United Way ambassador Amanda Burt helped kick off this year’s fundraising campaign by sharing her story of perseverance following a 2015 collision that left her with a severe brain injury.
Burt was 17 when her small car was T-boned by a three-quarter-ton pickup truck at a rural intersection near Lacombe. The impact sent her car 50 metres into a nearby field.
Burt’s brain injury was so severe, she had to learn to eat, walk and talk again.
Despite many dark days, she has kept going and offered an inspirational message to all facing their own challenges.
“The best thing that could have happened to me happened to me — I was alive,” she said before a packed audience Thursday.
Burt said she is still discovering how beautiful life can be. She has new appreciation for the laughter of a baby, the fresh smell after a rain or the warm sun on her skin.
She credits the United Way and Catholic Social Services for helping her during some of the hardest times.
“They showed me that my life was not over,” she said.
“Yes, my life has changed. That doesn’t mean I still can’t make it beautiful,” said Burt, who is trying to raise funds for a service dog through her Facebook page.
The theme of this year’s United Way’s campaign is #Unignorable.
“This year’s campaign is all about creating scenarios where we create conversations around unignorable social issues within central Alberta,” said Brett Speight, CEO of United Way Central Alberta.
Last year, $2 million was raised, but the campaign is not about dollar goals, but about having an impact on as many people as possible, said Speight.
“Last year, we impacted 15,000 lives in central Alberta and, obviously, we would like to see that number grow.”
Around 20 ambassadors, like Burt, have volunteered to tell their compelling stories and show how the money raised has helped people during the four-month campaign to collect funds to support more than 35 programs and services.
“It’s so encouraging and empowering and really helps tell our story.”
Among the strategies this year is reaching out to younger professionals and encouraging them to get involved in social issues. A millennial/GenX group of United Way volunteers will be leading the way.
To donate to United Way, go to www.caunitedway.ca.