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Sparking change in a child’s life

His job isn’t for the faint of heart, but he puts his whole heart and all of his passion into it. For the past 23 years, Dr. John Colangeli has seen thousands of children turn their lives around through programming offered at Lutherwood’s Children’s Mental Health Centre in Waterloo, Ontario.

“Our programs put hope back into kids’ lives,” said John, who is Chief Executive Officer of Lutherwood.

Lutherwood offers specialized children’s mental health programs tailored to the needs of each individual – like STEPS, a day treatment program that combines education and treatment under one roof. At STEPS, children have a teacher and attend classes just like regular school. But they also work with a clinician to achieve their treatment goals and have access to unique therapies like music, art and play that enable children to explore coping strategies. No matter what program they’re in, every child receives specialized programming and a dedicated clinician who helps them on the road to recovery.

“The most rewarding part of my job is seeing kids turn into successful adults, discovering their calling in a range of career paths, from aviation to healthcare.” John says many of Lutherwood’s clients return months, years or decades later to say hello, and it’s not uncommon to hear them credit early intervention with the positive change in their lives. “You got me when I was young,” they’ll say. ”You got my attention and my trust and you saved my life.”

Lutherwood operates solely on funding, donations and grants. The RBC Children’s Mental Health Project has donated more than $150,000 to Lutherwood since 1995 to help fund their programming initiatives. For the past three years, RBC has funded Lutherwood’s Children’s Mental Health speaker series. The series raises awareness and understanding of children’s mental health issues, reducing the stigma that prevents many families from seeking help.

“Children’s mental health is finally getting the attention it deserves because of organizations like RBC,” said John. “Private sector involvement has been the tipping point in generating public awareness about the issues, and that gives me hope for the future of children’s mental health.”

The RBC Children’s Mental Health Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues. Since 2008, the RBC Children’s Mental Health Project has donated over $16 million to more than 200 organizations across Canada.