Friday, September 8, 2017 6:03:27 EDT PM
By Steph Crosier, Kingston Whig-Standard
Speaking about her traumatic past is usually difficult for 18-year-old Emma Hollywood, but she says telling her story to a group of people who indirectly helped her recovery was easy and therapeutic.
Hollywood, who has come from a past of sexual assault, abuse and addiction, spoke at the United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington’s campaign breakfast launch on Friday morning. The United Way campaign goal for 2017 is $3,501,000.
Hollywood explained that being molested by her school teacher at age eight started her on a downward spiral. To climb out, she’s utilized countless programs supported by the United Way, including Youth Diversion, ReStart, and Dress for Success.
“I never thought I’d stand up in front of all these people and be so vulnerable, but it doesn’t feel like vulnerability, it feels like power, confidence, I know I’m not alone,” Hollywood said.
After years in the dark suffering from depression and taking medication to help her symptoms, She said she met the right therapist when she was 13 years old and it helped her come forward. But things got worse before they got better.
“I struggled from anxiety, depression and I’m now diagnosed with PTSD,” Hollywood said. “Without the money from the people here, year after year, I would not have been able to start with Kairos at Youth Diversion. That was the first program supported by the United Way I went to.”
Kairos is a counselling service that helps youth experiencing substance abuse. The program presented her with opportunities with the job-prep and placement service ReStart, which prepared her for an interview, along with Dress for Success Kingston — also supported by the United Way — which made her feel like “a princess.” She felt confident going into her interview and she landed her first full-time job at Subway.
Longtime volunteer and recipient of United Way support Sadie Augustyn also spoke at the launch. The 15-year-old started her relationship with the United Way when she was six and now receives support from the United Way after being diagnosed with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy at age 10.
“For me and my family, everything changed,” Augustyn said of when she was first diagnosed. “This is a daily struggle. I felt and still feel cheated.”
To help learn to live with her diagnosis, Augustyn and her family visited Epilepsy of Southeastern Ontario, an organization supported by the United Way.
“Without support of this agency, I would not be here feeling like my old self again: happy, healthy and managing my epilepsy on my own terms — most of the time,” Augustyn said.
The 2017 goal is $50,000 more than the 2016 campaign’s goal, which actually raised $3,702,100. The chair of the 12-week campaign this year is Pat Murphy of the Secura Financial Group. Speaking to the campaign supporters, Murphy especially thanked Hollywood and Augustyn for sharing their stories.
“Everybody in this room needs to hear those stories,” Murphy said. “You’re two bright lights in our community showing us why we’re part of the United Way.”
Murphy said that while the campaign is only in the fall, the United Way is working non-stop to serve 55,000 people in the greater Kingston area.
“In a perfect world, there would be no need for the United Way. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world,” Murphy said. “We continue to need your time, your money, year after year after year. We always need to get better. We need to help more people, we need to leave our community in a better place than when we got here.”