Progressive Auto Sales donates $850,000 to Mental Health Programs

SARNIA, January 12, 2022 - Bluewater Health Foundation is thrilled to announce an $850,000 gift from Dan and John Whitton, on behalf of their families and employees at Progressive Auto Sales. This generous donation will support Mental Health and Addictions programs at Bluewater Health and within the Sarnia-Lambton community and is being allocated to ACCESS Open Minds and Ryan’s House.

“We are happy to make this donation that will improve mental health care in our community,” says Dan Whitton, owner Progressive Auto Sales. “We asked leaders in our community which causes had the greatest needs at this time. ACCESS Open Minds and Ryan’s House were the top choices. It is nice that we are able to make a contribution that completes the fundraising campaign to build ACCESS Open Minds.  A few years back, Laurie Hicks, Ryan’s mom, approached us for support to help open Ryan’s House. We didn’t at the time but we admire the fact she didn’t give up and has seen it thru. Mental health affects us all and we are very thankful for the community’s support and our employees’ efforts over the years, to put us in the position to be able to give back.”

This remarkable donation, coupled with the leadership of the Mike Weir Foundation and the generosity of countless individuals and businesses from across the Sarnia-Lambton community, has enabled Bluewater Health Foundation to achieve its $3 million dollar fundraising goal to build and open an ACCESS Open Minds for youth and young adults in Sarnia-Lambton.

“This is welcome and exciting news in the midst of all the challenges we are currently experiencing,” says Paula Reaume-Zimmer, Vice President of Integrated Services, Mental Health & Addictions Bluewater Health and Canadian Mental Health Association Lambton Kent. “Now, more than ever, youth mental health and addictions care, needs a prominent space in our community and ACCESS Open Minds has all the right partnerships and passion to transform the youth and family experience.”

ACCESS Open Minds is a partnership between Bluewater Health, St. Clair Child & Youth Services and CMHA Lambton Kent with Bluewater Health Foundation leading the fundraising efforts for this important project. As a united voice, the partner agencies, together with the Spoken Hope youth advisory committee and multiple stakeholders, have successfully engaged with the community, educating and inspiring donors, other youth, families and the community in general on the importance and impact an ACCESS Open Minds will have on the youth and young adults who call Sarnia-Lambton home. Through the sharing of personal stories and experiences, the youth of Spoken Hope have increased awareness and understanding of the importance of investing in transitional age youth mental health and addictions treatment. Through philanthropic support, we are able to change the trajectory of mental health care and treatment in Sarnia-Lambton for decades to come. The sooner youth are able to access help, in a stigma free environment, the more effective the intervention and it can change the course of lives, one individual at a time.

“We’re truly grateful to the Whitton family for this incredible donation. The generosity of so many, has made it possible for us to be able to build an ACCESS location for youth in the Sarnia-Lambton community.” said Kathy Alexander, Executive Director, Bluewater Health Foundation. “This new facility will remove barriers to care, transform the way service providers conduct their daily work and improve care through a coordinated approach. We cannot wait to open the doors!”

ACCESS Open Minds Update

ACCESS Open Minds Sarnia-Lambton will be located at the former CIBC building on the corner of Front Street and Lochiel Street near Sarnia’s waterfront. Despite pandemic delays, the ACCESS Open Minds Project is making steady progress. Through an RFP process with the County of Lambton, ROA Studios was selected as the architect for the project and Jayden Construction the successful contractor. Construction has commenced and each day we are one step closer to making the Sarnia-Lambton site a reality. Youth and families have been engaged in all aspects of the design process. This space has been designed by youth, for youth. The Spoken Hope youth advisory committee, along with ACCESS partners and community stakeholders, have planned a site that reflects the needs of youth in the Sarnia-Lambton community.

ACCESS Open Minds Sarnia-Lambton is a mental health and addictions youth space that has been developed as a go-to destination for youth 11 to 25 and their families who are seeking seamless access to education, assessments, counselling and treatment. Many core services from St. Clair Child & Youth Services, CMHA Lambton Kent, and Bluewater Health (e.g. crisis counselling, housing, case management, and psychiatry) will be co-located in this centre. ACCESS Open Minds’ objective is to remove barriers to care, which will transform the way service providers conduct their daily work and improve care through a coordinated approach. ACCESS Open Minds Sarnia-Lambton is based on international, national and provincial best practices and is heavily reliant on using youth to co-create the experience. ACCESS Open Minds is a model that will make a substantial difference in the way youth and young adults in Sarnia-Lambton are able to access resources, support and treatment. ACCESS Open Minds Sarnia-Lambton will join the existing 14 sites across Canada. This will also form part of Ontario’s Youth Wellness Hub Initiative.

Ryan’s House

Since opening at the end of January 2021, Ryan’s House has supported 89 individual clients to date. For the most part, clients who have left prior to the end of their 30 days have done so to pursue treatment-related activities or new, healthier living arrangements. We see each of the clients we have served as a success, because even one more day clean, sober and safe is something to celebrate COVID has decreased capacity numbers but as restrictions begin to ease, more people will be able to access a bed. The need and requests for service continue to increase.

COVID-19 has impacted the mental health of many in the Sarnia-Lambton community and demand for treatment has been consistently high throughout the pandemic. As a result, we know that some are not being able to receive or access the care, treatment and resources they need and deserve. This gift will have a tremendous impact and will help to strengthen mental health services in Lambton County. Most importantly, it will bring hope to those in need of mental health care.


For media inquiries or more information:   
Kathy Alexander                                                   
Executive Director, Bluewater Health Foundation
[email protected]