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Courage To Come Back: Youth winner overcomes personal tragedies by giving back

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Four years ago, she was confronted with an unimaginable series of personal setbacks. But today, she is a shining example of perseverance.

We wrap up our series of Courage To Come Back profiles with a look at Kennedy Baker of Nanaimo, the winner of the youth award.

Our story begins in 2010, admittedly not Kennedy’s best year.

“I found out that my mom had been sexually assaulted,” she tells us. “Shortly after that, I found out I had lumps in both my breasts, and then I found out right after that that my estranged father had passed away.”

If that wasn’t bad enough, she went out running one night, only to be shot at by a man in a moving car. Suddenly, the world had become a very scary place.

“I was scared to leave my house. I didn’t want to go out. I just wanted to stay at home with my mom and be around people who I knew,” she remembers.

“Everything kind of seemed to crash in around me and I was worried all the time and started to lose a lot of weight.”

By February 2011, she weighed just 90 lbs and was diagnosed with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

When she returned to school after a three-month hospital stay, she became the target of bullies. “When I got back, I realized all my friends had moved on. I ate lunch alone and didn’t have any friends… I felt really isolated.”

“I kind of became known as the crazy mental girl,” she tells us.

That’s when Kennedy decided it was time to step out of her comfort zone. She started to volunteer at a Nanaimo soup kitchen, finding a lot in common with the homeless people she served.

“A lot of them were kind of misunderstood and just kind of judged, and I had felt those feelings myself,” explains Kennedy.

“After volunteering at the 7-10 Club, I started my own not-for-profit organization called STAND.”

The 18-year-old isn’t stopping there; this fall, she starts studying business at UVic, with an aim to specialize in not-for-profit organizations.

Her youth award not only recognizes where she’s been, but also where she’s going.

“It feels really good to know that my message is getting out there and that people see the importance of what I’m trying to do as well,” says Kennedy. “It’s a good feeling, knowing you’re helping someone else.”

News1130 is a proud sponsor of the Courage To Come Back Awards, which will be handed out this Thursday at the Vancouver Convention Centre.