Why would I give someone a gift they can’t unwrap?

This time of year seems to bring out the generosity of people and many organizations do an amazing job of fundraising. Anything from purchasing tangible items such as medications or clean well water for underdeveloped countries to supporting your local food drive are all admirable and much-needed causes. “What’s nice too, is that people can see, whether in a flyer or on television, the great work that’s being done with their kind donation,” says Cheri Smith, Director of Development for The Kinark Foundation. “It’s nice too and human nature to want to be able to see what you’ve purchased and know that a child will be smiling, holding it in their hands this holiday season,” adds Smith.

The Kinark Foundation is the fundraising arm of Kinark Child and Family Services. Kinark supports children and youth across Ontario by providing evidence-based services through community mental health, autism, and forensic mental health/youth justice services. What this translates to, is people providing services to other individuals and families. So when we ask people to donate to the Foundation, it understandably becomes difficult to wrap their head around the idea of donating to support mental health. Unlike a gift that you can wrap, you can’t physically hand someone the gift of mental health and you certainly can’t unwrap it.

“You can’t see the benefits of supporting a child’s mental health, but just ask their families, and they will tell you what a gift it is to them.”—Cheri Smith, Director, Kinark Foundation

The intangible gift of mental health

The Kinark Foundation understands this. In this year’s gift giving guide, individuals and families can purchase tangible items such as lifejackets for children that visit our Kinark Outdoor Centre, so they can safely experience boating for the first time. They can also purchase meals for families who will struggle financially over the holidays, recreation equipment for Kinark’s residential homes or youth treatment facility or purchase the intangibles of mental health services such as respite, giving families the break they need to recharge.

“Both types of gifts are needed and appreciated by families,” says Smith. This year, she would like donors to also consider the value of the intangible gifts too: “Although intangible gifts such as mental health can’t be wrapped, they are needed just as much by families: The gift of mental health or support to a child with Autism is one of the best gifts to give,” says Smith.

There are two particular stories that stand out to Smith: First is Joshua. At the age of two, Joshua’s parents were told he would never speak or go to school with his peers. Kinark worked with Joshua on a daily basis helping with communication, social skills and speech. Joshua’s parents recently told Cheri that Joshua will graduate grade 8 with his classmates, working at grade level! Then there is Jenni. Jenni was suicidal. Kinark worked with Jenni’s school and the family’s physician, assigned her a psychologist and helped them navigate the healthcare system, explains Smith. “Jenni’s Mom told me she cannot thank Kinark enough for making such an incredible difference and giving Jenni the chance to not only survive—but to thrive.”

“I’d even go so far as to speculate that most families, when giving the choice between a tangible gift or the gift of mental health for their family, they will always choose good mental health,” adds Smith.

The intangible gift of time.

Another intangible, but invaluable way to give this holiday season is by donating your time to others. “I am constantly awed and inspired by those who give generously of their time and mind to make good things happen,” says Jim McHardy, Director, Kinark Outdoor Centre. There are many ways to donate. “In Minden we have the many hands that put together the food baskets for families in need at Christmas. In the summer, service club members annually contribute to annual work weekends to maintain children’s summer camps.” In the social service field, we have Parents for Children’s Mental Health, where parents donate their time to help others cope every day while accessing supports for their child, explains McHardy. “I have nothing but praise and respect for those who choose to participate in this form of giving, says McHardy.

You can’t see the time or financial support you offer when you choose to donate towards children and youth’s mental health. But what it translates to is a bigger, more impactful gift. It translates to the core of what makes it the holiday season–happier and healthier children and families.

To donate to the Kinark Foundation:

Click here to view the Foundation’s Holiday Gift Giving Guide:http://www.kinarkfoundation.ca/downloads/Guide%20to%20Giving.pdf. You can also donate online at www.kinarkfoundation.ca by emailing info@kinarkfoundation.ca or calling 905-944-7086

To donate your time to Kinark:

There are many organizations that you can donate your time to during the holiday season and throughout the New Year. Here’s how you can volunteer for Kinark:http://www.kinark.on.ca/getInvolved/volunteer.aspx