Local dealership helps youth mental health campaign reach goal

Progressive Auto Sales' John and Dan Whitton present their donation to representatives of both ACCESS Open Minds and Ryan’s House (Photo courtesy of Bluewater Health Foundation via Twitter)

A generous $850,000 donation from Progressive Auto Sales has pushed a youth mental health fundraising campaign over the top.

A total of $3 million has been raised toward the opening of the ACCESS Open Minds facility in Sarnia’s downtown.

A portion of the money will also support “Ryan’s House”, a withdrawal management facility that has helped 89 clients since opening in January 2021.

Progressive Auto Owner Dan Whitton said they were more than happy to assist a worthy cause.

“We are happy to make this donation that will improve mental health care in our community.  We asked leaders in our community which causes had the greatest needs at this time. ACCESS Open Minds and Ryan’s House were the top choices. It is nice that we are able to make a contribution that completes the fundraising campaign to build ACCESS Open Minds,” said Whitton.

“A few years back, Laurie Hicks, Ryan’s mom, approached us for support to help open Ryan’s House. We didn’t at the time, but we admire the fact she didn’t give up and has seen it through. Mental health affects us all and we are very thankful for the community’s support and our employees’ efforts over the years, to put us in the position to be able to give back.”

Bluewater Health Foundation Executive Director Kathy Alexander is thrilled and said the services are very much needed.

“They will be able to provide mental health care and treatment on site in the community in a very friendly, accommodating, and accessible way for youth and young adults,” said Alexander. “They have been sharing feedback and stories and experiences with us and have said that how it’s happening now isn’t working for a lot of our youth and young adults. We’re listening to them so that we can do better.”

Alexander said the goal wouldn’t have been reached without the leadership of the Mike Weir Foundation and countless individuals and businesses.

The partnership between Bluewater Health, Bluewater Health Foundation, Canadian Mental Health Association Lambton-Kent and St. Clair Child and Youth Services will provide tailored and holistic mental health and addiction support to youth ages 12 to 25-years-old.

“These are partners that have come together and really have listened to the feedback and the experiences (of youth),” she said. “That’s a hard pill for some people to swallow when you get feedback that says ‘what’s happening right now really isn’t helpful for me’. We’ve been able to respond and we’ve been able to listen and hear stories and experiences and learn from them and improve upon them.”

The facility will be located at the former CIBC bank on Front Street.

Construction is underway, and it’s expected to open this summer after being slightly delayed due to COVID-19.