More than 130 Western donors and student recipients gathered together in Western’s Great Hall for the second annual Spring Scholarship & Awards Brunch on Sunday, March 20.
This event, which gives student recipients the opportunity to meet with donors and thank them for their generosity, has been very well-received by attendees, said Veronica Stoiber, Director of Donor Relations and Stewardship at Western.
“It’s a special day for both donors and recipients. We want to bring them together to celebrate this wonderful connection they have to each other and to give our donors the chance to meet students face-to-face and hear about the impact their support makes.”
In addition to a welcome message and thank you to donors from President Chakma, this year’s brunch also featured two inspiring speakers: Justin Alexander, a current student and award recipient, and Caitlin VanDeCappelle, MD’14, a recent graduate of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and a new donor. Both shared moving stories about the experiences that have shaped them and the significance of the support they’ve received.
For Justin, receiving donor support has made it possible for him to pursue his dream of an education. Having spent months homeless, sleeping in parks and on couches after his father told him he could no longer live at home once he turned 18, Justin posted his story to a crowd-funding website asking for help to attend university and avoid the mistakes his parents made in their lives.
Now, a first-year student in the Faculty of Engineering and the recent recipient of the Winnifred and Ross Harrison Bursary, he is grateful for the opportunities he’s been given and excited about the future.
Caitlin, who together with her family recently established the Caitlin VanDeCappelle Award in Medicine, said their decision to become donors was triggered by her experience as a medical student, which changed her life and helped her come to terms with the mental health issues she was struggling to control.
“At first, I was simply studying and running more. Then, it worsened to running at night because I couldn’t sleep, and eating the same things each day, and feeling compelled to study a threshold number of hours each day. I didn’t feel right unless I was in class, studying, or hitting the gym and eventually it seeped into my relationships,” she said, adding that her friend and then-roommate eventually encouraged her to visit the School’s Learner Equity and Wellness Office, where she was encouraged to seek counselling.
The support she received from the School’s community members, as well as her subsequent involvement with the Canadian Mental Health Association, compelled her to pay that support forward, she said.
“It is because of what they all did for me that I have been able to achieve what I have. This scholarship is my way to say thank you to them for all that they have done for me. I completely feel that my time at Western changed my life, and I hope that this scholarship can continue that theme for someone else. Hopefully through hearing our story, others will realize they can also affect a student’s experience, regardless of their age or financial status.”
To view the photo gallery from the event, click here.
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