This is the last time I will compose an Executive Message for the CMHA BC Division Annual Report— after 26 years in this role I am retiring. I am looking back over the 26 years and I am thankful for the privilege of serving this organization as its CEO. As I reflect I am reminded on the exceptional people I have met and worked with through this organization.
The role of CMHA as an advocate, as a service innovator, as a service provider and as an educator reaching out to people and organizations across the life span is what makes CMHA’s contribution unique. I am thankful for the privilege of working for an organization that has remained committed to ensuring the voice, the talent and the experience of people with lived experience is reflected in all we do.
I am thankful for a board of directors who leads through their lived experience as someone with a mental illness and or an addiction or as a family member.
I am thankful for the gifts and insights I have learned through my own experiences with depression over the decades.
Most of my highlights are about the people who, as tough as this job has been at times, remind me to live by demonstrating our values.
One of the most powerful people I met at the beginning of my work in BC was Lorne Fraser, who through his own means and vision created the educational fund that gives out bursaries and scholarships each year.
I think of the commitment and dedication of Dr. Jean Moore who was the Board Chair when I first started. Jean is the advocate that made us realize how important it was to concentrate our efforts on children, youth and families. Jean continues to volunteer for CMHA now, giving over 50 years of service.
I remain humbled by the dedication and voice of Michael Schratter, who dedicated 18 months of his life cycling the globe and telling his story of stigma and discrimination. Michael’s passion is why there is a Ride Don’t Hide today in 30 communities in 7 provinces. What a privilege it has been to work alongside him.
My heart remains moved by the story of Mary, a 16 year old girl who learned to build a bike and through CMHA Cowichan Valley’s BikeWorks. The most important part of the story is how the branch helped her to reconnect to her dad through this activity. At the time her dad was living at the branch’s shelter.
There are so many stories and champions from all walks of life and from all stages of life. This is what we must remember in our day to day challenges. There are thousands of people who rely on CMHA for our commitment to make the world better, to improve what we provide and how we do it, and to raise our voice to address the stigma and discrimination that remains to this date. We are counted on to bring attention to injustices and to right what is wrong.
There are so many organizations and people I would like to thank and I cannot name them all. Special thanks to the board, the staff and those that count on us each and every day. Your story, your resilience lives in my heart forever.
It has been a privilege. Thank you.
CEO, CMHA BC