After offering Vanessa Morgan the opportunity to serve as national co-ordinator of Cam’s Kids, Linda Hicks advised her “to sleep on it” and let her know the next day if she accepted.
It speaks much to the 21-year-old Uxbridge native’s belief in, and commitment to, the foundation’s work, as well as her memories of her friend, that she called Linda back…an hour later.
“I love a challenge so I’m very prepared to take on the role they’ve asked me to do,” says Vanessa, who recently graduated from the University of Ottawa with a Bachelor of Social Sciences
“I know it’s going to be a big learning experience and a ton of work but to do something that you’re so passionate about and really care for makes it worth it. I actually teared up when Linda offered the position to me. I was completely shocked and honoured to be asked because of my position with the foundation and what I want to do as a career.”
Few associated with Cam’s Kids are as familiar with its mission and objectives as Vanessa, making her very well qualified to help lead the foundation’s growth across Canada. Very early on, she signed on as a Cam’s Kids Ambassador and, in that role, became one of the faces of the foundation at her university, helping organize and staff a number of awareness-raising events.
“I knew it (Cam’s Kids) would be perfect for me to get involved in, not only because I was struck by the tragedy but because I was unaware that Cam struggled so severely with anxiety,” says Vanessa.
“That was a reality check for me because I didn’t know that someone I knew, not super closely but as a friend, was struggling with anxiety. How many other people in university are going through the exact same thing unnoticed and needing help and resources?”
“We’re all involved for a reason, whether it’s because of Cam or because of personal issues with anxiety or other mental health issues but Cam is, for sure, the core of the foundation. You don’t realize how much of an impact you have when you’re living your life day-to-day. I think Cam would be honoured to see how big of an impact he’s made on people outside of his circle.”
Although she knew Cam when they both attended Uxbridge High School, Vanessa says they became friends in Ottawa as part of a group of kids from her hometown that hung out together. She laughs, characterizing Cam “as a big goof ball” with “a really big, warm heart.”
That memory secure, Vanessa is anxious to help lead the foundation’s growth across Canada, in particular an expansion of Cam’s Kids’ presence in high schools where teens dealing with anxiety and related mental health issues “can learn coping mechanisms before they attend university.”
As an Ambassador, and now as Cam’s Kids’ national co-ordinator, there has been one constant for Vanessa – her admiration for the Hicks family.
“They have taken such a horrible tragedy and turned it into something so positive that’s going to help so many other people. It’s crazy how they can be so strong, not only for themselves but also as role models and mentors to all of Cam’s friends. They make you feel at home. They’re family.”