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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Embracing the spirit of the holidays all year round

February 4, 2016 - For weeks leading up to the holiday season, CAMH staff, volunteers and clients celebrate with decorations, music and meals. This past December, the CAMH Downtown West (Archway) Clinic​ hosted a holiday party of its own at the Masaryk-Cowan Community Center. Over 130 CAMH clients were in attendance, enjoying warm holiday lunch and an afternoon of music, dance and good conversation.

It’s a community effort   

​With the support of different members of the surrounding communities, the Downtown West holiday party has evolved into something very special over the years.

We used to host the holiday party at our Downtown West Clinic on Queen Street West, but the excitement surrounding the event grew so much that we had to start using the much larger community centre,” said Joan Loughran, Recreationist at CAMH’s Downtown West Clinic. “It truly is a community-minded event. We have a private donor who helps us with expenses, the food is catered locally, and of course, we receive all kinds of support from our corporate volunteers.”


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(L to R): Bridget Akioyamen, Manager of Downtown West Clinic, CAMH client Nelson, and Joan Loughran.

The community support was evident that afternoon. Dozens of volunteers sporting red t-shirts were busily serving food, chatting with clients and helping with the set up. Staff from the Downtown West Clinic were doing the same, and also took the lead on organizing a raffle draw.  

Dr. Richard Parnes, a retired community dentist was on hand to share his passion for piano playing with the party. Holiday tunes and slow numbers accompanied lunch, but it was hits from the 50s and 60s that had everyone on their feet. “I had to get some dancing in to help work off all of that great food I just ate!” commented Danny, a CAMH client.

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Danny (blue sweater) does a little dance following the holiday lunch.


We’re so fortunate to have the support that we do,” said Bridget Akioyamen, Manager of CAMH’s Downtown West Clinic. 

Not all superheroes wear capes


This party and others like it are made possible, in part, by the hard work and dedication of the many corporate volunteers who donate their time throughout the holiday season and all year round.

“Over the years, we’ve seen support from many different organizations,” said Jim Davey, Volunteer Coordinator at CAMH. “We work together to create healthy-community partnerships that give corporate employees an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of clients at CAMH.”

On site at the Downtown West holiday party was
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which has been a steadfast supporter of CAMH for many years. Since 2010, PwC staff have contributed over 900 hours of their time supporting special initiatives and events. “I can still remember the first event we did with the help of PwC,” Joan reminisced. “They are a very loyal group of volunteers.”

The volunteer experience provides an opportunity to give back in a meaningful way. “Volunteering at CAMH provides an opportunity to understand the importance of reducing the stigma associated with mental health and how each of us can assist in breaking down those misconceptions,” said Sonya Sherwood, Manager, PwC Canada Foundation. “Our volunteers enjoy the personal interaction and feel a huge sense of satisfaction in putting a smile on a client's face.”

IMG_2860camhdotca.pngCorporate volunteers from PwC at the Downtown West holiday party. Their t-shirts read: “I’m part of it: empowering communities.”

Speaking on her experience volunteering, Sonya encourages other organizations to get involved in community initiatives, too. “There is no greater feeling than giving back to your community and feeling a part of it,” she said. “A one-day volunteer experience can lead to a lifetime of providing hope, support and compassion to those in need.”

For many, the holiday spirit is something that’s saved for the month of December.  But it’s dedicated community members and volunteers who remind us that the holiday spirit is something we ought to embrace all year round. 

Interested in volunteering at CAMH? Get in touch​

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