News at Medicine - November 2016 - Monte Carlo helps vulnerable, young mothers through local charity

Monte Carlo helps vulnerable, young mothers through local charity
November 29, 2016
One look around when you enter the Choices for Youth building, it’s pretty obvious the work they do and why it’s needed: The space is packed with baby items, clothes free for the taking, a pantry of food and toiletries, which are in high demand, chairs and tables, musical instruments and the smell of coffee that’s constantly brewing. Every square inch is used. But most noticeable is the sheer optimism of the staff. They dish out hope, which could be why the organization is so busy.

Young people are arriving every few minutes to either talk to someone, find shelter, get help, make a phone call, eat a hot meal or just hang out in a safe space. The workers seem to know them all by name and everyone, regardless of circumstances, is treated with the same respect.

“We see the potential in every young person that comes through our doors. Every young person has the same potential and sometimes they just need the right support to find it. And that’s what we do. We meet young people where they are, find out what their goals are and try to help them get there.” - Angela Picco, campaigns and development officer for Choices

Choices serves over 1,000 young people every year with 10 core programs including emergency shelters, a youth leadership council, a construction company that employs youth, mental health services and more. They serve 16-29 year olds, most of them are between 18 and 24.
The Choices program Momma Moments is one of four programs that will benefit from this year’s Monte Carlo Charity Gala. Momma Moments is a community based, healthy-living, peer-to-peer program for young pregnant and parenting women.
Angela says there are 47 moms 61 children are currently enrolled in Momma Moments. It’s the only program in town for young, at risk mothers who are in a very vulnerable state such as having trouble finding housing, domestic abuse, crisis trauma, family breakdown, etc. Choices staff will even pick up the families if they don’t have a way there and, if hungry children are an issue, they feed them (with extra to take home if they need it) and they provide childcare services. It’s a ‘no barriers’ program, according to Angela; as accessible as it gets.

Monte Carlo milestone

2016 was the 40th Monte Carlo. A very popular event, organized by second year medical doctorate students like Alison Hamilton who was the director of the gala’s organizing committee this year. “It’s very special to be part of such a meaningful event. It’s been such a big part of MUN medicine for so long. I loved taking on that tradition and I was very excited about the charities that were chosen. Those organizations are doing some amazing work and they’re such great causes.”
“The organizations we support take such an active role with us as new learners. They come and talk to our class about the work they do with vulnerable populations. They’re teaching us and it’s so nice to be able to give back to them,” said Alison.
This year’s Monte Carlo theme, which raised over $80,000, was Wonder and Fantasy (Alice in Wonderland), complete with a candy bar, silent auction, croquet game, gambling and, for the first time, a History of Monte Carlo room. Alison says that room was a lot of fun to put together and was a very popular attraction.
With about 640 in attendance, the students have been fundraising to cover the costs of the event since April, raising $18,000. “It’s a lot of work to fundraise that amount of money but it’s so satisfying to know that all the proceeds from the event itself go to charity.” They also had a title sponsor for the first time, which was Mercedes-Benz St. John’s.

Angela says Choices relies heavily on fundraisers like this. “Things in Newfoundland change day to day so fundraising is a huge part of what we do here at Choices for Youth. Not just for the dollars, which is great, but also for community engagement; we always want to raise awareness about what we do,” said Angela. “This funding is going to be huge for Momma Moments because it will definitely allow them to build their capacity, offer better programming and ensure that these young moms are getting the best support that they can at this point and time in their lives.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association, the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre as well as Planned Parenthood will also benefit from the fundraiser.

Surpassing one million

Organizers calculated that as of 2015, Monte Carlo had surpassed $1,000,000 in total funds raised for charity since it started in 1977. The event was initiated for medical student Conor Maguire, who after his first year of medical school, sustained a spinal cord injury in a diving accident that left him quadriplegic. The medical class of 1980 organized a fundraiser to purchase a vehicle wheelchair lift so Conor could continue his medical education. Dr. Maguire subsequently completed his medical degree and is now a successful radiologist. He also honored Monte Carlo by serving as its official patron in 2009.

Photos by Matthew George