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Kelly Mackin Speaks at the DreamTeam’s Annual Fundraiser

May 8th, 2010 | By | Category: Campaigns (incl.) Grassroots, Life, Written Word

I first met Kelly this past summer (2009) at the Social Justice Retreat in Algonquin Park, a beautiful setting where little could “go wrong” and where connections were made that sometimes last beyond the three day gathering of like-minded people. And so it was to be with Kelly and I.

I was instantly drawn to her wicked sense of humor. I then heard her speak at the Voices workshop and I was drawn in even further.

Kelly Mackin has guts and strength, and a way of delivering a message that keeps you tuned in ’til the end.

I don’t know of many people so willing to walk to the edge of the cliff while trying to keep what she has “by giving it away”.

We thank-you Kelly for sharing your speech from the recent Dream Team fundraising dinner with Peacock.

Your courage and honesty shine bright and remind us what is best in each of us.

Good evening,

I grew up in New Brunswick with my younger sister and brother and I had an older brother who was raised by my aunt.

I was sexually abused as a little girl – by a couple of different men. But I never talked about this until I was 25 years old; it was blocked and came back through triggers. Carrying it as a secret isolated me, and it just about destroyed my spirit.

My home environment was chaotic. I began drinking and using drugs of all sorts by age 11, and I would steal to support my habit. At 13 years old I was charged with my first criminal offense, and at 15 I was incarcerated at the Nova Scotia School for Girls. I was back out within a year, but I was in and out of jail until I was almost 18 years old.

At that point, I left Saint John New Brunswick and came to Toronto with a boy my age. I slept in Allen Gardens for my first night and then stayed in a couple of hostels.

Coming to Toronto I would discover speed and cocaine. For the next few years I would continue to use drugs, drink alcohol and be in an unhealthy relationship.

And then on Mother’s Day in 1986, just before turning 21, my beautiful little boy was born. For the first time in my life I felt love so deeply I cannot put into words the elation I felt. He was the light in what had until then been a dark existence.

His father and I stayed together almost 3 more years, but by the time our relationship ended – and it ended violently – I was addicted to cocaine. That’s when I knew I needed to get help – but I had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. I had been able to keep my life together for the first few years of my little boy’s life and then it fell apart.

I turned to the Catholic Children’s Aid Society. Because I knew that I could not be a good mom and I placed my son in their care.

The horrible irony was that the child protection agency that I had trusted to take care of my beautiful, innocent little boy actually placed him in an abusive and cruel foster home. My son was moved from that so-called home and it was closed. Today I am working with a lot of other people who are trying to hold Children’s Aid Societies of Ontario accountable.

At the time, losing my son cast me further into cocaine-addiction.

I was able to find my own apartment but by the time I turned 24, I was homeless again, having lost that apartment and my belongings.

Fortunately I had the support of two counselors that I met through a support agency and an abused women’s shelter; and they remain in my life today.

But for that nightmarish span of 12 years, I was transient. I would use crack, I’d live on the streets or in women’s shelters, I’d spend time in jails and treatment centers, and whenever I was able to reside for some time in supportive housing units, I was evicted for having relapsed. This was my life until I was 38 years old.

Things began to turn around in 2002 when I reconnected with my son and moved with him into a friend’s 1-bedroom apartment. A year later, I was able to move into a subsidized town house with my son. We got a cat, Felicia, and a dog, Karma, and we were a family.

I was clean and sober, as I had wanted to be for so long, but I  could not keep myself together after losing my son to my addiction to crack. I relapsed after being two and a half years. I could  not let go of my self-hatred and guilt over hurting my son so much.

Then, on Mother’s Day in 2007, I got clean again. I have not used any mind or mood altering substances since.

This journey has not been easy.Living in an affordable housing unit has made all the difference. Some days it was so uncomfortable and almost unbearable to go outside and look the world in the eye. Let alone go to work. I still have those days, just not as many.

Because I have my family. And I’m involved in the community. I’m contributing. And I am working towards goals.

For over two and a half years now, I have done volunteer work with women who have experienced conflict with the law. I also started a fundraising project three years ago to raise money for Christmas gifts for women.

I have graduated from Voices from the Street, and am a proud member of the Dream Team.

And I have been taking some courses with the intention of going to college to become a social worker.

I accept that I cannot take away a lifetime of self-destructive behaviors and beliefs and change all of that instantly; it takes hard work and perseverance. But I know that I can help others with what I have learned from my own personal experience. And in some strange way I keep what I have by giving it away. Thank you.

Kelly received two standing ovations for her presentation.

Happy Mother’s Day Kelly!

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