Taylor, an 18-year-old, tech-talented youth from Maple Ridge, is no stranger to hardship and pain. She’s had challenges with identity and acceptance, spent her life juggling two households, and barely graduated high school. Her mental health was constantly eroded by depression and school stress, while unknowingly battling the effects of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). “High school slowly got harder every year,” Taylor said, sharing her situation made it difficult to complete school.

           Sandra Reilly, a trained counsellor and gifted empathetic Youth Unlimited outreach worker, has been working in the Maple Ridge schools since 2016. That’s where she met Taylor. “She was so stressed out,” says Sandra. “She had little support and a ton of pressure from her parents for post-secondary education.”

Taylor’s visible challenges only scratched the surface. Underneath, Taylor was experiencing a painful reality.
“I was actively suicidal,” said Taylor, who wrestled with depression and experienced an

ongoing, complicated relationship with her parents. She came out as trans and pansexual at age 14. “I was all over the place, I was a mess. I was so obsessed with everyone else’s opinion. My friend group sucked, everyone was toxic. I was the embodiment of great depression.” Taylor was on suicide watch for six months, while trying to stay afloat in a self-motivated school.

A significant amount of Sandra’s work takes place at Taylor’s school. There she helps in woodshop, metalwork, and technology classes, but also keeps herself available in the hallways, as a safe presence and

YU’s Sandra Reilly with Taylor

connection point for students who need her. Sandra was present in Taylor’s Tech Lab work blocks for years, but it wasn’t until grade 11 that a mentoring friendship blossomed.
“Sandy found out quickly I wasn’t doing well in school because I spent all my time in the Tech Lab,” says Taylor. “I was building things. I fixed a broken 3D printer; I built a polygraph and built all this random stuff. It was so cool and challenging, but none of it was academic. I was excelling in all my tech classes, but struggling in my academic ones.” These academic classes were critical for post-secondary education. And Sandy noticed.

Sandra regularly hosts homework clubs to support students in their assignments. Early on in their friendship, Sandra realized how desperate Taylor’s situation was and that the need for support was immediate. “I told Taylor: ‘I’m going to see you walk across that stage’,” says Sandra, “‘You’re not doing this alone.’ For a long time, she couldn’t understand why I cared.”
At first, Taylor had no idea where to even start to reach her graduation goal, but Sandra supported her every step. “Sandy helped me talk to my teachers because I was really shy. She helped me compile lists of what I needed to do and she would sit down with me and say, ‘Okay, I don’t understand any of this, but we’re going to work through this together.'”

          Rising to the challenge, Taylor fought hard for her grades and in 2019 she successfully reached her goal “I don’t think I would have graduated if Sandy hadn’t been there to help,” she says, recalling

the long days of studying. However, it was more than just about academics; Sandra was always available for Taylor whenever she needed to talk about the journey of depression. “She’s someone I can rant to and emotionally dump on. Sandra is one of two of my only friends right now.”

Against all odds and thanks to her hard work and natural technology talent, Taylor is now pursuing mechanical engineering at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). Though the challenges of depression persist, she is thrilled to have reached this stage of life. “I didn’t think I would be alive today, and I certainly didn’t think I would be at post-secondary school,” Taylor says with pride in her eyes.
And for Sandra and Taylor, the mentorship journey continues. Taylor often spends time with Sandra and her family. They go on walks, Sandra is teaching Taylor how to drive and Sandra’s husband regularly offers to teach Taylor how to cook. “It’s like wow; this is a home away from home.” Taylor says.
To those struggling the way Taylor has, she offers this encouragement: “It does get better in the way that you learn to deal with and overcome your problems. It doesn’t feel as heavy, it gets better.”

Sandra and volunteer with youth during her work in the schools (pre-COVID)


Sleeping one night outside with us is an AMAZING way to help vulnerable youth—will you join YU and our host JRG this October? If you can’t sleep outside yourself, support a sleeper! Last year 100 sleepers raised $130,000 to fight and prevent youth homelessness. The event remains adaptable to stay COVID-response ready and safe so visit youthunlimited.com/onenight for this year’s distancing logistics, updates + to register and/or donate.




Lifeteams is celebrating 20 years of equipping young adults with resources and work experience to step into the world of vulnerable youth. The eight-month Lifeteams School of Youth Outreach program emphasizes experience-based training in the context of community living, spiritual formation, practical teaching and relational youth work. Thank you for making this possible! For more info visit youthunlimited.com/lifeteams

On October 3 cyclists across Vancouver and the Fraser Valley will be riding 10KM, 25KM, or 50KM to raise funds for Youth Unlimited’s life-changing programs. You can also opt to walk, run, skate 5KM—all to help transform the lives of at-risk youth. Find or create a team and register at youthunlimited.com/ride and to learn about the COVID-19 protocol and changes to this year.










I had been meeting with a depressed 15-year-old youth for months at the same café, sipping on the same drinks (hot chocolate and whip cream) with the same one-word responses to my questions. But this meeting was different. About 30 min into another one-sided conversation I could see a puzzled look growing on Kevin’s face. Eventually the question Kevin had been pondering for some time finally came out: “Why do you care?” Once I got over the shock of being asked a question, I whispered a “help me God” prayer, and a picture of Kevin behind bars appeared before my eyes. I blurted out, “I care because I want you to be free.”

“Why do you care?”

At Youth Unlimited, we hear this honest and telling question a lot. The question reveals much about a diminished sense of value and self-worth. The desire to be loved and cared for is there, but many vulnerable youth feel unworthy and confused by unconditional love. Our YU staff (like Sandra who is featured in this month’s Connections) are incredibly patient in their mentor relationships and their love for young people is full of hope. It’s the kind of hope that believes our youth can be free from crippling anxiety and depression, addiction and abuse, self-hatred and self-harm, isolation and loneliness. This is what love does.

Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
– 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

We are as committed as ever to loving youth in this way. It is a bumpy ride and not for the faint of heart, but there is no place we would rather be than walking alongside vulnerable youth. As we walk alongside youth we are ever mindful of how you have made it possible to be present in their lives. Thank you for giving so generously through your prayers and finances.

I ask you to ponder this same question: Why do you care?
Shoot me an email; I/we would love to hear from you:

With love and gratitude,
Mark Koop

Executive Director