“From that day on, we was always together. Jenny and me was like peas and carrots.”
To the great benefit of Cam’s Kids and in particular, the foundation’s outreach efforts at the University of Guelph, Olivia Anderson and Katie Young never take their Forrest Gump-inspired “peas and carrots” reality for granted.
Familiarity breeds contempt? Not in their world. Not even close.
“Because we’re so close and comfortable with each other, we trust each other to step up…that just creates more confidence for us and our team,” says Katie, 21, who shares Cam’s Kids Lead Ambassador duties with Olivia at the sprawling campus west of Toronto.
“I can always count on her (Olivia) and she can count on me. We’re a team and that lays down a good foundation for other students we work with.”
Katie and Olivia are both natives of Uxbridge, Cam Hicks’ hometown and the vibrant beating heart of the Cam’s Kids movement which continues to help young people across Canada deal with anxiety issues.
Friends since they can remember – “Our parents are really close and so are our brothers,” notes Katie – they went to the same high school. It was there that they both knew Cam. Now living off campus in Guelph with four others, both insist there was no master plan to attend the same university.
“It’s funny how it worked out that way,” says Olivia, 22.
“Because a lot of Uxbridge people go here, we had heard a lot about it. And Guelph is a sort of like a small town and agriculture-based, which reminds us a lot of home.”
As the lead representatives of Cam’s Kids at the university, Olivia and Katie are in a somewhat unique position in that they have a personal connection to the Hicks family. According to Katie, that has made her “even more passionate” about the foundation and her co-role leading some 30 team members.
“Knowing the family and knowing their values, and all the work and passion and love they put into this, we’ve learned to align our values with theirs,” says Katie, with Olivia noting Cam’s passing, while tragic, “brought a lot of us closer and helped us learn more about who Cam was, and about anxiety as well.”
When the pair arrived at university, Cam’s Kids had no presence. Olivia says they “hopped on the bandwagon” that led to the foundation growing in scope and presence. They brought the foundation’s signature Candy Cane Campaign to the university as well as the Chocolate Heart Campaign. More importantly, they have taken every opportunity to share Cam’s story and let students know they’re not alone when it comes to dealing with anxiety.
“We remind them (students) to take a deep breath; that there’s a community that supports them and stands behind them during stressful times,” says Katie.
“We’ve had great feedback…great smiles and gratitude from students we’d never met before. There’s a connection there. It warms their hearts and it warms ours.”
According to Olivia, they are able to “give it an extra push because we know, firsthand, the story of the beginning (of the foundation) and what its purpose is.”
“That family (the Hicks) are so strong…they’ve made this into something so beautiful and so positive,” adds Katie.
“Every event held in Uxbridge draws in the whole community…so many familiar faces, hundreds of people. It’s always such a great time. It’s so nice to bring that connection to the university.”
And both maintain their close friendship plays a huge role in their spreading and sharing the Cam’s Kids message.
“We’re so comfortable with each other,” assesses Olivia.
“We’re like ‘I’m so busy today…can you take over for this one event?’ And we live together, so it’s easy to plan things around each other’s schedule. Katie and I can blurt things out when brainstorming new ideas and we’re comfortable with knocking those ideas down if we don’t think they’re good enough.”
And they do have ideas. Olivia says they’re looking at soon organizing a meditation session and, in April, an outdoor yoga gathering on the lawn of the university’s Johnston Green space. In addition, Katie says they hope to collaborate on a seminar and information session with another university club that promotes mental health in general.
“A lot of universities have student wellness programs but they differ from university to university,” notes Katie.
“So many people come to our booth and ask questions and are like ‘Oh my gosh, I want to get involved. I’ve dealt with this.” They’re so positive about what we’re doing. It makes us feel good about our community here.”
Olivia agrees, saying the stigma around anxiety is evaporating.
“At one time you would say ‘I have anxiety’ and people around you would say ‘No you don’t.’ Now anxiety is common knowledge. People see our booth and think ‘I’m not alone. There’s a whole club revolving around just anxiety.’ There are so many different mental health issues. Cam’s Kids just focuses on anxiety, which is a big enough issue in itself.”
Ahead, Olivia graduates this April while Katie will bid Guelph farewell come December. But don’t bet on that marking an end to their involvement with Cam’s Kids, as Olivia suggests there may be an opportunity to bring the foundation’s message and support to their respective workplaces.
Don’t for a second count out their working together to continue to do just that. Peas and carrots can be served separately but in unison they make the meal that much more appetizing.
Written by Paul Rellinger