United Way Central Alberta has officially kicked off their 2023 campaign. The campaign was kicked off with a lunch at Red Deer Resort and Casino on September 7 with around 250 people in attendance.  

“The next three months we raise all the majority of our annual fundraising... It's amazing how people still got here first week back to school. That commitment is wonderful. All these events are going to be happening over the next three months in support of United Way fundraising campaign where we fund local agencies delivering social service programming across the region,” said Chelsea O’Donoghue, United Way Central Alberta CEO.  

This year, the organization has a goal of fundraising more than the 1.6 million dollars they were able to fundraise in 2022.  

“We're optimistic that this fall that we can do that again so we can build on the momentum that we created last year,” added O’Donoghue.  

Last year, United Way Central Alberta was able to support 34 programs benefiting over 22,032 local individuals and families.  

With a challenging economy, O’Donoghue added that fundraising is getting more difficult, but the need is constant. Despite being a few years away from the brunt of the pandemic, the need for social services continues to increase.  

“The demand for social service programming is that all time high. We're not even at the bottom end of that fallout that happened,” she added.  

During the lunch, Ken Mackinaw spoke about his journey to recovery from addiction and alcoholism. The ‘Many Healing Blankets’ program at Safe Harbour helped him recover and rebuild his life after a life-threatening overdose.  

His story brought the crowd to a standing ovation.  

“It felt really heartwarming and loving that there are actually people out there who care. It’s just up to you if you want to let them in,” said Makinaw.  

He never expected to be standing on stage as a United Way ambassador.  

“I was too stuck in my addiction to think I would get used to it. When your addiction is all you care about, you don’t care about anything or anyone. That’s what I meant when I was talking out there about being selfish and not letting anybody in. Since I have been on my healing journey, I have had a lot of doors open for me,” he explained.  

Makinaw is looking forward to returning to his treatment centre to celebrate two years of sobriety on January 25, 2024.  

With the kick-off of the United Way’s 2023 Campaign, several fundraising campaigns will launch in the community and in local workplaces that will support local community initiatives.  

"If you can give – please do. There are so many who cannot," urges O'Donoghue. “We’re so grateful for the support already shown this campaign season and the opportunity to strengthen community connections.” 


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