People who have survived sexual abuse often find the holidays a tough time.
Drug and alcohol intervention expert Andy Bhatti experienced childhood abuse happened during the holidays. But he wants to help make happy holiday memories for others.
On Saturday, Dec. 8, the public can stop by the Save-On-Foods at 20255 64th Ave., to donate to the Celebrity Food Drive.
He said it was due to the generosity of others that he has some happy Christmas memories.
“When I was a little kid, my mom used to get a Christmas hamper,” Bhatti explained.
He recalls the family receiving a radio one year. Bhatti said it was important for his as a child to be able to chomp on a candy cane and eat traditional holiday foods – to basically feel normal and share in the typical holiday activities.
“I was super grateful,” he said.
Bhatti said at the end of the day, he and his single mom knew there were people out there who cared for them and that helped him make it through some tough times.
“At Christmastime, a lot of people relapse,” he noted.
The Celebrity Food Drive on Saturday is a chance for people to provide a holiday for families who couldn’t otherwise afford one.
“I try to give every family $2,000 worth of stuff,” he said.
That includes age-appropriate gifts, a Christmas dinner and enough food to help them until February. The donations will go to Sophie’s Place Youth Advocacy Centre, which helps sexually abused children. It is part of the Centre for Child Development which provides programs throughout the region.
The food drive, which accepts non-perishables, unwrapped new toys, and cash, runs noon to 2 p.m. When he reached out to celebrities, they signed on in a heartbeat, he said.
So the event will have hockey stars Theo Fleury, Dave Babich and Kirk McLean as well as Jason Day, a UFC fighter and actor (Skyscraper with The Rock), and Graham Wardle, from Heartland.
Everyone who makes a donation is entered into a draw for a signed NHL jersey. People can also get celebrity autographs in exchange for donations to the cause.
If people can’t make it out to the event in Willoughby Saturday, they can give donations at a Sunday event in Guildford aimed at helping families dealing with addiction and sexual abuse. As well, people can contact Bhatti through his website and pickup can be arranged.
Theo Fleury is also taking part in Bhatti’s other weekend initiative – a workshop called How Addiction Affects Families Part 2.
The event is to help families understand how issues such as trauma, addiction, intervention, recovery, and co-dependence, and family dynamics are interconnected.
People are asked to sign up in advance for the workshop that runs 3:30 to 7 p.m. in the Guildford Golf and Country Club, 7929 152nd St. on Dec. 9.
In addition to Fleury, the guest speakers include the head of the Cedars Cobble Hill treatment centre, addiction experts, a psychiatrist with a specialization in child, adolescent and family care.
Bhatti said families often don’t know where to turn when they are in the midst of trauma and addiction. He received many calls and emails from families in the midst of the turmoil who don’t know how to find resources so they pay for whatever program they can find only to have their loved one relapse because treatment did not treat the underlying cause or other key issues.
“We want people to know they are going to the right place that will help them,” Bhatti said.
That’s why he’s offering the Sunday seminar for free so finances are no barrier. But people must sign up in advance so he can ensure the resource materials are prepped.
Register through andybhatti.com with the number of tickets needed. Any additional seats will be available first come, first serve.