Much is being said about the tremendous success of the

® Vol.8, NO.2 SUMMER 2010 Hope and Healing Comes in Many Forms Families and teams walk to help prevent workplace injuries M By Gil Shoesmith, Chai...
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Vol.8, NO.2 SUMMER 2010

Hope and Healing Comes in Many Forms Families and teams walk to help prevent workplace injuries


By Gil Shoesmith, Chair

uch is being said about the tremendous success of the 28 Steps for Life events in eight provinces. I must mention my complete exhilaration that with two walks in British Columbia we joined with our Newfoundland counterparts to complete a coast-to-coast campaign of fundraising and awareness for Threads of Life. The memory lane signs along the walk are a creative and impactful way to raise awareness to walkers and the public about the devastating ripple effect of workplace tragedy on families. Congratulations to Kate Kennington of Threads of Life who spearheaded these events and copious kudos A mom takes time to explain a memory to all the organizers and lane sign to her young daughter their committees and to all the many volunteers who unselfishly donated their time and talents without which these grandiose results would not have been possible. With summer upon us once again, it is time to turn our thoughts to those young workers who are eager to enter the work force and start their first “summer job.” One of our feature family stories about young Luke MacIver by his aunt Debbie Stead, reminds us of the inherent dangers that can come with the joy and excitement of finally earning a wage. Part of our objective at Threads of Life is to bring awareness to workers and employers across Canada that safety in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility and that appropriate training and looking out for the good of not only ourselves but also our fellow co-workers is the key to preventing workplace tragedies. This could be something as simple as a family talk at the dinner table

to remind each worker that they have the right to a safe work environment. Our other family story by Stephen Forde is a powerful reminder that work-related injuries affect all family members forever. The person that went to work literally did not come home. Injuries in the workplace inflict a ripple effect of multiple life-changing dynamics to the family. Do you believe pets help when you’re grieving? Marj Deyell, one of our family members, thinks so. You can read about her experiences in the Reflections section. The Atlantic Canada Family Forum in May offered a break-out session for injured workers which included spouses and was very well received. This offered a convenient way to allow the injured workers and their families with years of experience to support the new families who more recently become disabled. Each Family Forum is evaluated and your feedback allows us to add to our program to fit the changing needs of families. I hope you take the time to enjoy these summer months, and be safe!

What’s in this issue

My Life Before and After My Injury  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pg 2 Remembering My Nephew Luke MacIver  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pg 4 Steps for Life – A Resounding Success!  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pg 6 Family Support  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pg 8 Reflection: Furry Friends Help Us Heal   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pg 10 Partnerships: Canadian Society of Safety Engineers  . . . . . . . pg 11 News and Events  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pg 12

My Life Before and After My Injury Stephen Forde


’m a simple man. My only dream was to find a good job and support my family. I wanted a job in construction.

My typical day was to get up and go to work. When I came home I would have a chance to play with my children, Natausha and Timothy (who were one and two years old) and be with my wife, Linda.

The day of the injury

help, so she had to go to the welfare office. Then another blow: our property owner served my wife with an eviction notice because he wanted to turn the apartment building into an adult building only. Now Linda had to find a new place to live, pack, move and then unpack, and still she never missed a day of visiting. My heart was very sad; I had a deep feeling of uselessness, and I was mad at myself for putting my wife in this terrible situation.

My life in and out of a wheelchair

Who do you think a traumatic injury is One day in 1975 when I arrived at work, I harder on? The person who got hurt or his found out that my co-worker was sick and spouse and his children? I had to be in a the company had hired a temporary wheelchair. We had to completely change worker (a young worker) for the day. our house around: build a wheelchair Everything started like every other day. ramp, put our fridge in the dining room, We received an 18-wheeler truck full put away our coffee table, change our of skids of paper. Each skid weighed bathroom around, and start travelling by 3,200 lbs. We started to remove the skids wheelchair-accessible buses. of paper from the truck. I told my coA worker who suffered a traumatic injury worker to leave the skid of paper alone and in 1975 tells all Using a manual chair and getting around we will get two more men and put it in the on Halifax sidewalks is like travelling on other warehouse. When we finished a dirt road with huge potholes. Linda and I have gone to get unloading the truck, I took the invoice from the driver, faced our groceries together for the past 38 years. Linda weighs the truck, and started to sign the invoice. My co-worker around 110 lbs. and she had to try to push me in my started to play with the jack. He jacked the skid up off the ground and the skid of paper started to roll forward. He didn’t yell out to let me know what was happening and the skid of “My heart was very sad; I had a deep feeling of paper pinned me up against the truck. The pain I felt when uselessness and I was mad at myself for putting the skid of paper pinned me was unreal. When they removed my wife in this terrible situation.” the skid of paper, I passed out and when I woke up I was in a wheelchair, which weighed 230 lbs.! Then winter comes and hospital bed, reviving from surgery. it’s like being locked up in jail. When people refuse to shovel their sidewalks they don’t know how hard they make it for “Will my wife still want me? How am I those of us in wheelchairs. going to pay my bills and feed my family? What kind of life will we have?” Now imagine Linda working 40 hours, picking up our children, coming home to cook supper, bathing the children and getting them in bed. Then it’s time for Linda to rest. The days following the injury Whoops! I forgot, not yet! Now it’s time for her to bathe and After my surgery in the old Civic Hospital in Halifax, when take care of her injured husband. She puts her husband to I was lying on the old-style striker bed in that hospital ward bed and then it’s finally time for her to rest, right? Not yet! looking at all the other patients, I had many days to think. Now it’s time to clean the house or get the laundry done. Will my wife still want me? How am I going to pay my bills Then somewhere between the time she comes home and and feed my family? What kind of life will we have? Then bedtime she grabs dinner for herself. These burdens can take shortly after my injury, my boss came into the hospital and such a huge toll on marriages. Many spouses end up leaving. said he had to let me go. What a blow to me that was! Now how will my wife take care of our children? She had to get 2

A Wife’s Perspective Thoughts for injured workers When I look back I have a few words of advice: try to be an active part of your family’s daily events. Even though you might not be able to take part in everything, try as much as you can. Do your best to listen to what’s going on in your family’s life. I learned this the hard way, and I almost lost my wife. You could say that I did everything to end my marriage. I was feeling so down about myself and so wrapped up in myself that I had no time for anyone else. If you’re an injured worker don’t be too scared to go for help and don’t be afraid to cry and let it all out. It can be a big relief. Talk to people who can help, like a pastor or priest. My own salvation was my church family: they really helped us develop a new ‘normal’ way of life. “These burdens can take such a huge toll on marriages. Many spouses end up leaving.”

Linda Forde My husband was hurt twice in the workplace. The first time was in 1972 and the second time in 1975. The first injury happened when Steve was in the army. He lost the sight in his right eye during a training exercise and was given a medical discharge. It was Steve’s dream to be a career soldier and I had planned on being an army wife. This all changed with this first injury. When the second injury happened in 1975 his lower back was crushed by a skid of paper. Steve had hoped to work his way up the ladder of the paper company. This dream died too after the injury. We had two small children. Steve and I cared for them equally. I cared for them while Steve was at work and he helped in the evenings and weekends. On weekends we liked to go for family walks, picnics and other family activities. The day of the injury I was at home with the children when Steve’s boss called to say he had been injured and taken to the hospital.

Trust in your spouse and family, but most of all, tell yourself that you’ll get better. You’re alive and you will live a life day-by-day as normal as possible. One of the biggest lessons I learned was not to let my mind wander and not to think the worst: to do my best to get better. That is the best way you can help yourself and your family.

I found a neighbour to look after our children and hurried to the hospital. When I saw him from the doorway on the hospital bed for a split second I wanted to turn around and run. Two weeks after his injury Steve went through the first of four operations. He spent six months in the hospital that first time: three of those months were on a striker bed.

Thoughts for Employers

I spent those days going to and from the hospital and caring for our children and home. In those six months we went from a two-parent family to a one-parent family. I took the children to see their father as often as I could. This wasn’t easy because we had no car, very little money and the children were one and two years old.

Not once did I ever think about workplace injuries. I never thought that I would suffer from one. My life and the lives of my family members have been changed forever. We’re now living in the aftermath of a poor decision made by an inexperienced young co-worker. If I could change that day, here’s what I would do: • Provide the proper training. • Make sure that the proper equipment is there for each and every different job. • Make sure the working area is clean. • Have enough people to do the job properly. I know there are many more things owners and employees can do; every place is different and needs different rules of safety. I had my heart set on becoming a carpenter. I loved to work with my hands. My old way of life ended and my new life started: a life in and out of a wheelchair, hospital visits, huge drug bills, not being able to perform the duties of a father or a husband. If employers and employees operate safely, simple dreams of a life well-lived can come true.

When Steve came home I not only had our children to care for but my husband and helpmate also. I learned how to juggle my time and to be more patient and giving. I also learned what it was like to have your life turned upside down. We have gone through many changes over the years, none of them easy. We take one day at a time. Steve can walk but he has to use a wheelchair or a motorized scooter much of the time. He also takes many pills for pain. We can rarely plan ahead for outings. Each day depends on how Steve is feeling. I have to work full time now in order to make ends meet. Our granddaughter, who lives with us, has also had her life changed. You can overcome times of trial with help and hope and courage. I would also like you to know and remember that it is normal to cry and get angry at times as long as you don’t stay that way.


Remembering My Nephew Luke MacIver Deb Stead, Aunt was my greatest accomplishment. The only thing that has brought me as much pride was each time I got the news that I was an aunt. You can imagine how elated I was when one year after the birth of our daughter, on September 9, 1979, I heard that I was an aunt for the first time when my eldest of eight nephews, Luke Ryan MacIver was born. His dad, my youngest brother Dan, was overjoyed. However, that joy would be short-lived because on May 12, 1995, at just 15 years of age, Luke became the youngest person ever to die in an industrial “accident” in the province of British Columbia. Just one week into his summer job at a waste management plant; he never even got to collect his first paycheque.

Luke MacIver

Memory of Luke… three little words engraved on a gold medallion that I wear around my neck. A medallion that my sisters and I hold close to our hearts as it was a gift given to us by my youngest brother following the death of his only child Luke to a workplace tragedy. Along with our love for Luke it is the one thing that we will always have in common. The eldest of five children, I was raised in a close-knit family in southern Ontario. As luck would have it, the year I was accepted to college my father got an offer for a job in British Columbia, and plans were soon made to move our family west. My plan was to continue my studies in Ottawa and then after I graduated I would join them. However when I was hired right after graduation by the Ontario government I stayed in Ontario where I met my future husband. A year after we were married our first child Erin was born. In 1985, almost 61 ⁄2 years later, we would finally celebrate the completion of our family with the birth of our son, Adam. From the first time I laid eyes on my children they were my world. Even though I took great pride in my work and the fulfillment it brought me, I’ve always said that being a parent


Like most young boys his age, and about to turn 16 in September, Luke was hoping to get a job that summer that would allow him to save enough money to buy his first car before returning to school in the fall. He was so excited to get a unionized job that paid $11.80 an hour! My brother, beaming with pride, was elated when Luke got hired to work in the recycling department at Wastech Services Ltd. because Dan was the Equipment Maintenance Supervisor there, and could check in on him. Little did he know that when he stopped by the morning of May 12 to see how Luke was doing, that several hours later he would be called back and be part of a team that would uncover his only child’s body. “…at just 15 years of age, Luke became the youngest person ever to die in an industrial “accident” in British Columbia.” After Luke “failed to return from coffee break,” they contacted Dan to see if he knew where he was. It was at that point that the large plant was shut down, and Dan knew instinctively where to start looking. With the assistance of a dozen other workers, Dan returned to the spot where he had last spoken with Luke. Desperate to find him, he tunneled through a mountain of compacted garbage with his bare hands, until he unearthed Luke’s body. His 6-ft.-tall, 200-pound body lay motionless; his hard hat was still on and his hands were at his side. It was obvious he was dead. The question was how did a student hired to recover cardboard from garbage after it had been dumped, end up dead? Through a coroner’s inquest we would later discover that he had never gone on his coffee break, and instead had laid there dead for almost an hour before anyone even noticed he was missing. All the while the heavy equipment with their loud engines moved about the floor of the giant dome, compacting the dumped garbage into eight-foot piles. We would also

learn Luke’s body had unknowingly been compacted into one of those piles, and he died instantly from traumatic asphyxiation. When asked why no one had noticed Luke was missing, a floor worker fearful of losing his job would later testify, “I’m not a babysitter. I can’t be looking out for other floor workers all the time.” Other workers would testify they didn’t want any part of the inquiry as they were too shaken up by Luke’s death to testify. “Desperate to find him, he tunneled through a mountain of compacted garbage with his bare hands, until he unearthed his son’s body.” It has been 15 years since Luke’s death and for us he will forever remain 15. We will never know the young man he could have grown up to be, but I’m sure he would have blazed his own trail. Like his father, and his grandfather before him, Luke gave you the impression he was a force to be reckoned with, when in fact he could be just the opposite. A boy in a man’s body, Luke towered over most teens his age, but he also had a soft side, and was the type of young man who would take the city transit alone and with a bouquet of flowers in his hand, would visit his 95-year-old greatgrandmother in the nursing home. Not one to boast about it, we only found out because the nurses knew him as a regular visitor. Had he lived I’m sure that like his cousins, he would have grown up to be even taller and more handsome than he already was, and like his father, he would have grown up to be a tender, loving man with a quiet sense of humour and a zest for life. I will never know the pain my brother has quietly had to endure the past 15 years. Like my father he has chosen not to talk about that day, or maybe it’s simply that because we share his grief and don’t want to cause him any further pain we choose not to ask him about it. I do know the day Luke died he took a piece of each of us with him. “…a floor worker fearful of losing his job would later testify, “I’m not a babysitter. I can’t be looking out for other floor workers all the time.” At the time of Luke’s death there was no such thing as an organization to help families grieving the loss of a child through a workplace tragedy. The Workers Compensation Board (as it was then called) had just started launching its young worker awareness program in Ontario, with Paul Kells as its spokesperson. I know, because as we drove home from the airport following Luke’s funeral I listened to Paul Kells as he talked about the death of his son Sean – who died six months earlier from a workplace tragedy. As a result of Luke’s death I decided that ensuring the health and safety of every young person on the job would become

Luke and Erin

my mission, and through my employment with the government of Ontario I became educated about health and safety, signing up for as many courses as I could, to assist me in becoming an advocate for all workers’ rights. I would also go on to become a health and safety rep where I worked and joined our Joint Health & Safety Committee. “Luke was the type of young man who would take the city transit by himself and with a bouquet of flowers in his hand would visit his 95-year-old great-grandmother in the nursing home.” In 2002 I found out about the Young Worker Life Quilt and with my brother’s permission submitted Luke’s name for inclusion. Through its unveiling we would shed more tears, but we would also discover a new group formed to help families cope with the aftermath of losing a family member to a work place tragedy – that group would be called Threads of Life. While the first few years after Luke’s death were the hardest, by the time I joined Threads of Life in 2003 I felt I was coping well and didn’t need their support, but I did think maybe I could be of help to someone else. Hoping to spare another family from going through the same tragedy our family had experienced after Luke’s death, I became a member of its Speakers Bureau and then later went on to become a Volunteer Family Guide. Well, it is now 2010 and Luke has been dead for as long as he had been on this earth, and the more insight I get into workers being killed on the job the more I realize how preventable each of these deaths could have been. While I pride myself on the fact that I thought I was doing so well for so long, I am realizing this year may not be as easy as the others and I am discovering that maybe now, more than ever, I need the support of Threads of Life as much as they need my support.


Steps for Life Raises more than $260,000! With all the new walks added this year the total numbers were doubled as 28 Steps for Life events were held across the country, raising more than $260,000 for family support programs and services. The number of walkers also doubled from 2009 as more than 4,100 walkers took steps together to raise awareness about the importance of workplace health and safety. Each community was unique yet the outcome the same – family members, health and safety professionals, co-workers and business leaders walked together with a united vision of safety and injury prevention in the workplace. It’s an opportunity not only to support families affected, but also a unique way to educate your community about the devastating ripple effects of a workplace tragedy and how we need to work together to prevent others from being hurt. – Ken Bondy, National Coordinator, CAW

Here are a few highlights from across the country: • With walks in Burnaby and Sidney, BC, the walk is now coast to coast. • In Alberta, Lethbridge led the way with the largest walk in the country and truly championed the Team Challenge: 21 teams participated and there were 400 walkers. • Edmonton ran out of T-shirts at their first walk and raised almost $25,000! • Calgary held their walk as part of the NAOSH Week Community Day. • The walkers in Okotoks wrote beautiful messages and moving tributes to their loved ones on the backs of their T-shirts. • Winnipeg, MB was cold and wet, yet was 300 walkers strong. • Sarnia warmed up their walkers with a healthy dose of laughing yoga. • Clowns, Happy and Ohno, entertained children of all ages at the first walk in Niagara. • In Thunder Bay, the “chalk walk” of health and safety messages gave new meaning to raising awareness. • In North Bay, Mayor Victor Fedeli declared May 2 as the annual Steps for Life day. 6

• The doggy treat station was once again a huge hit in Hamilton with the fourlegged walkers. • In Sault Ste. Marie, face painting was enjoyed by all. • In Toronto 350 people walked. • Moncton, NB and Kensington, PEI hosted the first walks in these two provinces. • In Nova Scotia, Antigonish held the first walk in the region on April 24. Sydney held its first walk and brought in a professional trainer for a pre-walk warm up. Halifax held its second walk, accompanied by the pipe music of Jeremy Carrier. Altogether more than 500 people walked in Nova Scotia. • St. John’s, NF held its first walk, with 200 walkers circling Quidi Vidi Lake. Irishtown-Summerside (Corner Brook), NF boasted 120 walkers (twice as many as in 2009). A disc jockey and an indoor venue encouraged folks to hang around and enjoy the event once the walk was completed.

Participating Communities *new communities

BC *Burnaby *Sidney AB   Lethbridge   Okotoks *Calgary *Edmonton MB   Winnipeg ON *Barrie   Hamilton   London *Midland *Niagara Falls *North Bay   Ottawa *Sarnia   Sault Ste. Marie   Sudbury   Thunder Bay *Timmins   Toronto *Windsor NB *Moncton NS   Halifax   Antigonish *Sydney PEI *Charlottetown NL   Corner Brook *St. John’s

Successes Provinces = 8 Walks = 28 Walkers = 4,100 †Funds Raised $260,000 Awareness Raised = priceless †at press time


Ron Rauhut, family member, in Edmonton

St. John Ambulance Volunteer in Lethbridge

Safety has long been mandated by governments. Yet, we all have family members who have been impacted by a workplace accident or an occupational disease. As I participated in the Sault’s first Steps for Life Walk I came to realize I wasn’t just helping to provide a venue for families that have suffered tragedies but that my presence, with other like-minded people, is what was really contributing to our culture shift towards safety, which will prevent these tragedies from happening to others. It was a truly rewarding experience. – Yolanda Pasiak, Disability Prevention Specialist, WSIB




Lisa Kadosa, Ottawa Family Member, adds the Steps for Life logo to her family trailer



Moncton Halifax

Sydney St. John’s

Threads of Life is extremely fortunate to have some of the most incredible volunteers in Canada. Countless hours have been so generously and freely given to ensure the success of Steps for Life. We could not do it without you. Thank you! We are already planning for 2011. Several new communities have expressed interest in holding a

“It is important to raise awareness about workplace health and safety in my community because not enough people are aware of how many work-related illnesses, injuries and deaths occur while on the job. These are often life-changing experiences and the majority of them were preventable with a little knowledge and training. No one should have to be afraid they are going to die on the job.” – Eric Olivieri, injured young worker

Steps for Life walk next year, including: Nanaimo, BC; Fort McMurray, AB; Saskatoon, SK; Brandon and Steinbach, MB; Guelph, ON; and Lindsay, ON so far. If you are interested in starting a walk in your community please let us know. Mark your calendars for Sunday May 1st, 2011. 7

SPEAKER SPOTLIGHT Two new speakers join from Nova Scotia Kathy Betts never met her father. Frederick James Betts was killed in 1957 in the coal mines. Frederick had returned to the work site to collect his lunch ‘can’ at the same time a co-worker released a coal car, which rolled down the track and came to a stop pinning her father against the wall. The worker didn’t know he had returned. Frederick was just 29 years old, survived by his widow (27) and four young Kathy Betts children. Kathy was born three months after his funeral. Kathy’s story reminds all of us of the far-reaching ripple effect of workplace tragedies.

Joe Legge suffered from serious burns from an industrial explosion in 1977 while working for Sydney Steel Corporation. Joe passionately shares his personal story of survival. Joe resides in Sydney, Cape Breton. To book these new speakers, please contact us. Joe Legge

Recent Speaker Events

Marilyn D’Entremont

On May 3 Marilyn D’Entremont spoke to more than 150 Canadian Society of Safety Engineers members at the North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) launch event in Charlottetown, PEI. On her way back home to Yarmouth, NS, Marilyn spoke as a guest speaker at the Safety Services New Brunswick conference.

Ron Rauhut, recently trained in February, got his first presentation under his belt on April 30 as part of Almita Manufacturing Ltd’s Annual Safety Day in Ponoka, Alberta. Nervous at first, Ron spoke intently about losing his sister, a highway maintenance worker, when she was tragically struck by a vehicle. Jim Sandford spoke at the National Council of the CAW on April 10 in Port Elgin, Ontario. He spoke to 800 members and received a standing ovation. The union brothers voted unanimously to make a generous contribution to Threads of Life. Sarah Wheelan was invited to speak to first year medical students at the University of Toronto on April 28. Frito-Lay Canada has invited speakers to its New Minas and Bedford locations. Kathy Betts, Cheryl and Larry Mackay and Arlene Audit have presented their stories. Gil and Jenn Shoesmith recently spoke at the Capital Region District in Victoria BC on May 3 and 4.


NEWS AND EVENTS Threads of Life Families of Workplace Tragedy Book Project Threads of Life received some project funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to hire a writer and create a book about families of workplace tragedy. Twenty stories will be used as part of the awareness and prevention message. Each family story is unique and equally important so it has been a challenge to choose which stories to include from more than 320 family stories. The stories will cover life-altering injuries, occupational diseases, traumatic fatalities, young workers, experienced workers, family relationships (parent, sibling, widows, etc.), as well as covering various sectors across Canada. The book is expected to be produced in the spring of 2011. We’ll keep you posted!

FAMILY SUPPORT Steps for Life – An Emotional Event Shirley Hickman, Executive Director and Family Support Program Manager Steps for Life – Walking for Victims of Workplace Tragedy, is an event that normally overwhelms me with emotions but this year, walking together as a family for the first time on the Tim Sole team made it even more emotional than usual. I’ve heard similar sentiments from several other family members. Preparing to participate can sometimes be almost too much for some. But when you arrive at the walk and see that ‘sea of yellow’ T-shirts of support from the commitment of so many, it all comes together. Each community event has similarities yet each has its own stamp of uniqueness. Everyone who attends is committed

to the vision ‘to lead and inspire a culture shift as a result of which work-related injuries and illnesses are morally, socially and economically unacceptable’. They are there to show and provide support to you and I, the family members.

Tim’s Sole Team

New Families connect at Family Forums “It feels good to share my story with others. No matter how many times I tell it, it is never easy, but feels good after it is told. Thank you!” Statements like this are common during or after a family forum. It’s been proven that it’s in the sharing of our stories that we begin and continue our healthy healing. The Family Forums provide this opportunity, along with attending workshops to continue our understanding of our life-long journey. The Atlantic Canada Family Forum was held on May 28–30. This ‘sold out’ event was held at the beautiful venue of Oak Island Resort. Ten new families attended, along with families from New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

Media and awareness was extensive this year and as a result we’ve had several new family members find Threads of Life these past few months. They may have experienced the tragedy several years ago, but are very grateful they have now found this organization. Thank you to all who took the time to participate by walking, getting donations, sponsorship and spreading the word about our organization.

Volunteer Family Guides Volunteer Family Guides listen to family members on their journey of healing. We recognize this is a life-long journey as grief raises issues with us at different times in our life. Many of the connections made to family members that started as a support role have become friendships. Volunteer Family Guides also become a support group to each other. They share the good events and are there for each other on the difficult days. Every month this group is connected for on-going training on the listening skills that are such an important part of their role. We’re not grief counsellors but family members walking a journey and willing to listen and offer emotional support to others. Most often this support is listening on the phone, then meeting later when the VFGs and their matched families attend a Family Forum. It’s always amazes me to witness these first meetings or reunions. Does this sound like your cup of tea? Please contact me for more information to become a Volunteer Family Guide or be matched to one of these warm and welcoming volunteers.

Your Membership Application Form Every two years Threads of Life will be mailing you a Membership Application Form. Family and corporate memberships are free but we need you to fill out this form so you can continue to receive the newsletter, and information about special events, volunteerism and

community outreach and as part of awareness and prevention. Threads of Life is your organization and it can only continue to grow and be sustainable with your feedback and support. Please take the time to complete the form and return it in a timely manner. Thank you. 9

REFLECTION Furry Friends Help Us Heal Marj Deyell


ave you ever considered whether animals help us grieve? I believe they do. Our dog, Rosie, has helped our family tremendously since the death of our son John in 2003.

Our neighbour’s dog had recently had a litter of pups so I, along with my husband Brian and our kids John and Laura, went to their farm to have a look. The mother was a mix of Black Lab and Border Collie and they thought the father was a German Shepherd. The pups were huddled together in the corner of a fenced-in shelter as we approached. They were all adorable, black in colour with small splotches of white and brown on their faces, chests and bellies. As we went closer they all came bounding towards us except one. The smallest one of the litter hung back and was reluctant to come too close. Which one did John fancy? It was the shy one. “She’ll be easy to train,” John said as he persuaded the pup to come to him. John always had a way with animals. He was 17 that summer. It wasn’t long before the pup came to him to play. We played with the others but it was the little one that John liked. Home in a box she came.

The name Rosie was chosen because as a pup she loved to chew on my rose bushes, the thornier the better. John spent hours with the pup and trained her to do many tricks. She was very intelligent and learned quickly. Rosie remembers John’s training. In 2008 we had a family gathering at our home. Rosie was lying a distance away from the deck resting on the grass. We were talking about her and I made a sound in my throat like John had used when he trained her. Rosie’s ears went up and her tail started to wag. Even though it was over five years since John had died she remembered the sound! This fall I found two bags of clothes in a closet I had put there after John’s death. The few shirts, sweaters and pants might as well go to the Salvation Army, I thought. When I brought the bag to the kitchen table to have a closer look Rosie had the strangest look on her face. She sniffed at the bags. She looked confused. Did she remember John’s smell? I think so. Rosie is now twelve and a half years old. She’s our living connection to John. John loved her. We love her. She’s a great listener and never interrupts. Her love is unconditional. She’s a great companion and protector. I know when her time comes to leave this world our family will all grieve her passing but will find comfort in knowing that she has gone to be with her master.


Animals as Teachers and Healers

Author: Susan Chernak McElroy Reviewed by: Joanne Wade Animals as Teachers and Healers is a must read book for everyone especially animal lovers. The author has compiled true and moving testimonies of the gifts that animals have given their human companions, some life-saving, some life-sustaining and some miraculous. The author faced a diagnosis of cancer with a poor prognosis. Her dog Kesha, had died earlier with the same diagnosis but it was Kesha’s will to live and make the best of every day that changed Susan’s attitude and gave her hope to overcome her death sentence. She hopes to increase awareness of the sacredness, specialness and spirituality that is a natural component of the animal kingdom. The animals that know us best are our companion animals, the ones who share our daily life. Around our animals we are our truest selves. They become our confidents, our companions and enrich our lives. Pets pull your attention from your physical and emotional pain. They teach us genuine and unconditional love. They teach us how to open up to love again after a painful loss. Realizing and acknowledging the many gifts in our lives can be a personal transformation and healing. One case was of a lady and her cat. They moved from a farm to an apartment and the cat could no longer bring home her mice from the fields but she would bring pine cones home each day until she died. She showed her owner that no matter what the situation, we can find a way to make the best of it. Healing encompasses the mending of broken hearts, lost dreams and painful ideas and beliefs. It’s what happens when we come to our edge, to the unexplained territory of mind and body and take that step into the unknown, the space where all growth occurs. Healing takes away paralyzing fear and gives back power we can use to build a new life. The testimonies in this book strengthened my belief that my dog Teka was brought into my life at a time when I needed her, to help me re-focus on the goodness and many gifts in life. 10

PARTNERSHIPS Canadian Society of Safety Engineers (CSSE) and Health Week (NAOSH) on Monday, May 3 in Charlottetown, PEI. On hand for the signing was Eleanor Westwood, Threads of Life Board member and CSSE national President, Art Nordholm.

Eleanor Westwood, Secretary, Threads of Life Board of Directors, and CSSE member signs the first Memorandum of Understanding with Art Nordholm, National President, CSSE


hreads of Life and the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the national launch of North American Occupational Safety

The spirit of the agreement shows that the two organizations share a common mandate in the promotion and education of workplace safety and recognize the need to support families adversely affected by on-the-job tragedies. By signing this agreement both CSSE and Threads of Life will work together in the spirit of goodwill, cooperation and understanding for the betterment of all. Highlights of the MOU outline how each organization will support each other’s mandate. CSSE has committed to: • Serve as a key supporter* in the annual “Steps for Life” – Walking for Victims of Workplace Tragedy event that coincides with the launch of NAOSH week.

• Provide resources to help support the annual Steps for Life events through participating CSSE chapters and members and NAOSH week regional committees. • Provide exhibition opportunities to Threads of Life at CSSE’s national conference. In turn, Threads of Life will: • Recognize CSSE’s contribution in our communication materials. • Engage CSSE members in events like the annual Steps for Life events and regional Family Forums. • Endeavour to make speakers available to events being organized by CSSE so that the organization can offer workplace safety education to its membership, furthering both organizations’ goals. As a national charity, Threads of Life deeply values partners like the CSSE to help raise awareness and further extend its reach. For more information about CSSE and its programs, please go to

2009 Annual Report

Our best wishes for Siân Gibson

Each year our cover features a ­family member who sustained a traumatic workplace injury or fatality, or who is living with an occupational disease. The Threads of Life Annual Report showcases the programs we offer, our milestones for the 2009 year, events, family stories, partnerships and our financials.

Sian joined Threads of Life at its inception in 2003 as a volunteer. As the small organization grew and funding became available, Shirley Hickman, Executive Director and Family Support Program Manager, was brought onboard and hired Sian as the Program Manager, Partnerships and Communication. Since 2003 Sian has had some significant achievements, including:

If you would like a copy to be mailed to you please contact us or you can also download it from our website.

• Helping to develop a new organization from a seed and watch it flourish as a viable organization in the health and safety system. • Securing financial supporters from the beginning to pave the way for a viable and growing organization: Threads of Life has provided family members with opportunities to help them on their journey of healing from a small handful of family members to more than 1,200 in 2010. • Opening doors to partners and organizations. • Contributing significantly to developing the “For Families” series of booklets. • For Steps for Life: from the first one in Toronto on Ward’s Island to spearheading the move to a new location in Ashbridges Bay, which resulted in continuous and expanding growth. We wish Sian well in her future endeavours and will miss her. You can see her again at the 2011 Toronto Steps for Life event! 11

2010 Upcoming Events • Central Canada Family Forum, Nottawasaga Inn, Alliston, ON, September 17–19 • Western Canada Family Forum Radisson Hotel Calgary Airport, Calgary, Alberta, October 15–17 Registration and information forms for the Family Forums have been mailed in July. Please contact us if you did not receive it. Watch the website for updates. It is important that you indicate early your intention to attend. Both events have limited accommodations. • Steps for Life – Walking for Victims of Workplace Tragedy – May 1, 2011 (in most communities)


New Faces Marj Deyell New faces, sad faces appear every year Hearts full of emotion, many eyes full of tears Music and laughter and stories are shared Showing new faces that Threads of Life cares A panorama of bright yellow shirts Take part in the Steps for Life walk, Oh, the hurt Many pause to read about lives changed so quickly From injuries, diseases and some others fatally “They’re so young” a voice comments as they stop and pause We need to keep talking, promoting the cause The tears they flow freely now down many a face My son, could someone else not have taken your place Workplace tragedies seem to just keep on growing The Steps for Life walks, safety awareness promoting

Threads Threads is a free quarterly newsletter published by Threads of Life – Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support. Threads is available by email or mail.

MISSION Our mission is to help families heal through a community of support and to promote the elimination of life-altering work­place injuries, illnesses and deaths.

The Member Portal:

VISION Threads of Life will lead and inspire a culture shift, as a result of which, work-related injuries and illnesses are morally, socially and economically unacceptable.

Contributions: Please send us your story, poems, photos or drawings to [email protected] Si vous préfériez recevoir cette information en français, s’il vous plaît, contactez-nous. EDITOR: Suzan Butyn, [email protected] Guest Contributors: Marj Deyell Linda Forde Stephen Forde Debbie Stead Joanne Wade Special Thanks to: DRAFTFCB, Design and Layout

VALUES We believe that: Caring: Caring helps and heals. Listening: Listening can ease pain and suffering. Sharing: Sharing our personal losses will lead to healing and preventing future devastating work-related losses. Respect: Personal experiences of loss and grief need to be honoured and respected. Health: Health and safety begin in our heads, hearts and hands, in everyday actions. Passion: Passionate individuals can change the world.

HOW TO REACH US Toll-free: 1-888-567-9490, Fax: 1-519-685-1104 Threads of Life, P.O. Box 9066, 1795 Ernest Ave., London, ON,  N6E 2V0 Shirley Hickman, [email protected] The Member Portal:

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