We target areas where the need is greatest and programs have the most impact.
The Calgary Police Foundation (CPF) was established to partner exclusively with the Calgary Police Service (CPS). The CPF works to raise $2M annually to fund six youth-based programs with the goal of reduced youth victimization and criminal activity. The programs focus on education, prevention, and early intervention. These programs do not receive government funding, and are all collaborative initiatives between the CPS and its community partners.
Joe just wants to be like other kids. He just wants to play video games and hang with his friends. But, Joe isn't like other kids. Almost since the day he was born, Joe was abused violently by his father. Joe's pain was transformed into temper tantrums and outbursts that got him expelled from several different schools. His life was spiraling downward and he hadn't even hit double digits. That's when hope arrived. Hope in the form of community-based programs and initiatives from the Calgary Police Service; hope funded by the Calgary Police Foundation. This video follows the story of Joe, who is one of many children helped by the services funded by the Calgary Police Foundation.
I Know It Was Your Job, but you doing your job kept me alive
This letter was received by a MASST team from a former student in the program. She was 14 years old at the time, soon turning 19:
I’m unsure if you still work here, I have no clue if you still use this email. But this is Jamie, a kid you worked with in Calgary.
I moved, about four years ago or so. And I thought I had lost your email. I know we don’t really talk, as our time together has ended. But I just wanted to thank you.
At the time I was seeing you, I still wasn’t ready to see all my own issues, I wasn’t ready to talk about my problems or my trauma properly. I was little, and I wanted so badly for others to hurt just as badly as I was hurting.
But without you, I doubt I would’ve made it where I am, where I can admit I have a large amount of trauma, and where I have learned to ask for help when I need it.
Life is still diﬃcult, and I now know that it will always be diﬃcult, as that
is the way life is. I still struggle so much, but I’m also still learning.
I’m going to be turning 19 soon, and I’m also going to be going back to high school on the 31st, because I’m strong enough to admit I needed more time to fully complete my schooling.
I’ve made more friends, I’ve learned more about myself. I kept many secrets from you even when you were trying to help me, but you still improved my life more than I can fully say. I know that it was your job, but you doing your job kept me alive.
My relationship with my mother has improved, we both learned, and we both grew up.
I have a cat -‐ she helps me remember that my life aﬀects others. Because when I take care of her, I see her love and growth. And then I can extend
that thought to the people I know, and I realize I am someone stable, who exists.
I’m still doing art, though I haven’t improved as much as I wish I had, because there were times where I still gave up on it.
I’m unsure of what else to say at this point, and this is an essay you probably didn’t expect to see.
But again: thank you, truly, and sincerely. I cannot explain how much you did for me even when I did my best to continue down a dark path.
I hope you’re doing well! Jamie
MASST is the Multi Agency School Support Team funded by the Calgary Police Foundation
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My story begins in Toronto and was not always difficult.
I grew up following all the rules, graduated high school with good marks, went to university, and began a career where I worked my way up to management. I started a family, bought a house, had my dream job, and easily provided for my family. And then in 2014, we moved to Calgary, it seems just in time for the economic downturn. I couldn’t secure a permanent job. As a contractor, my husband’s opportunities were limited. We were alone on the other side of the country and financial strains led to marital strains. Suddenly, visits to the foodbank became the norm. Life was turning upside down and looking incredibly bleak. Home life became sullen and difficult…and our five kids were suffering for it.
So you can imagine the joy when a note came home about ISSP – an Integrated School Support Program. Confusing at first. What is this ISSP? But the school welcomed us and we welcomed ISSP which provided more than just lunch or an activity for the kids. It provided all of us with peace of mind and made us feel that we are not alone.
Marilyn, the psychologist provided by the program, was always an ear for me, a guiding light. Recognizing the guilt I felt for my family’s situation, and the fear that often overwhelmed me that someone would show up at my door and take the kids away, saying we were unfit to be parents. Her reassurance to me was priceless and her loving attention to the kids much-needed. They fell in love with her and she gave them a safe place during the day before they came home to chaos. Dad drinking. Mom sullen and distant. Depression descending upon us both. Few words and glances between the two adults in the house.
Within almost two years of living in Calgary, things got worse. My then 10-year old daughter told me she was sexually assaulted by her grandfather, my husband’s dad, living with us at the time. The abuse began within weeks of our move to Calgary and lasted for almost 10 months. At the news, my husband spiralled down even further, drinking more, working less, and left me to be her advocate. His despair and grief at the betrayal of his own father broke his heart, and his ill-assumed guilt left him tormented. I held a broken heart in each of my hands and became a robotic creature, following the guidance and advice of those I could trust, closing my own heart and mind off to anything but the next step. Marilyn walked me through the early months of this nightmare. ISSP Police officers who knew my daughter well from being at the school, were thankfully the ones who showed up at my door for my initial report, sharing my grief and horror, giving me another glimpse of the caring community that was coming to me and my family’s aide. We kept the truth from our other four kids until an arrest was made in September 2016. When they found out, their barely-innocent worlds crashed in as well, stricken by the shock of the situation. Everyone was acutely suffering.
ISSP, Marilyn, the Police officers, and the Multi Agency School Support Team (MASST) stood by our side in the darkness that leveled the next year and a half of our lives, supporting and guiding not only my daughter and her siblings, but me as well. That part of our life is over now and with her counselling complete, my daughter is doing great. Last June, the culprit was sent to a federal prison.
MASST. Tony and Janice are two of the greatest blessings EVER. They are paired coaches, Tony, a Calgary Police officer and Janice, a social worker. They provided guidance during those dark days with a positivity that things will always get better. They help my husband and I view our and our kids’ lives, from another perspective, one with more tolerance and patience, appreciation and hope. With unconditional support, they embody what Community is all about and have afforded my family opportunities that completely counteract all the negativity we have had to experience and endure. With generosity of spirit, they have ensured the kids have had activities to engage in that we otherwise could not have provided for them. I know that at any time I can reach out and call them, and they are there for me to talk with, even coming to my place of work to lend support.
ISSP has become so much a part of our lives that when we drive down the street and the kids see a Calgary Police officer, they ask me to slow down in case it is someone they know – so they can wave and say “hi”. To know that the kids have found Police officers to be another safe adult for them has given us such confidence that if they ever need to – they will know where to turn. I feel confident that what could have led any of my kids down a dark road, was prevented because of these programs. Although lots of arguing took place in the house, probably more so to do with my husband and I having nothing left in the tank, not one of our kids was drawn towards drugs, alcohol, gangs, or any societal vice. We attribute this to the supports we received, for when my husband and I could not be there for the kids, ISSP and MASST were. In our eyes, that’s preventative medicine right there and more priceless than any lunch program or hockey tickets or food hamper.
Holy Trinity School, Marilyn, ISSP, MASST – have all shown my family and I what the word Community really means. What the notion of “it takes a village” really amounts to. Never in my life would I have thought that I would need to rely on services such as these, remember, I followed the rules. I say a prayer of thanks each day that I received them, that I receive them still. We are all stronger and healthier emotionally, mentally, and physically because of the support everyone gave us, gives us still… without judgement, without condemnation.
I know where I live. I know that my family’s experience over these past four years is probably but a drop in the bucket compared to other families. I know we are the proverbial phoenix’ rising out of ashes right now, slow as that may be and still with challenges to overcome. And I sadly know that other families may not be having the employment opportunities that are now coming to my husband and I – that they may still be struggling. ISSP needs to remain for them, and dare I say, needs to expand into other schools and communities, for continued growth and support, because no parent or child should ever feel all alone in their struggles.
It truly takes a Community and I only know this now because of ISSP and the Calgary Police Foundation. I look forward to the day when I can give back to those who need it – as we did.
With sincerity and appreciation, and now with confidence, optimism, and resilience, thank you Calgary Police Foundation, ISSP, and MASST for pulling our lives out of despair and back into the joy of living each day with renewed enthusiasm and love.
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If YouthLink Had Been Around When I Grew Up, Perhaps I Would Have Made Different Choices
I want to express my deepest gratitude for hosting my grade six class at YouthLink. I was surprised by the emotional impact I felt at the end of this experience. After taking some time to reflect, I came to realize the impact that I would have experienced from attending YouthLink when I was growing up.
I cannot help but feel that if I had gone through a program like YouthLink when I was in school, maybe I would have made different choices, or at least I would have known how to get help. Like many of my students, I came from a loving home, but I lacked the knowledge of how to advocate for myself when faced with difficult situations. My dad was killed in a car accident when I was five years old and it was a police officer who told my family he was no longer alive. For the longest time I was scared of police officers because I only associated them with our family tragedy.
YouthLink classes being taught by police officers helps students to build relationships with them and better understand their roles. I wasn’t given this opportunity as a child and I think it is so important that students, who come from all different stories and backgrounds, can see police as trusted adults.
Entering into junior high I started to self-harm and I continued this behaviour for 10 years. Whenever I felt the courage to ask for help, I didn’t know how or who to go to. I often turned towards friends my own age who didn’t know what to do when I shared my story.
When students leave YouthLink, they receive a card of “Who to Call” with a list of phone numbers and resources if they need to seek help. Another important aspect of YouthLink is that students learn about values and healthy relationships. I am sure this topic may have been covered in my classes, but it was likely awkwardly brushed off in the context of the classroom. At YouthLink, every lesson is so purposeful and engaging. I watch my students listening actively and being left with many take-away lessons.
I entered and stayed in an abusive relationship for almost 2 years when I was in University. I didn’t know what I valued in my life. I didn’t understand that there are healthy relationships and, once again, I lacked support of how to get help.
I don’t want my students to be left wondering the same things I did. That is why I think it is so important for students to have YouthLink, taught by police officers, so we can help them make good choices and understand how to get help if they find themselves in tough situations. When I watch these lessons being taught to my students by the police, I can’t help but feel emotional because I know that this experience will be invaluable as they grow up.
Over the week at YouthLink I witnessed several successes; some were behavioural, some were academic, and some were pretty big milestones. I have a student who is coded with ADHD and in the classroom he is often behind and trying to keep up. Officer JM made him the photographer for his group during the crime scene. This boy was given the opportunity to be a leader in a group with his peers, something he rarely gets to experience.
My student who has family members in prison due to gang activity personally thanked the officers at the end of YouthLink and gave them a hug. This is a boy who, at the end of our school day, at most, gives me a straight faced high-five.
I have a student who came to Canada in the middle of the school year last year. He rarely advocates for himself and lacks confidence in speaking English. At YouthLink, he couldn’t keep his hand down. He was so excited to answer every question, share his ideas, and ask the officers for help when he didn’t understand.
I have two students who are still learning to read, and they were both given opportunities to read in front of the entire class with assistance. Both times their classmates recognized the significance and rewarded their courage with a round of applause.
I try to cultivate a caring classroom where my students feel safe to take risks and make mistakes. To see these skills carry over and encouraged at YouthLink created memories for me that I truly will never forget.
I often tell people I have 25 kids. I see my students as my children and I love them dearly, but with that love comes worry. I go home after the bell and I worry on my drive home, during supper, and while I’m trying to fall asleep, about the choices they are being faced with. YouthLink gives me a sense of comfort that my students will; see police as trusted adults if they show up at their door, know how to get help if faced with a difficult situation, and understand their values and self-worth so they can recognize an unhealthy relationship.
This program is truly a blessing and one that is not taken for granted.
-Grade Six Teacher
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