Thanks to the after school programs funded by United Way, Verdann is now inspiring future generations of Aboriginal kids like Taj and helping them grow up great.

How United Way helped Verdann find connections

When you’re vulnerable, the right connection can save your life. For Verdann, it was an after-school program that helps Aboriginal, new immigrant and inner-city kids.

“My life is pretty awesome,” says 25-year-old Verdann. Growing up, it wasn’t always that way.

Between the ages of five and 13, Verdann bounced between her Mom’s place in Prince George, her grandparents’ home in Kamloops and various group homes across BC. Much of the time she was in the care of the BC Ministry of Children and Families.

In Grade 7, when home didn’t feel safe, Verdann escaped to the streets. “I was sleeping on the streets, sleeping outside,” she says. Along with being dangerous – it made it really hard to go to school.“I genuinely believed I wasn’t going to live to where I am today,” she says.

Connecting through an after-school program

When you’re vulnerable, the right connection can save your life. For Verdann, it was an after-school program which helps Aboriginal, new immigrant and inner-city kids grow their self-confidence, develop social connections and learn new skills through energetic games, circus arts and other physical activities.

Today, Verdann is a youth coordinator at the United Way-funded Red Fox Active Play after-school program in North Vancouver. The weekly program is funded through United Way’s School’s Out Initiative, which provides school-age children in some of the Lower Mainland’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods with healthy and safe activities when they are not in school.

But it is so much more than fun and games. Programs like this help vulnerable kids find connection, stability and a path to employment, minimizing their risks of suicide, addiction and poverty.

“United Way funding has allowed us to develop programs in North Vancouver that we could have never developed,” says Emma Sutherland, Executive Director of Red Fox Healthy Living Society.

Helping kids grow up great

This means leaders like Verdann, who understand the realities of kids’ lives better than anyone, especially children of First Nations families struggling with the multi-generational trauma of Canada’s residential school system, are able to share their experience, empathy and understanding with kids in North Vancouver.

“If we’re always just seeing people who are down or upset or sad as a kid you’re going to internalize that. This is what the world is like and that’s not necessarily how it is,” Verdann says. “There’s a lot of beauty and a lot of really good stuff in the world. Good role models from all different backgrounds are really good to have.”

This preventative approach works and saves money. Research shows every $1 spent supporting disadvantaged kids results in a $6 return on investment later.

Verdann once thought she might not to be alive today. Now she’s inspiring future generations of Aboriginal kids like Taj and helping them grow up great.

Two ways to give

The VCH United Way Workplace Campaign ends December 8, 2017.  There are two ways to donate:

1. With your credit card on the secure United Way website
2. By payroll deduction, using the printable 2017 United Way Pledge form *

* IMPORTANT: If you are using the printable pledge form, do not detach the bottom section. Please complete and send the whole form by Dec 8 to:

Margaret Laird
Communications & Public Affairs
400 – 520 West 6th Ave.
Vancouver BC V5Z 4H5

Draw for concert tickets

If you donate to United Way, please let us know by emailing Your name will be entered in a draw for Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) tickets.

Draw Date Concert Date
Oct 31, 2017 November 2, 2017

National Arts Centre Orchestra: Life Reflected

Alexander Shelley brought together four remarkable Canadian composers to collaborate with Donna Feore to create an immersive symphonic experience celebrating youth, promise and courage, revealed in the compelling and diverse portraits of four women.

November 2, 2017 November 5, 2017

The VSO performs at ISCM World New Music Days 2017

Canada welcomes the world as Vancouver hosts the ISCM World New Music Days 2017.


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