When Anna Amy Ho was 13, she was devastated after her mother and grandmother were killed in a bloody murder-suicide.
After the paramedics and police arrived, she did not know what was going on, Ho says. But she recalls she was provided with guidance, counselling and financial support from social workers.
“I didn’t know who the social workers were,” Ho said.”All I knew was that sense of safety and security.”
She’s one of the many Toronto residents to benefit from Victim Services Toronto, which was feted on Nov. 5.
Police chief Mark Saunders hosted his first gala at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex to celebrate his partnership with Victim Services. Over 700 guests attended, including politicians, businessmen and lawyers.
After graduating from Ryerson University, Ho, 22, found out about the agency that helped her throughout the years.
“When I applied for a position [at Victim Services] after graduating, it was only then I found out that it was actually Victim Services that helped me,” Ho said.
Victim Services of Toronto supports victims of crime in the city. Ho, who now works for Victim Services, said it is the only agency that provides support for victims 24/7. It is operated in partnership with the Toronto Police.
“Anna is a classic example,” Saunders said. “She has got hope re-instilled.”
Saunders hopes that more agencies have a stronger understanding of the power of Victim Services and policing. The gala has supported Victim Services for over 10 years. Last year’s gala raised over $233,000.
According to Victim Services director Bonnie Levine, the support of the Toronto Police and those at Chief Saunders gala is “breath-taking.”
“It really makes you feel valued, important and recognized as a really important service in this city doing really good work for a lot of people.” Levine said.
It is the charity’s biggest fundraising event of the year. Other supporters include the Ministry of Attorney General and the City of Toronto.
Ho says Victim Services is a charity, where a majority of their funding comes from private donors.
In his speech at the gala, Saunders said that there are over 20,000 victims with over 7,000 children in Toronto.
Saunders believes that because of Victim’s Services, he knows that Ho has a bright future ahead of her.
“You look at her now, she is a very successful young lady,” Saunders said. “She looks like she’s going places.”
— Mark Saunders (@marksaunderstps) November 6, 2015
Ho works for Victim Services as a counsellor but she is a passionate aerial dancer and performed for guests at the gala. Suspended up in the air, with a smooth white silky cloth, she danced with passion as she shined in sparkly bright blue. “I think its incredible to have someone in [Chief Saunders] position to use his social status in power to bring attention to this important cause,” Ho said. She told the Toronto Observer that she is grateful to be working for an agency that has helped her.