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Advocating for Second Chances

Emily O’Brien’s name is well-recognized around YSM, both for her passionate support of YSM’s Helping Offenders on Probation (H.O.P.E) Program and for her delicious popcorn. Emily is the founder of Comeback Snacks, a popcorn company on a mission to make a difference for people with criminal backgrounds who are trying to make a comeback. For Emily, the company was a way to create her own second chance after her incarceration, “I wanted to work on the mistakes in my life. When I was arrested, I had personal issues and was dealing with substance use.”

“In prison, I met many people who just wanted a second chance and felt so unsure as to how to get that because of the stigma of having been to prison. Many of them were subject to significant traumas in their lives that may have led to addiction, bad relationships or financial pressure situations.”

Inspired by those she’d met and with a desire to take ownership of her life, Emily decided to turn her favorite snack into something more purposeful, “I wanted to advocate for employment for those who were formerly incarcerated, and provide a space where people could share their stories.”

“People reach out to me all the time now. Once people see someone build their life up again, it gives them comfort and hope.”

Emily is a firm advocate of rehabilitation and reintegration programs for people in conflict with the law, “That’s why I love YSM’s H.O.P.E Program for youth on probation, because of the focus it places on rehabilitation and holistic support – connecting them to job training and community involvement opportunities.”

As Comeback Snacks celebrates its 3 year anniversary, Emily reflects on all those who supported her thus far, “From the first store owner who bought our popcorn, to those who invited me to speak and share our story – there are so many pieces to the puzzle.”

Emily and her business inspire those on probation to have hope for their post-prison futures.

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Feeling inspired? We’re inviting the city of Toronto to GIVE 6IX to “the Six” in any way, from anywhere, to help change the lives of neighbours struggling with poverty . . .

What’s your 6IX? Learn more and get inspired at