Finishing high school had once seemed insurmountable to Charlie Ireton, let alone attending university.
Tragically, Charlie died on July 23 after sustaining injuries from a car accident. While his own life was cut short, Charlie’s story will live on through the lasting message of hope and empowerment that he passed on to others in his short time.
Enrolled in York University’s Faculty of Science, Charlie had completed his first year of studies in biomedical science and was enrolled in summer courses. He had planned to continue his second year of studies this fall. While Charlie always dreamed of pursuing a career in medicine, certain life experiences sparked a new ambition for him.
This journey began in Charlie’s teenage years. His father, Charles Ireton Sr., describes Charlie as a kind-hearted soul. “His generous nature and compassion towards others was a tribute to his kind and gentle spirit,” his father shares. But, Charlie’s adolescence came with struggles over depression, self-harm, and accepting his sexuality.
Young and vulnerable, Charlie turned to drugs and became distant and withdrawn. Unable to help their son with his mental health and addiction issues, his parents were forced to make the unbearable decision to place him in the care of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS). Despite the counselling he received through CAS, he could not overcome his drug issues. Nearing a boiling point, Charlie was given a last-ditch opportunity to enter a six-month program at Portage, a non-profit organization located in Elora that offers rehabilitation programs for people suffering from substance abuse.
There, Charlie learned to face his demons and became aware of how addiction was impacting his life and the lives of his parents and two brothers. Following a short relapse during his journey of recovery, Charlie re-entered Portage – this time, putting what he had learned in his previous stay to use and flourishing.
“He opened up at meetings with his CAS worker and his family, and began to share his life story and experiences – helping both himself and others in the process,” recalls his father.
In January 2014, a rehabilitated Charlie returned home.
After his homecoming, Charlie made huge strides in steering his life back on a positive track. He returned to high school where he earned his diploma with honors and was accepted into university. He became a spokesperson for both Portage and The Children’s Aid Foundation, and was featured in two separate Toronto Star articles chronicling his experiences.
And, only a few months ago, Charlie’s efforts were recognized by a Joe Carter Scholarship, which allowed him to pursue his dream of attending university.
In the beginning of 2016, Charlie returned to Portage to volunteer. By June, he had been hired on as a member of the Portage team as a relief worker.
“This is when Charlie realized his ambition was to help others that struggled with addiction and self-worth,” said Charles Ireton Sr.
In the words of a former co-worker at Portage: “Charlie’s life’s experiences, temperament and mere presence was a calming and nourishing asset to many of the lives he touched.”
Charlie will be deeply missed, and will be remembered by family, friends and those whose lives he touched.