To speak with Kaley Madigan is to fully comprehend one undeniable truth: One didn’t have to be a personal friend of Cam Hicks to fully appreciate the warmth of his heart, the draw of his larger-than-life personality, and his seemingly ever-present huge grin.
While attending the University of Ottawa, the Caledon native roomed with Vanessa Morgan, the national co-ordinator of Cam’s Kids. It was through Vanessa that Kaley met a number of Cam’s friends, and learned much about his debilitating struggle with anxiety and how his tragic death so deeply affected those close to him. When Vanessa suggested that Kaley lead the Cam’s Kids team at Algonquin College, she couldn’t answer ‘yes’ quick enough.
“I jumped at the opportunity…it was a great way for me to become involved,” says Kaley, 23, who has since graduated from Algonquin where she studied Project Management, and also from the University of Ottawa where she majored in International Development and Economics.
“I’m so happy that we continue to talk about Cam and do this for him…if he could see everything now he’d be smiling,” assures Kaley.
“Everything now” is the continued growth and outreach of Cam’s Kids, the Hicks family-inspired movement that remains committed to supporting young people across Canada struggling with the debilitating effects of anxiety. As a Cam’s Kids Ambassador, Kaley has fully brought in her penchant for “organizing things,” a trait that is serving her well as she plans to stay involved with the foundation at both Algonquin and the University of Ottawa.
“Transitioning from high school to your first year of college or university…that’s like the biggest time when you need to recognize what anxiety is,” says Kaley.
“Raising awareness around understanding anxiety and how to cope with it is really important for young students. I definitely dealt with a lot of stress and anxiety. At the time, I didn’t understand how to cope with that. Having friends who talked about anxiety more helped me understand that there are ways to properly manage it.”
Kaley recounts one particular experience, when her brother was starting at Carleton University a few years ago that really brought home for her the impact that Cam’s Kids has had, and is having, on young people’s well-being.
“I was helping unpack in his residence room. In the [orientation] package that you get the first week was a pamphlet about Cam’s Kids. I remember standing there in tears, feeling so proud knowing that my brother, and every single student starting at Carleton, has Cam’s Kids in their face on their first day of school. Knowing how many people that reached makes me want to stay involved.”
Like thousands of university and college graduates across Canada, Kaley is “on the job hunt,” but her commitment to Cam’s Kids and its core objectives remains a priority.
“Cam’s Kids has really opened my eyes to the gap there is when it comes to mental health. We just don’t talk about it enough. The more awareness (of mental health challenges and their effects) we’re bringing to campuses, the better it’s going to be.”
“We had a very small team at Algonquin but just touching base with a few students meant a lot. The biggest thing is making sure the conversation around mental health is happening and raising as much awareness as we can.”