If you still need proof that the forging of relationships, and the renewal of past friendships remains at the heart of the success of the Cam’s Kids movement, then let’s introduce you to Leah McMunn.
Back in the day when she was playing hockey in the Markham-Stouffville area, Vanessa Morgan was Leah’s teammate for four years. When she arrived at the University of Ottawa to begin her undergrad in Biomedical Sciences, Leah was delighted to see a familiar face from her past. As they reconnected, she learned more about Cam’s Kids, which Vanessa now serves as its National Coordinator.
“It was a connection to home,” recalls Leah of re-igniting her friendship with Vanessa.
“It (university) was a huge transition for me. To know there are people here you know are going through the same thing, helped. You made a big move but there are ways to sort it all out and find normal again. To figure out what’s comfortable for you again; to figure out a new sense of ‘I can do this.’”
So when Vanessa and a number of existing Ambassadors graduated, Leah, an Ambassador herself, stepped up to fill the void, eventually assuming the Cam’s Kids team lead position “so we didn’t lose the presence we have here on campus."
As is the case with most of the Cam’s Kids representatives at post-secondary schools across the country, Leah found herself dealing with her own anxiety upon making the move to Ottawa.
“I didn’t have anybody here on a day-to-day basis to help me with a sense of normalcy,” she recalls.
“Then there was the anxiety of not knowing whether or not I was going to succeed. I didn’t have the tools in my first year, but once I got more involved with Cam’s Kids and saw that they were there, that was a big thing for me.”
Since becoming a team lead last year, Leah has made it a priority to keep Cam’s Kids at the University of Ottawa to continue raising awareness, as well as to stay connected with the Cam’s Kids teams at Ottawa’s Carleton University and Algonquin College.
Now working towards her PhD in Chemistry, Leah sees Cam’s Kids’ role being to provide the same support she was looking for when she first arrived at the University of Ottawa. The University of Ottawa now boasts about a dozen Ambassadors, up considerably from just last year. Now in her sixth year at the school with a few more years to go, Leah is determined to keep the foundation’s presence in the forefront.
Leah has worked considerably hard to grant Cam’s Kids club status at the university in order to gain more access to awareness events and initiatives. The popular Candy Cane and Chocolate Heart campaigns – both proven staples of Cam’s Kids outreach efforts at schools across Canada – are part of that effort. Along with the national campaigns, Leah has lead the uOttawa team in getting Cam’s Kids resources in student residences, faculty offices, and other popular spots on campus. Leah has also led the group in putting up posters across campus to make more people in Ottawa aware of the foundation and the many resources offered.
“I think the big thing remains having resources in one place; a place that not only helps with the crisis side of things that are available if you’re having a severe attack or issue, but also day-to-day access to tips and tools,” she says.
“To have a foundation that has this kind of reach is huge,” assesses Leah.
“It’s one thing to grow in a local community like Uxbridge, a fairly small community where everybody knows each other. It’s another thing to have people who want to share that with the rest of the country. The great thing is that people are not only becoming involved because they knew Cam or know the Hicks family, but because they see the goals of Cam’s Kids.”
“Everybody kind of goes through anxiety at some point. It does feel like you’re the only one. It never hurts to talk and say ‘Hey, this is something I’ve been feeling.’ There’s always someone there to have a conversation with. Just starting that conversation can open so many doors.”