The Early Years
BANA originated as a response to grief, compassion for others and out of a gap in services for those with eating disorders and their families in Windsor and Essex County. In February of 1982, concerned citizens met in the Human Kinetics Building of the University of Windsor because an eating disorder had touched their lives in some significant way. Of these, most were family members with loved ones who struggled daily with the disorder, while others were battling the disorder themselves. The Moriarty family had recently lost their daughter to the disorder. All were looking for the same things: information, kindness and support. This event marked the beginning of BANA’s thirty year journey.
Led by Dr. Dick Moriarty and his wife Mary, Barb Carney and countless others, BANA started as a grassroots project in 1983. Dr. Moriarty’s connections in the professional community and his ability to reach out and touch the hearts of people opened doors for BANA. Local institutions, especially the University of Windsor, and professionals donated the use of meeting rooms and office space so that services could be established. Those early volunteers saw the importance of educating the community on the devastating effects of eating disorders. A hotline designed for questions and referrals for treatment was soon set up to assist in this monumental feat. In the summer of 1983, five students were hired with the help of a Summer Canada grant to answer the hotline, distribute information, publish pamphlets and information packages through the Speaker’s Bureau, conduct research and promote BANA in the community. Volunteers gathered information from professionals and from conferences in the United States and Canada. This information became the basis for BANA’s International Referral Directory for Eating Disorders and BANA’s library, both of which continue today. Open to anyone struggling with an eating disorder, students of all ages, professionals and laypersons, the Library soon became a valuable resource for the entire community.
Meeting the Needs of the Community as a Non-Profit Organization and Charity
BANA worked to achieve its goals to service the community through the leadership of its Board of Directors, staff and volunteers. The organization became formally incorporated as a non-profit agency in 1985. The development of useful, effective support services was paramount. Self-help group meetings, as well as support meetings for parents were held regularly. BANA’s commitment to young adults was evident in the innovative projects developed by staff and volunteers. Prevention programs for adolescents such as “Operation Lifestyles,” focussed on the use of expressive arts, music and dance to aid in body awareness through creative expression and relaxation. Workshops and seminars on eating disorders that featured well-known speakers from Canada and the United States versed in the effects of eating disorders were held to educate professionals and interested persons in the community. In cooperation with the Eating Disorders Clinic of Toronto, BANA’s first summer camp for adolescents and young adults was conducted in 1985. The first of its kind in North America, this model focused on intervention through therapeutic programs that included expressive and creative arts, health and fitness and the development of coping strategies. These camps continued for several years and would not have been possible without the generous support of health professionals and educators who donated their services.
The creativity and professionalism of BANA staff and volunteers was visible in each new project designed over the years. In 1986, BANA developed a seven-week support program, called S.I.S.T.E.R (Support, Intervention, Self-Help, to Effect Recovery.) This program incorporated demonstrations and practice in stress management, nutritional counselling and lifestyle management. Another program, “Looking Good/Feeling Great,” provided a unique look at nutrition education and stress management strategies for healthy lifestyles. The culmination of those early efforts to educate students came with the development of BANA’s Preventative Curriculum. A significant award from Health and Welfare Canada allowed BANA to develop lesson plans on Eating Disorders. Three sets of lesson plans were designed to cover health education classes in Grades 6-8, physical education in Grades 9-12 and certain sociology and religious units in Grades 10-12. These lesson plans were published and distributed throughout the United States and Canada. Years later, working to meet the needs of school age children in Grades 4 and 5 and in cooperation with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, lessons plans consistent with Health and Physical Education curriculum were constructed. These teaching kits outlined the influence of the media on body image and explanations of how bodily changes affect eating habits.
Throughout the 1980s, BANA developed its own conferences and workshops on eating disorders for the community. These efforts increased public awareness by providing much needed information on eating disorders. In June of 1987, BANA sponsored a full day conference on eating disorders entitled, “Supporting Each Other: Self Help, Intervention and Coping.” BANA felt a need existed to bring together people from all groups having an interest or involvement in eating disorders. They sought to combine the input and interests of persons with eating disorders, students, social workers, teachers, clinical practitioners, family members and other professionals to generate new ideas and strategies. These conferences and workshops were aimed at educating professionals and members of the public, along with advocating for those struggling with eating disorders. Lastly, “AppleBytes,” BANA’s Newsletter and free resource, spread information about eating disorders, body shape and size acceptance and agency activities across the nation and other regions. At its peak distribution of 3,000, it was the only one of its kind in Canada.
In those early years, volunteer and staff dedication was clear in the number of projects they engaged in: conferences, hotlines, support groups, as well as the development of a curriculum for elementary and secondary school students with other health professionals. More than 150 speeches were given at universities, PTA meetings, conferences, schools and hospitals, locally, nationally and internationally, in areas as far away as South America and Britain.
In 1989, BANA continued to grow as a registered charity as it worked for its clients and the community. In that same year, the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care granted monies for long-needed clinical services, assisting BANA in becoming the first community based outpatient program in this region to provide mental health services for eating disorders for both adolescents and adults. Funding allowed BANA staff to offer a wide range of treatment programs such as assessments, individual treatment, family therapy and group therapy that continue to date. Throughout the years, the organization has collaborated with other local agencies serving adolescents to develop best practices and establish a network of clinical services for teens.
Today, BANA’s uniqueness is seen in its diversification of programs and treatment approaches. As a community based outpatient eating disorders program, BANA, prides itself on its multi-disciplinary team approach with a staff of social workers, therapists, researchers, a dietician and psychological and medical consultants, for both adolescents and adults. Clinical Services are offered in the form of individual, family, and group counselling, and meal support to those with eating disorders and their families and friends in Lambton, Kent and Essex counties. In fact, the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care has named BANA the primary referral centre for eating disorders for this region. BANA is one of a kind in that it works in partnership with the University of Windsor Psychological Services, Health Services and Student Services to provide on-campus eating disorders treatment.
A Learning Environment
Since its inception, BANA has been committed to training professionals from all fields of study, from Secondary School Co-ops, to Doctorates in Psychology and Counselling, Social Work, Nursing, Human Kinetics, Addictions, and Dietetics. Institutions such as local Secondary Schools, the University of Windsor, St. Clair College and Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan continue to collaborate with BANA to create the best possible learning environments for student internships.
It has been a long-standing privilege of BANA staff and volunteers to speak to local community groups about eating disorders. Throughout the 1990s, BANA proceeded to be the leader in providing valuable information to the community through presentations and media interviews. Annually, Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW) became a time when BANA spearheaded promoting the prevention of eating disorders and healthy lifestyles. The agency also took the opportunity to speak out against the negative influences of the diet industry, fashion and media on the image of women in our society. These activities continue today.
In November 2002, BANA received funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to develop a preventative project for elementary and secondary school children and youth in Windsor and Essex County. The purpose of the project is to educate students on the effects of negative body image on self-esteem and ways to promote positive self-image. The, “Next Door Neighbours Puppet Program” is a unique, innovative school prevention program aimed at early elementary school children. The Prevention Puppet Program, developed by the Eating Disorder Awareness and Prevention Inc. (EDAP), through a partnership with the Next Door Neighbours Puppets, was designed to target a young audience because unfortunately, precursors to eating disorders often begin as early as the elementary school years. Many children grow up feeling unsure of their self because they are dissatisfied with their bodies. By the early ages of seven and eight, many will feel “fat” by society’s standards and begin disordered eating patterns in order to become thinner. The Prevention Puppet Program teaches children critical social and self-care skills. The puppets speak openly about body acceptance, the dangers of dieting and emotional distress in ways that children understand. Also, innovative workshops and presentations on how to maintain a healthy body image have been designed for higher elementary and secondary school students since research indicates that eating disorders become prevalent in adolescence. Information for the presentations and workshops are based on the manual “Everybody is a Somebody” developed by the Body Image Coalition of Peel. Also contained in the project is a research component that examines the effectiveness of its messages on the self-esteem and body image of children and youth. The project had its successful launch in June of 2003 and will continue over a three-year period.
A Special Thank You
Most importantly, BANA has helped thousands of people with eating disorders and their families and friends cope with these devastating illnesses. With this in mind, the Board of Directors graciously acknowledges the tireless support of staff and volunteers throughout the years. A special thank you to Dr. Dick and Mrs. Mary Moriarty, Barb Carney, Dr. James Porter, Patty Perry, past Board Members and those who worked with them for donating their time, energy and skill. Without their foresight and vision BANA would not be the agency that it is today. Their efforts touched the lives of many who otherwise may not have reached out for help. Lastly, BANA is extremely grateful for the funds received through various grants and donations. This financial assistance has supported BANA in its efforts to treat and advocate for its clients. It is our privilege, as an organization, to continue to serve the needs of those struggling with eating disorders, their families, and the larger community, in preventing eating disorders and promoting health and wellbeing.