This year’s graduating cohort from KPU’s public relations program has spent the past five months preparing an event to support the children of people who are incarcerated.
The group’s work culminated in a gala held at Surrey City Hall on March 1, with all funds from the event going to support charitable organization JustKids.
“I think [this event] is absolutely incredible. I really had no idea that it was going to be this much of an accomplishment because we have had fundraisers from other causes in the past, but not like this,” says JustKids coordinator Kirsty Gordon. “They’ve done an amazing job. They really have.”
Each year, the graduating public relations cohort selects a charity to support. One of the students, Cassia Lachance, says that the class knew right away that they wanted to donate to a cause for children because all of the charities brought up for consideration for this year’s event supported children in some form.
After selecting JustKids as the benefactor, the class got to work on planning the event by finding a caterer, entertainment, sponsors, suppliers, and more.
“We’re just really happy and really excited to be throwing this event to benefit these kids who really need our support,” says Lachance.
Tickets were sold for $40.00, which included appetizers and desserts as well as a chance at door prizes. All proceeds from the bar, silent auction, and games went to support JustKids.
KPU President Alan Davis, as well as representatives from the public relations cohort and JustKids, spoke at the event.
Children of parents who are serving prison sentences are at extreme risk for poor life outcomes. On top of the emotional stress of having a loved one in prison, these children are often stigmatised for their connection to parents convicted of crimes. They often lack the critical support structures needed to sustain their emotional needs and learn important life skills.
“These kids face a lot of prejudice because people don’t want to associate with someone who is in prison, but these kids didn’t do anything wrong. They were born into that situation,” says Lachance. “A lot of them are living with guardians or living in the foster system, so I think that getting out of the house and having new experiences and interacting with other kids in a similar situation is really great for them.”
JustKids is a fully donor-funded organization dedicated to providing support for “forgotten children”. It offers several initiatives to help these kids, including a storybook program in which volunteers bring a book and recording equipment to parents in prison to record them reading it aloud. The book and the recording are then given to the child to help maintain the connection between parent and child.
The organization also offers a free summer camp, a Saturday club for kids aged two to six and seven to 12, and workshops to teach kids vital life skills like budgeting and cooking.
“I think that these kids are hidden. They’re hidden children. With addiction comes incarceration. With mental illness comes incarceration. It all goes hand in hand,” says Gordon. “So there’s a lot more children with parents who have been involved at some point with the justice system … than people realize.”