A tremendous opportunity for kids to focus on their mental health is coming up in Kindersley on the weekend of February 20-22. Known to many as "Life is Worth Living" on social media, they made a rebrand to "The Life is Worth Living Way", and will be attempting to do just that with their upcoming mental health workshops for kids.

The LIWL trio of Jaclyn Kennedy, Callie Kennedy, and Kim Derkach met while attending school at the University of Saskatchewan. The brand began as a way to, "empower others to share their stories", among other ways to promote the topic of mental health.

Callie and Jaclyn Kennedy lost their sister Brianne to suicide when they were only 13 years old. Ever since, they have been advocates for mental health, and when Derkach joined the team they completely dove in to their passion. 

For Jaclyn, losing her older sister at a young age, "taught her about love and the power of human connection. For Callie, Brianne's story inspired her to, "speak up about suicide and mental illness". Following the announcement for the camps back on December 21, WestCentralOnline reached out to the group for more insight on their plans. 

The Kennedy sisters got together on speakerphone, and were more than happy to share just what sparked the upcoming opportunities for kids.

"With having kids ourselves now," began Callie as the young ones were playing in the background. "We have kind of been focusing a bit more on thinking about children's mental health, and our own children's mental health, and how we want to raise them in a way where we can teach them from an early age about mental health, and how important it is."

"When we think back to our childhood, you know for us personally, mental health wasn't something that was talked about until really after the loss of Brianne. " added Jaclyn. "For us, with our kids, we are already starting to talk about mental health, and (incorporating ways) to teach them about it."

Callie and Jaclyn.png (Photo via thelifeisworthlivingway.com)

Callie and Jaclyn broached the topic early as they each worked through the early stages of being a parent. With a babysitter in Kindersley more than willing to watch their grandbabies, that box was checked off.

Both of the sisters are currently on maternity leave, making February the perfect time to introduce their new course to the Life is Worth Living landscape. 

"Historically, we have mostly spoke to youth. The group that is more-so in high-school, ages 12 and up. It has been a bit of a switch for us," the pair shared as speaking to younger kids will require a slight change in delivery. "How do we talk about mental health to young kids, who obviously don't have the same understanding as some of the older kids about their feelings and emotions."

Tons of great resources are lined up as the sisters have had no shortage of planning to take care of. It will be highly educational, but Callie and Jaclyn are promising a fun time for the campers too. Even baby Jack was eager to hear about the plans, making his first ever media appearance with a giggle in the background. 

LIWL collage.jpg The courses being offered later in February by the Life is Worth Living Way (Screengrab via thelifeisworthlivingway.com)

Digging more into the upcoming event, the LIWL team shared more into what the two-sided course running February 20-21-22 will consist of.

"In the morning from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM we are having a younger aged group, so that's ages 4-8. In the afternoon it's going to be from ages 9-13, so yes we have two different themes going for the two different camps."

Presented through the Life is Worth Living Academy, the morning course will be "A Butterfly's Transformation", explaining it as a metaphor for kids to spread their wings, knowing more about their emotions and mental health. The other course being presented is "Unpacking Brianne's Backpack", an opportunity for the older kids to equip themselves with tools to manage their their mental health.

"Once again a metaphor, thinking about how we carry our emotions, and ways that we can focus on coping mechanisms and what-not. Making sure that the "backpack" we are carrying, doesn't get too heavy over time."

413791745_699793588921566_3751181819668591501_n.jpgThe sisters are giving major thanks after being donated space for the opportunity (thelifeisworthlivingway.com) 

The sisters have put a ton of work into the upcoming event, work that would have been all-for-not without an appropriate venue. As you can see above, a local resident graciously donated her business space for the weekend.

"We had posted the idea online, let people know we were interested in doing this, and we wanted to see the interest from the community to see who would be taking part," said Jaclyn. "When we did that, Jacquie Tuffs reached out to us, and generously donated her space, and let us know that we could use it for absolutely free."

The kind gesture was truly surprising for the sisters. At the same time it wasn't that much of a shock, because Life is Worth Living has been received so well over ever since it's inception. 

"Everything we have ever done when it comes to speaking about mental health, and suicide prevention, I feel like Kindersley has always been so supportive."

Callie added her shared sentiment.

"(Kindersley) have always just kind of rallied around us, supported us, and been open to some of the conversations that we wanted to have. Whether they support us through clothing, or watching us speak, or booking us to come to the high school or different events." echoed Kennedy. "In some ways it really was no surprise that she was willing to donate her space at Get Jacqued for us to have this opportunity to teach some of the children in Kindersley about mental health.

"A big thank-you to Jacquie for allowing us to use the space, because without her, we wouldn't be able to do it. Her space is obviously beautiful, where she holds workout classes, and I think a big part of mental health is the environment you are in, too." Callie finished as hopefully the kids will be walking away with a better sense of positive mental health."

The team tries to keep their Facebook page populated as much as they can. It's been a long winding road, that the sisters and Derkach wouldn't trade for anything.

Jaclyn delved a little deeper into their story.

"Callie and I started speaking, we lost Brianne to suicide when we were 13, so we started speaking at the age of 15." said Jaclyn as they slowly began their public speaking during school time, and have lots to credit to their Grade 9 Lifestyles class. "We were supposed to teach about a chronic illness, and we chose depression because of what we had just experienced with losing our sister to suicide, and the fact that she experienced depression."

They ended up nearly teaching an entire course-load, and their teacher Ms. Lomax gave a positive reaction that ultimately helped lead Callie and Jaclyn to the road they are on today. 

"It was kind of her that instilled the idea in us. She asked, 'have you ever considered speaking to other classrooms? Other schools?'" said Jaclyn as the sisters got more comfortable by speaking in front of their peers, eventually taking the presentation a little further. "During our teen years we did travel to different schools throughout Saskatchewan to share our story. We've been doing it for, well we are 33 now, so it's been close to 20 years, which is kind of wild to think about."

The sisters admittedly took a break from speaking as their life took rank. They started speaking again at about 25 years old after advancing in their respective work fields, creating a non-profit, and then eventually the business venture that is 'The Life is Worth Living Way'.

Life is Worth Living Academy (2).jpg Life is Worth Living is making big moves into 2024 

The mental health workshop is approaching fast, kicking off what should be another good year for LIWL. 2024 should be a lot busier than 2023.

"2023 for us was actually a pretty quiet year I would say. Mostly because we were both expecting, and it just ended up being a busy year with other things." said Callie. "Obviously, for Jaclyn, planning to welcome a second child, and for me my first. We did release some clothing at the beginning of the year, but I think 2023 for us was actually more of a year of reflection, of what we have done so far, and kind of the impact we want to make moving forward,. Focusing on what is important to us, and where we can make the biggest impacts moving forward."

The year of reflection sparked at least two great ideas, 'Unpacking Brianne's Backpack', and, 'A Butterfly's Transformation". Only time will tell what other opportunities Life is Worth Living can come up with into the future.

"We are really looking forward to it. It will be something different for us, but at the end of the day I think it is going to be a lot of fun."