Jason Déry never participated in Sun Youth’s sports programs as a child, but the 33-year-old DJ and entrepreneur remembers how vital the organization was for his family when his mother Sandie Czop struggled as a single parent trying to raise three growing boys.
Czop, who works today as an educator, laughed as she recalled the story of how Sun Youth entered their lives because she thought it sounded so old-fashioned.
She remembered mailing a hand-written letter to Sun Youth about the time Déry, who was 12, found a lost bag of video game cartridges from a local video rental store. Instead of keeping them for himself, his first instinct was to return them so that the person who lost them wouldn’t be penalized. Sun Youth rewarded his honesty with a shiny new bicycle during their annual bicycle giveaway, a tradition that continues today thanks to the generosity of Mr. Bike Man, the late Avrum Morrow, who anonymously donated bicycles on his birthday to reward kids for doing good deeds.
In later years, Czop benefitted from Sun Youth’s clothing giveaways which enabled her boys to stay well dressed despite her financial difficulties.
“That was really special because it allowed my children to keep looking great… they got to keep looking like the rest of their peers at school. I was really so grateful for that. It was just really nice knowing that we could go to Sun Youth and feel the dignity walking in there. We never felt degraded.”
– Sandie Czop
To further complicate their lives, following his parents’s divorce, Jason developed epilepsy as a child and it meant frequent visits to the hospital and additional gas, parking, meal and medical expenses, but worst of all, it also led to lost wages for Czop thanks to unsympathetic bosses.
“My mother was very good at keeping a poker face. We heard the breakdowns and heard her cry. It’s not easy,” said Déry. “We were just very fortunate that Sun Youth was there.”
Jason Déry is now a 33-year-old DJ and entrepreur. Him and his best friend Kevin Krupa had talked about one day organizing a fundraiser to help disadvantaged kids play sports. They never got to do it because Krupa died suddenly last year but Déry kept their dream alive by going ahead and organizing the event in his friend’s memory. The charity he wanted to benefit was Sun Youth.
“To honour his name, the best way I could pay it forward was to honour our mission and that was to raise money for a cause that we both truly believe in. To make sure that kids got to play in organized sports and not feel excluded because they didn’t have the money.”
– Jason Déry
Since the early 2000’s, Sun Youth has created several programs to help families dealing with medical hardships, said the organization’s executive director, Johanne Saltarelli, like their medication program that helps people pay for prescriptions and medical equipment not reimbursed by the Quebec Public Insurance Plan.
“We receive hundreds of referrals from hospital social workers every year,” said Saltarelli. “More than anything, our priority today is to try to help Montrealers through this surge of inflation that is happening so they can stay in their own apartments,” said Salterelli.
She added that rising food, clothing and housing costs are putting a strain on the many Montrealers trying to live on minimum wage salaries. She noted that 16 per cent of the people that Sun Youth helped last year were working Montrealers, a number that has doubled since the previous year.
Saltarelli said that Sun Youth distributed $6 million worth of food last year and expects rising prices will have an impact on their food bank in the months ahead.
Fortunately, there are generous Montrealers like Déry who said he isn’t done giving back to Sun Youth. He’s planning a basketball event in the summer and a hockey event in the winter and encourages others to do whatever they can to help the organization continue its mission.
“When you do something good, in some way, shape or form, it will come back to you and that’s how I’ve been living and it’s been serving me well,” said Déry. “I feel like if everybody actually just lived a little bit like that, we’d all be a little better off.”
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