Over its 45 years in operation, downtown Toronto-based mental health services provider Oolagen has helped countless youth and families overcome mental health issues and conflict.
The organization is gearing up to host its third annual fundraising gala to ensure its programs continue to assist those in need to ensure they can find a path to success.
“For us, mental health is very broadly defined,” said Oolagen CEO Lydia Sai-Chew.
“Adolescence is a very challenging time for most people as they’re going from being children who are nurtured and cared for into adulthood where they become independent.”
That transition, she said, can lead to conflict with parents or guardians. While many of the youth Oolagen serves have diagnosed mental health issues, many are simply experiencing difficulties at home, in school or in some cases, with the law.
To cover a wide base of issues, the organization offers everything from walk-in services to long-term counseling and residential programs.
“We want to help youth figure out what their strengths are and what they do well,” Sai-Chew said.
“What they’re normally told is what they can’t do, so we work on what they can do.”
The upcoming fundraiser, dubbed Night of Light – Engage the Child, Unite the Family, will feature hosts Colin Mochrie and Deb McGrath, honourary event chair Ken Taylor, whose story was retold in the film Argo, and 2013 Oolagen Award recipient and TSN celebrity Michael Landsberg.
“We’re hoping to get a full house out because we have a great night planned,” Sai-Chew said.
Funds raised at Night of Light will go toward increasing the services Oolagen can provide while also funding improvements to Oolagen’s residential homes.
Oolagen serves about 800 youth per year and the difference it makes in their lives can be astounding. Oolagen clients and sisters Nicole and Danielle have benefited from the organization’s programs for more than three years and have found support there they had not found elsewhere.
“Before coming to Oolagen, I was struggling with anxiety and depression, which took away a lot of things from my life,” Danielle said.
“I went into intensive care and use their ongoing services and I knew they were always there if I needed them.”
Nicole began using Oolagen shortly after her sister and said the agency helped her overcome her own struggles.
“The agency is very giving and supportive and they don’t judge you,” she said.
Night of Light will take place at the Ritz-Carlton, 181 Wellington St. W., from 6 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, May 30. For tickets or information, visit www.oolagen.org