For one boy, his life changed irrevocably over a can of tuna.
“He said his parents were struggling, living in poverty and he had two younger siblings,” said Crystal Cowie, a director at Phoenix in Halifax.
“One afternoon he opened a can of tuna and ate it. When his parents came home to make supper that was the supper for the family.”
The parents then made a gut-wrenching decision: they couldn’t afford to keep their 16-year-old son.
“They actually drove him to our steps and dropped him off,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine as a parent making that decision but they had to do what was best for the family and they stayed in contact.”
The teen lived at Phoenix, went on to Nova Scotia Community College and is working now.
“The impact (Phoenix) has on lives is phenomenal and we’re very passionate and privileged to do the work we do,” Cowie said.
Phoenix is celebrating its 25th year of operation with a musical tribute Friday night at the Cunard Centre.
What started as Phoenix House has grown into 11 programs in nine locations in Halifax for those aged between 12 to 24. There’s a 20-bed emergency shelter, centre for youth for guidance and health services, residential programs, community development, therapy, as well as choir, art and recreation programs.
Lisa Dulong, another Phoenix success story, will be one of the speakers at Friday’s event.
At 10 she started her downward spiral, and by 12 she was self-harming, drinking, and addicted to drugs. Like in many rural areas, Dulong’s hometown didn’t have any programs for people that young. She went through detox in Dartmouth but it didn’t stick.
She walked through the doors at Phoenix House in 1999 at age 16.
“She had to move away from her hometown to get away from her habits and triggers that would make her relapse,” Cowie said.
She had some relapses while living there, but realizing no one was going to give up on her gave her some courage.
A Phoenix graduate, Dulong is now a youth care worker in Yarmouth.
Dreamscape 2012: Celebrating 25 years of Phoenix event starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Cunard Centre.
It’s a dinner and concert event featuring Raylene Rankin, Bruce and Dylan Guthro, Rita McNeil and several others.