Updated: Sep 10

Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations (CCHF) is launching a groundbreaking partnership with Sobeys to address the critical need for early interventions in child and youth mental health. 'A Family of Support' Child and Youth Mental Health Initiative will fund local mental health programs to support specific provincial needs at 13 Canadian children’s hospitals, including the Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health.


Thanks to community support, the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation is proudly partnering with Alberta Health Services in the creation of a new Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health, slated to open in late 2021.



“Partnerships like this matter,” said Mark Hierlihy, President and CEO, Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations. “Mental health challenges continue to pose an enormous threat to Canadian families from coast to coast and children and youth are among the most vulnerable. Sobeys has recognized the importance of this issue in communities where their employees live and work and, as a family-focused company, want to invest in a national initiative focused on child and youth mental health.” 


Children, youth, and families struggling with mental health challenges routinely visit children’s hospitals for support. As a result, children’s hospitals face an unprecedented demand for their services in mental health. Early interventions for children, youth and their families are key to preventing long-term struggles with mental illness. Unfortunately, the impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in an even greater need for child and youth mental health services. 

“Isolation and uncertainty are exacerbating mental health issues for hundreds of young people in our community. They need our support." - Saifa Koonar, President and CEO, Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation

“Now more than ever, families are seeing health and economic crises collide. For families of children in medical crisis who rely on the Alberta Children’s Hospital, the compounding stress can be too much to bear,” says Saifa Koonar, President and CEO of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation. “Isolation and uncertainty are exacerbating mental health issues for hundreds of other young people in our community. They need our support. It’s heartwarming to know that community leaders like Sobeys and their employees are committed to standing beside these young people by supporting the new Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health.”

Early intervention and education are at the heart of each hospital’s programs. The programs aim to help children’s hospitals reduce patient wait times, create, and adapt clinical spaces, expand capacity across the healthcare system and enhance training for mental health leaders, pediatricians and frontline healthcare workers.

In Calgary, the partnership will support a new research initiative called the Foundational Discovery Platform, which will engage young people at the Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health in the systematic collection of a wide range of genetic, medical and behavioural data. Over the next five years, 1,000 children and adolescents will be invited into the Discovery 1000 program for a longitudinal study of anxiety and depression designed to make interventions more effective.


To fund the “A Family of Support” initiative, the Sobey Foundation and Sobeys Inc. have committed to donating and raising millions of dollars. Funding from the initiative will help enhance access to high-quality, long-term mental health care for families across Canada. 


Canadians will have the opportunity to donate through an in-store fundraising campaign running from September 17 to October 1 at all Sobeys Inc. banner stores, including: Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Farm Boy, Foodland, FreshCo, Lawton’s Drugs, Thrifty Foods, BoniSoir, Co-op, Les Marché Tradition, Need’s Convenience, Pete’s Frootique & Fine Foods, Rachelle Béry, Tradition BoniChoix and Voisin.


One hundred per cent of the funds raised will support local children’s hospitals and their “A Family of Support” program.


“Now, perhaps more than any other time in recent history, people need to know that there are forces hard at work to carve out a clear path for mental health care and education,” said Heather Sobey-Connors, Chair of the Sobey Family Council and Sobey Foundation Trustee. ” The Sobey Foundation. “For too long, the path has been littered with obstacles and challenges for Canadian families. We have a responsibility to come together and be there for our children, and act as a dedicated support system to ensure they are not alone.” 


Children’s hospitals in Canada see over 5,000 children and youth each day and are home to world-leading experts whose research aims to put new knowledge and tools in the hands of frontline child healthcare providers. The children’s hospitals depend on the support of community partners to spearhead a long-overdue shift in our healthcare system, one that will promote healthier and more resilient families for generations to come.


For a full summary of all 13 programs being supported through this partnership, please visit afamilyofsupport.com

In Grade 7, Taylor spent her lunch breaks hiding in a bathroom stall. She ate quietly with her feet pulled up off the floor so no one knew she was there. It was her way of escaping the constant tormenting and bullying from her classmates and was the only place she really felt safe away from home.

Through speaking engagements at school and in the community, Taylor is opening up about her experiences in hopes of helping those like her who might be struggling.

On any given day, 12-year-old Taylor was shoved into lockers, pet on the head as though she were a dog, and pushed to the ground when bending down to pick up a dropped pencil.


Her junior high days were dark and lonely. The Facebook messages she received were not jokes or friend requests. They were messages of hate and verbal abuse that made her question her own self-worth.


'Maybe there is something wrong with me'


“I dreaded going to school,” says Taylor, now 19. “I had no friends and no one to help me deal with the constant bullying. It got to the point that I couldn’t physically get my feet to move me out the front door, let alone out of bed. I started to believe the messages that were being sent to me. I started to think, ‘If everyone hates me so much why should I like myself? Maybe there is something wrong with me.’”


One day, the despair became too much to bear. Home alone, Taylor texted her mom to say goodbye.


“I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live. In my mind, it was the only way out,” she says. “I tried… and then the next thing I know, police and EMS were coming through my front door.”


She was taken to the Alberta Children’s Hospital and admitted to the Mental Health Unit where doctors diagnosed her with anxiety and depression.


For the next two weeks, Taylor underwent treatment on the Mental Health Unit where she learned that her battle with mental health was not something of which to be afraid or ashamed.


“I learned that everyone deals with anxiety in different ways. For some people, like me whose anxiety is magnified, it’s crippling. I learned that it’s okay to be different, and I had to learn how to accept myself for who I am,” says Taylor.


Back at home and back in class, Taylor was coping.


Then, following an adverse reaction to her medication, she tried to take her life a second time.


She returned to the Mental Health Unit for another two weeks where she received additional treatment including one-on-one counselling sessions where she learned breathing and muscle relaxation techniques to help her cope in anxious situations, especially at school.


“I also learned that a large part of how to cope is perspective. Dropping a pencil used to scare me. It increased my anxiety because often it meant being pushed over. Now, dropping a pencil is just dropping a pencil,” she says.


She reached a turning point when she changed schools in Grade 8 and became immersed in a network of supportive teachers, counsellors and good friends who have helped her in managing her mental health. Their acceptance along with the gratitude she has for her mental health team at the hospital has compelled Taylor to share her story with others.


Through speaking engagements at school and in the community, she talks about her experiences with mental illness in hopes of helping those like her who might be struggling. Taylor is hopeful that the new Centre for Childhood and Adolescent Mental Health will be a welcoming place for kids and teens struggling with mental health issues so that they can get the help they need before they need the hospital.


The Centre will offer a walk-in clinic where youth can self-refer, something she wished she had available.

“This Centre would have made a huge difference to me because when I first started feeling unwell, I truly felt I had nowhere to turn. Just like physical illness, early intervention for mental illness is crucial. We need to build this centre so teens like me know they have a place they can go for help, as soon as they need it.”

She is also intrigued to hear that research made possible at the Centre will potentially help experts choose the best medications to help kids.



“It took a while to find the right medication and the right dose to help me at first,” says Taylor. “We might have avoided hospitalization a second time if we had known how my body would react to the meds. It’s great to know that scientists are looking for ways to make this process better.”

Updated: May 14

Foundation work expected to begin in May


As the situation around COVID-19 continues to evolve, it does so amidst change and uncertainty. Thanks to our partners who share the vision for enhanced child mental health services, we are very pleased to announce that construction of Calgarys new Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health continues to forge ahead to help kids and families in our community. With enhanced safety measures in place, progress on the build moves steadily ahead.

Excavation and shoring continues at the site of Calgary's new Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health.

From the day they were awarded the construction management contract for the new Centre, the team at Stuart Olson knew this project was going to be a special experience.


As Stuart Olson’s project manager for the Centre, Stephanie Laing can see a heightened sense of pride among all who are working on the build every day.


Stuart Olson project manager Stephanie Laing says that progress has been steady and significant since the groundbreaking ceremony in November.
"Trades are also telling us that this is a project they want to get behind. It means something to people." — Stephanie Laing, Stuart Olson Project Manager


“It’s easy in our line of work to just focus on details like dimensions and timelines,” says Laing. “When we started this project, as a team, we took stock of what we were building and made a point of remembering why it’s so important. Trades are also telling us that this is a project they want to get behind. It means something to people,” she says.


“In an industry that’s not known to be too open about our feelings, it’s nice to see the conversation changing. People are talking about how their family or friends have dealt with mental health challenges and how they want to help.”

Since the groundbreaking celebration at the end of November, Laing says that steady and significant progress continues on the construction site.


In light of COVID-19, and to ensure all operations continue in a safe and healthy manner, the company has enacted a range of measures including mandatory personal protective equipment (PPE) for all workers, enhanced sanitation, social distancing guidelines during work hours as well as breaks, and no-contact thermal screening of all workers entering the site.


Deep services work was started in the fall and will resume again in the spring. January saw the attention shift to the installation of the temporary shoring of the hill in preparation for excavation. Hundreds of loads of dirt have been hauled from the property to accommodate the “reverse walkout” design of the building.


A high-water table and the extreme winter conditions in January presented some construction challenges, which were proactively and successfully met. It is anticipated that foundation work will begin in the next month. Tenders for the building envelope, structural steel, mechanical and electrical were closed mid-March.


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