Stephany VanDyke

Whatever You Make It

Like many CanTeen alumni, Stephany VanDyke came to the space on the suggestion of friends. It was simply a place to hang out and enjoy activities like open mic night.

But, it became much more than that as she began to forge bonds with staff and mentors who let her open up.

“Some of the most important conversations … I felt so comfortable in that place that I could engage with an adult and with kids my age and feel safe,” Stephany says. “It’s teaching life skills through acceptance.”

She was able to express herself during some very difficult times. At 16, she lost her best friend in a drunk driving accident and struggled.

“I learned to never give up on yourself,” Stephany says. “I learned through the support and love that never ended through that program despite the bad life choices I was making.

“Looking back on that and where I am today with my life and a family and a career and a positive outlook on my past and my future,” she says. “I give my experience at the CanTeen a lot of credit for that. I think it’s really important to have that kind of community.”

It was a community that gave her the opportunity to develop leadership skills that have stuck with the senior account executive at a large telecommunications company. She points out The CanTeen can accommodate just about any path with its staff, programming and resources for volunteering.

“The CanTeen is a blank slate. You can make it what you want,” Stephany says. “It’s for people who say, ‘I just want to hang out with people who get me, be accepted and have a relaxed, safe atmosphere where I can really turn this into however I want to experience it.’”

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