Whatever the future may hold for the Cam’s Kids movement, rest assured that Carleton University, not unlike neighbouring University of Ottawa, has secured its place as an early, and very inspiring, hotbed of activity associated with the nation-wide foundation.
So it was that when second-year psychology student Holly Todd toured the Carleton Club Expo event in September 2018 looking for “a way to get involved and help people,” the Cam’s Kids booth beckoned like a beacon on a foggy night. There, the 20-year-old native of Grassie, Ontario met Cam’s Kids Ambassador Taylor Anderson. She had found what she was looking for.
“They (Cam’s Kids representatives) were really sweet, explaining that they support people who have anxiety,” recalls Holly of that initial encounter.
“I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember, so I was immediately like ‘Oh.’ I wanted something where I could use my own experiences to reach out to others, so it just seemed liked a perfect fit. I went online and applied to become an Ambassador after I checked out the website. I became an Ambassador, started going to meetings and it went from there.”
Holly rolled up her sleeves and got busy right away, initially staffing a Cam’s Kids booth at a Carleton Pop-Up Wellness Centre event and, in the lead-up to exams and the hectic Christmas season, helping out with the Cam’s Kids’ trademark Candy Cane Campaign.
“I loved it (distributing candy canes)…at first, I felt like I was annoying people but so many appreciated it so much. It’s a small gesture but it comes in the midst of all their (students) stress, so it makes a big difference.”
Admitting she’s “still trying to figure out her own anxiety issues,” Holly says dealing with that is helping her understand what others are going through, adding, “I think it’s all about having somebody that understands what you’re feeling. When that comes from a stranger, it’s a different kind of kindness; a different kind of understanding.”
Now the Cam’s Kids representative with Carleton’s Student Mental Health Engagement Committee – I was like ‘Yeah, OK, I’m free on Monday mornings’ – Holly says her growing commitment to, and involvement with, Cam’s Kids has strengthened her admiration of what the Hicks family has created in Cam’s name.
“The whole Cam’s Kids story was new to me…I didn’t know it was to carry on Cam’s legacy but I thought that’s such a beautiful thing,” she says, noting she met Cam’s brother Andrew when she underwent Safe Talk training.
Looking ahead, Holly sees herself being involved with more Pop Up Wellness Centre events.
“It’s surprising the amount of people that are so interested in hearing about what we do. I’ve even had a few people ask me how they can become Ambassadors. So many are looking for something like this.”
Pledging her determination to stay involved with Cam’s Kids during her time at Carleton and possibly beyond that, Holly is making the most of the experience now. That includes readily passing on the advice that those who have dealt firsthand with anxiety are most qualified to offer.
“Understand there are people who know exactly what you’re feeling and want to hear your story. They can help you if you let them.”
Written by Paul Rellinger