This past fall, more than 130 people gathered at the Grand Theatre in Fergus for Portage Ontario’s annual Recognition Ceremony, to pay tribute to twenty-nine youth who have completed the residential phase of their drug addiction rehabilitation program and have committed to living a positive lifestyle, free from drug abuse.
“During my program I worked on a number of things, including my co-dependency, my obsessive tendencies, healthy and unhealthy relationships and most importantly, my self-worth,” explained Skye, one of the youth who was being recognised at the event. “Portage became the only place I had ever called home. I felt more safe and comfortable there than anywhere else. Portage gave me an environment in which I was able to thrive and to begin regaining old passions and build new ones.”
The entire community of youth currently in drug rehabilitation treatment at Portage Elora were in the audience, being inspired by the success of those who have gone before them and encouraged by the various addresses delivered by guest speakers, including the Honourable Liz Sandals, President of the Treasury Board and MPP for Guelph, and Norman Lord, Governor on the Portage Ontario Board. The Honourable Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services, also sent his greetings and best wishes to the graduates.
All those present were touched by the in memoriam tribute paid to former resident and part-time staff member, Charlie Ireton, by his caseworker and colleague, Aaron Lebold. “Charlie was the most selfless, caring and giving person you could ever meet. Shortly after he began working with us he was in a tragic accident, and passed away. For anyone who knew Charlie this did not make sense, because he was destined to help and inspire people for the rest of his life. Charlie taught a lot of us a lot of things, and anyone who spent any time with him will have their own story about how he helped them, and what they took from him.”
The theatre was filled with tumultuous applause when the Portage Ontario staff team was invited onto the stage by Interim Facility Director, Bruce Ferguson, and there was a special cheer for the three graduates returning as program volunteers. But the greatest applause was saved for the twenty-nine youth who were the centre of the day, who have gone on to lead healthy and positive lifestyles after having completed their drug rehabilitation program. Now in the aftercare phase of their program, they will continue to receive support and encouragement from Portage for an 18-month period after they left the residential centre.
“I still call Portage to this day whenever I feel uneasy or need reassurance in my everyday life,” explained Skye. “They don’t allow me to believe in a reality where my success doesn’t exist.”