As a child, Jodi faced abuse, neglect, and extreme poverty. She had no friends, lacked self-esteem, and felt different but was unaware of what LGBTQ2S+ was. Suicide was already on her mind.
When Jodi’s marriage became abusive, she left everything, including her two-year-old son. She spent every penny fighting, but despite never losing custody, has not seen him since.
Incapacitated by anxiety and depression, she was unable to hold down a job, further eroding her self-esteem. She attempted suicide and drank heavily to numb the pain. For the next 15 years she was constantly on the move, with suicide always top of mind. She began to realize and accept that she is trans and transitioned.
Eventually a psychiatrist finally recognised that being transgender is not the cause of her mental health challenges. New medication helped, she connected with Coast Mental Health’s Clubhouse and started Dialectal Behavioural Therapy.
Helping others became a major theme of her life.
Through Coast Mental Health she completed the Peer Support Training program and used her own lived experience to help others both within Coast and on St. Paul’s psychiatric ward. Jodi applied for and received a grant to research how to make the mental health system transgender-inclusive – remarkable for someone without an academic background. She now works as a manager for Western Canada’s first housing program for transgender, two-spirited and gender-diverse individuals.
She also tirelessly volunteers for Coast Mental Health and sits on the board of the Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre. She is a member of the LGBTQ2S+ Mental Health Roundtable, a Health Mentor with UBC Interdisciplinary Health Mentor Team and many other projects within the transgender community.
Jodi has become part of the solution in making these systems better and more accessible. She has changed the narrative of the story to live a life worth living and helping others.
Rachel has faced a lifetime of chronic illness and pain with immense courage. Born with Common Variable Immune Deficiency, her life has been a constant stream of illness, infection, and hospitalizations; pneumonia, bronchitis, kidney infections, anaphylaxis, anxiety, anorexia, bulimia to name just a few.
Every aspect of her life is affected, but she refuses to be a victim. Despite missing months of school, she graduated and received scholarship offers for 11 universities. A gifted singer, she has multiple CD recordings.
She is an accomplished Sports Radio & Television Producer, a job she loved and had to resign from due to her health, losing her health benefits, and putting her family under enormous financial pressure.
Her illness also made her two pregnancies and deliveries extremely high-risk, punctuated with inpatient stays and infections. Today Rachel and her husband Geoff have two healthy and much-loved children.
Recently, her immune system has begun to reject the antibiotics that are needed to keep her alive. She has fought endless infections and was told by doctors they have no further treatment. Since the beginning of the pandemic, she has been in total lockdown at home. She provided 22 months of home schooling, despite her own ill health. She spends weeks or months away from home at hospital or in isolation.
Despite the challenges she has faced, Rachel remains endlessly positive. As a teenager, she volunteered as a gymnastics coach, at foster homes, aged care homes and summer camps. At TSN she volunteered to head up the internship program, which flourished under her supervision.
She is a gifted public speaker, sharing her story and mentoring for the family eating disorder groups at St Paul’s, and she now also volunteers virtually at her children’s school and in the Jewish community.
Rachel’s greatest wish is that by sharing her story, her struggle can be a force for hope.
Born into a dysfunctional family, John faced physical and verbal abuse from a young age. By 10 he had turned to alcohol and drugs to escape, the beginning of 40 years of addiction.
As a result, he spent years in an out of juvenile detention and then prison, quit school at 14 to fund his habit, and was discharged from the army after going AWOL on a binge. Two marriages broke down and he lost contact with his daughters. He spent years without a home in Calgary and Vancouver, trying and failing to find recovery, and unable to ask for help. He had no family or friends to support him and was completely alone.
A spiritual experience led him to find God and Union Gospel Mission, where he graduated from the Drug & Addictions program and went on to become an Outreach worker.
Around this time, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer, and had to fight hard not to turn to alcohol or drugs. Having been told he was worthless throughout his childhood, he proved the opposite, graduating high school and Bible College.
John has now been in recovery from addiction for almost 15 years and dedicates his life to giving back to those in need. He co-published two poetry books, raising funds for charities and selflessly shares his story of hope with media, at schools and at churches.
He volunteers at a seniors home and is on the Board for the Canadian Bible Society. Along with his wife Elsa, he serves food, water and hope to folks in need in Vancouver, as well as running a Ministry in Mexico, where he will be moving later this year to lead a congregation. He has reconnected with two of his daughters and aims to shine the light of hope for all those he meets.
In 2013, a serial drunk driver drove directly into Patricia’s car, shattering bones and crushing her internal organs. An active member of her community, accomplished singer, actress and mother, her life changed in an instant.
She was declared clinically dead twice, had four cardiac arrests and had nineteen surgeries. Most of her bowels were removed. She spent weeks in a coma, months in hospital and was unable to eat or drink for eighteen months.
At hospital and worried for her daughter who was also in the crash, Pat could no longer bear to listen to music and didn’t know if she would ever be able to sing or perform again – she was stuck in her own world with no relief.
Returning home was the beginning of her slow health recovery, each day filled with therapy, doctors, blood tests, needles, occupational therapists, and voice pathologists. But it also marked the start of legal and insurance nightmares, forcing her to relive the trauma and fend off implications of guilt.
Today, Pat still lives with the physical and emotional consequences, but is determined to be creative and make a difference. After extensive voice and physical training, she returned to the stage. She published an inspirational memoir; ‘Beyond the Legal Limit’, which has been turned into a one-woman theatre performance.
She is a passionate advocate and speaker for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and is on the Pacific Regional Victim’s Advisory Committee. She also continues to serve the arts community, sitting on numerous boards and volunteering her time as part of the British Columbia Arts Council.
Pat always served her community and continues to do so. She refuses to live her life as a victim and shares her story so that others are not alone in their grief and darkness.
At the age of 20, Danielle has faced more challenges than most will in their lifetime. Diagnosed with autism at age seven, she struggled socially and academically. Growing up in a low-income family with two parents on disability, money was always tight, and she did not always have the support she needed to thrive. They didn’t have much for food or clothes, let alone special occasions.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Danielle was forced to stay home to protect her mom, leaving her isolated and alone. In fall of 2022, Danielle found her mother unresponsive at home. Unable to face the unfamiliar situation, sounds and noises due to her autism, she did not visit her in hospital. Her mom passed away a few days later. Due to finances and her dad’s wishes, there was no funeral or memorial, although they plan to scatter her ashes at a beach.
Despite the challenges she has faced, Danielle is a bright light in her community. She is a dedicated and spirited volunteer at Metro Kids Society. Every Saturday she joins the Kids Klub, and also mentors those in grades 5-8 growing up in at-risk neighbourhoods in Surrey. At the Metro Kids fundraiser, she fearlessly shared her story with the group. She organised and sorted 800 Christmas gift boxes and ensured that every child in her apartment complex received a gift.
After her mom’s sudden passing, Danielle was determined not to shut herself in her grief and trauma and continued to volunteer. She will be starting an internship with Metro Kids Society this summer and dreams one day of attending art school.
Danielle has become a well recognized and respected force for good in her neighborhood. She is a positive role model for those with autism other learning differences, speaking honestly about her challenges.