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If our parents only knew...

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In November of '93, I was walking home from school and saw my best friend Kyle.

He looked haggard. Desperate.

"You got $500 I can borrow?"

$500? I was 13 years old! Plus, Kyle already owed me $25! 

"Scott, you gotta help me out. I'm in serious trouble."

Summer of fun

Growing up, I was a shy kid. I avoided the spotlight, afraid I'd make a mistake and get laughed at.

My birthday was in early August, during the second month of summer camp. Birthdays were a big event at camp. Attention is poured on the camper, who must give a speech and lead activities.

I preferred quiet birthday parties with my family, and stayed home each August. The summer of '93, Kyle didn't go to camp either. We were thirteen years old.

What an amazing summer! We spent hours biking to the old port, playing basketball, and hanging out at a local arcade. Kyle bought a BB gun, and we practiced shooting at targets in a secluded area near our homes.

At night, we snuck out and met up with friends. There was always beer, and sometimes porn too.

Kyle's transformation

It was at the arcade that Kyle met some older boys who seemed a little dangerous. They were seriously cool, masters of Tekken, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat. 

At first it was marijuana. We were shooting BBs at a sign when he pulled out a doobie and lit it up. He offered me some weed and I politely refused.

One week later, we were biking in Verdun, when he stopped in middle of the street and pulled a bag of powder out of his backpack. "Wanna snort some cocaine?"

It was 10:00 in the morning. "Dude, put that away! What's wrong with you, man?"

He lined up some powder on a can of coke. "Come on, Scott. Get out of your box and have some fun." He snorted the powder, then opened the can and drained the soda.

That night, he started bugging all of us for money. Over the next week, we barely saw him.

Skipping school

When school started, he didn't show. After a couple of days, I dropped by his house. He was high. "School is for losers, Scott."

Over the next couple months, I was swamped with school work. I asked his sister about him, tried calling, even visited his home. But his family always had excuses for why he wasn't available.

Until late in November, when I was on the way home from school and Kyle asked me if he can borrow $500. He looked confused. He looked terrified. And when I couldn't answer him, he walked away.

Next morning, I skipped school. Went to his Dad's office and told him I was concerned about Kyle.

Kyle's family had been in denial, but after my discussion with his Dad, they all sat down for an honest talk.

The reason I'm sharing this

What they discovered was that Kyle was in a lot of trouble.

A friend of Kyle's mom suggested they reach out to Chabad Lifeline which was then Project PRIDE. Kyle and his Dad met with Rabbi Fine, who started both Kyle and his family on the path to recovery and healing.

Kyle returned to school the next year, and only I and the school guidance counselor knew what he had gone through. Today, Kyle lives in Toronto with his family and we are still close as ever.

Why am I writing this blog post now? Because I saw that my friend was in trouble, I did something. I did what I could. I dropped everything and spoke to his Dad, even though I was a shy kid. I know that I saved Kyle's life.

To this day I support Chabad Lifeline because they were part of saving his life too. I saw firsthand how they helped him through his struggles with addiction, and his family through their pain. 

It's Chabad Lifeline's annual raffle and you can save someone's life. Get out there and visit the centre. Talk to Rabbi Fine or Rabbi Bresinger and hear firsthand how they have literally saved families.

And buy a raffle ticket. Your money will be used to help kids like Kyle. Kids who fall through the cracks and need a friend to help them get through their moments of pain.


*Please note: names and certain details were changed to protect the privacy of the people involved. 

Helping kids year round

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What happens to kids affected by addiction being serviced in schools when summer arrives? The answer to that question was discussed at a recent Chabad Lifeline visit to Camp Amy Molson to meet the new member of our expanding team, Shauna Joyce.

Camp Director joins Lifeline staff

For the last 18 years, Shauna has been Director of Camp Amy Molson, which services youth of whom the large majority are living below the poverty line. She has worked in education for 10 years, most recently as Principal of Hebrew Academy.

"In my conversations with Chabad Lifeline, we spent a lot of time talking about the hidden victims of addiction, the ones living at home where the circumstances are difficult and people aren't aware or don't even know about it," said Shauna. "It was clear in our discussion that many of the clientele that we're talking about in the schools are attending my camp."

That realization sparked an idea. "We thought it was a good opportunity to bridge both worlds and provide a lifeline to campers which can be used when they get back to the city," Shauna explained. "Knowing that I would be involved with Chabad Lifeline was another connection to make so that the kids would be aware that a familiar face would be there as well."

An atmosphere of openness

At the camp, Chabad Lifeline Youth Counselors led workshops with the teenage campers and counselors in training. Some of the youth opened up and shared how they were affected by addiction, and several may meet one on one with our youth counselors after camp is over.

"We are very excited to add Shauna to our growing team," said Chabad Lifeline Director Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger. "Her education, experience, and passion in changing the lives of youth from the most vulnerable demographics fit perfectly with our mission."


To see photos from our visit, click here.

We also visited Camp Bnai Brith and spoke to several groups of teens. Photos from the Camp Bnai Brith workshops can be found here.

How I beat my bullies

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That familiar pain in his forehead.

Patrick* opened his eyes. Where am I? What happened?

Another blackout. I need to lay off the vodka.

Patrick groaned. If the headache wasn't enough, the bruises from the last beatdown in school were throbbing.

Behind the curtain of a quiet teen

Patrick was sent to Chabad Lifeline back when we were called Project PRIDE. Bullied on a daily basis, he would drink himself into oblivion.

You would never suspect that Patrick had a drinking problem. He was smart, quiet and sweet. 

His home life was complicated. Patrick lived with his mother and three younger siblings. His father had overdosed on heroin and his mom worked long hours to support the family, leaving him in charge of dinner and bedtime.

Patrick was a 13 year old kid shouldering tremendous responsibility. Alcohol was his only safe refuge.

An emotional celebration

A school Guidance Counselor would save Patrick's life. She referred him to Chabad Lifeline and he met with one of our Youth Counselors.

Patrick would travel two hours for his weekly Lifeline visits. He went though dark periods, and Lifeline became his family. Through all his struggles, he always came back, and was welcomed with warmth.

August 11 marked four years of sobriety for Patrick, and he met up with Chabad Lifeline Director Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger and a couple of friends to celebrate.

"Rabbi B, all those years everybody at Lifeline was so warm and caring with me, no matter where I was," he shared at the gathering. "I learned to stop my inner voice from saying what the bullies would tell me, and being welcomed as family gave me the confidence to beat my own internal bullies."

Chabad Lifeline congratulates Patrick on four years of sobriety!


*Names and certain details were changed to protect the privacy of those involved in this story.

Patrick was helped thanks to the support of people like you. We are in middle of a raffle campaign. Please open your heart and purchase a ticket or two by clicking here.

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