This year’s Family SOS Courage to Give Back Awards proved particularly special for one person: Dr. John Anderson, the man who started it all.
While Friday’s gala served as a celebration of his organization’s 40th year, Anderson was also celebrating a milestone of his own: his 80th birthday.
Family and friends were on hand to help Anderson celebrate these two special occasions and reflect on his dedication to the organization.
“I wanted to see that it would succeed. I felt that I needed to be involved,” said Anderson.
“I’m very happy that it has prospered and I’m very proud of the organization. The staff that have worked there are amazingly dedicated people. It’s wonderful that it has survived for 40 years and is still able to help parents who have difficulty raising their children.”
Family SOS, which stands for “Service of Support,” is a local non-profit offering social programs for families, youth and children. Some of these include parenting support groups, youth day camps and afterschool programs.
Anderson, a pediatrician, joined the IWK Health Centre in 1970 and oversaw the emergency room. After years of seeing cases of child abuse and neglect, he created Family SOS in 1978 to help Halifax families resolve problems.
Anderson’s wife, Betty, has been by his side since Family SOS’s inception and has seen the organization grow.
“I’m very proud of him. John has put a lot into this organization,” she said. “The Courage to Give Back Awards really has made the public more aware of what work they do and how important it is for this organization to be supported.”
The annual award ceremony, held this year at the Cunard Centre, not only honours those who make positive and significant community contributions, but also serves as a fundraiser.
Anderson’s family bought a table at the event as a birthday gift and way to support the organization.
“We couldn’t think of a better birthday gift than to give him a table at Family SOS,” said Betty Anderson. “Our whole table is family. It’s really nice.”
Simone Spears is the community engagement officer for Family SOS and helped organize the awards gala.
“If it wasn’t for his vision and his involvement, we wouldn’t be here today,” she said of Anderson’s long-term commitment to the organization.
“That man is incredible and stays involved at 80 years old. I don’t know anyone else who would do that. He’s amazing.”
Mary Clancy, former member of Parliament for Halifax, was on hand to support the organization. A longtime friend of the Andersons, she describes John Anderson as an example to the community.
“I don’t think there is a stronger advocate for children that I’ve ever met,” Clancy said.
Anderson continues to serve on Family SOS’s board of directors and hopes the organization will continue to grow.
“I’d like to see it get bigger, help more people and spread farther outside of Halifax to the rest of the province. Maybe even beyond,” he said.