Jon Sanderson and his mother were victims of domestic violence and were afraid to stand up to the man who was abusing them until neighbour and Sudbury Youth Rocks director, Joel Mackey, placed a call to children services.
"Joel had saved my life and my mother's life," Sanderson said during the launch of this year's United Way Centraide North East Ontario campaign on Sept. 13.
Sanderson, who suffers from severe anxiety and depression, said he found himself again when he enrolled in the Sudbury Youth Rocks program, which not only teaches music, but also life skills and self-esteem to young people in Sudbury.
"It wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the dedicated support we have from the John Howard Society and United Way," Sanderson said.
During the annual campaign launch, which was held at the Northern Water Sports Centre, the United Way introduced this year's campaign chair, Kevin O'Connor.
O'Connor, the vice-president and branch manager at RBC Dominion Securities in Sudbury, served vice-chair of the campaign last year.
"United Way is about working together to build a safety net to ensure that when people need help, it's available," O'Connor said.
"It is by uniting together — through each person's investment of dollars and time — that we are able to create a better community here in Sudbury and across northeastern Ontario."
The United Way has helped change more than 32,000 lives, like Jon Sanderson's, in the Sudbury, Manitoulin, Nipissing and Parry Sound districts last year, and executive director Michael Cullen is hoping to build on that.
"The successes of this year's campaign will be based on the number of people we can help. By addressing community needs at a local level," Cullen said.
"When the time comes and someone asks, please be generous," O'Connor said. "There are many people like Jon that need our help.
"Let's do what we can to make their lives better."