived in the HomeBridge Community and reflected upon how these connections helped to change their path.
As always, this event combined the required business of an Annual General Meeting with a year-end celebration of the Expressions Program of the Arts. Those in attendance first browsed through an art gallery filled with original pieces created by the youth who take part in the Expressions program. The display included everything from wood burning to photography and incredible graphic art mounted on wrapped canvas. Our guests got to leave their artistic mark as well when they participated in an interactive piece entitled “All You Need is Love”.
Nearly 100 people filled the seats of the theatre at NSCC Waterfront Campus when it was time for the event to begin. A young guitarist opened the show with the support of the Music Therapists who facilitate classes as part of the Expressions program. Many other musical performances were staggered throughout the event including two original compositions by youth and a rendition of “Ring of Fire” that included trumpets.
One of the past residents who spoke shared stories about being at the Reigh Allen Centre 18 years ago and how his life was changed by the simple fact that people believed in him for the first time when he came to the HomeBridge Community. Now an Aviation Systems Technician in the Royal Canadian Air Force, he credits the support of Youth Care Workers for his success.
“The Youth Care Workers at HomeBridge want each and every youth to succeed. I would not be the man I am today without some of them that are here today,” he said. “Every youth in HomeBridge can succeed no matter how difficult things are right now. Things will get better. But they can't get better if you don't let them. If I can give you one piece of advice that will help you succeed in life, it's simple, let the Youth Care Workers help you and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
His powerful words to both the youth in attendance and the Youth Care Workers who he address with the statement “you save lives” inspired tears and a standing ovation from the crowd. The emotions continued when Constable Tammy Lobb of the RCMP's Integrated Vice Unit was presented with the award for “Outstanding Service to Youth”. The stories told about her advocacy and tireless work to protect young people from being exploited through human trafficking proved her commitment goes well above and beyond the call of duty.
Two other past residents shared their stories about connections made through the Expressions Program of the Arts and Bridges for Learning. It was very evident just how meaningful these connections are when they teamed up with their past Circus Circle Instructor, Mike Hirschbach for a reunion performance. The banter and comradery among the trio showed a very powerful sense of belonging that some likened afterwards to “coming home”.
The event concluded with a barbeque reception where Board members, employees, youth (both past and present) and guests enjoyed a delicious spread of food and time together. We would like to thank everyone who attended for being part of this special event and especially the young people for their incredible courage and resiliency. All of us at HomeBridge consider it an absolute privilege to be part of your life story.