They say it takes a village to raise a child or build anything worthwhile. But who brings the villagers together? For that, you need a very special person. Someone who is willing to share their enthusiasm, energy and experience. You need someone like Jane Hale-McDonald (pictured third from right).
Jane might be described as a “super-volunteer”. She regularly contributes to the community through her work with United Way and many other causes. And Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region (BFO-MR) has been fortunate to count her as a volunteer for more than 20 years.
“My parents were good Irish Catholics,” she says. “They taught me to give back. So that’s what I do.”
Sharing a journey
Today, the busy mom of four works long hours as Vice President of Human Resources and Safety at Energy+ Inc. She’s involved with her church and has a far-reaching network of family, friends and professional contacts.
But in 1990, when Jane’s four-month-old daughter died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), there wasn’t much support available to her. It was a lonely time.
Jane found comfort in her friendship with Dena Moitoso, a neighbour whose daughter died in a car accident.
“She was a good social support. She told me about her journey and I told her about mine. Building those bridges helped me cope.”
And when Dena and Marilyn Hollinger founded what is now Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region, Jane was one of their first volunteers.
Jane also worked with Rev. Rip Kirby, former Director of Pastoral Care at St. Mary’s, the hospital that had cared for her daughter. He would ask her to speak with families who had also lost a child to SIDS.
“Everybody takes a loss differently. Some people can’t function. And other people get active and busy and try to make it easier for the next person. I’m one of those. I try to share what the impact of BFO-MR was for me,” she says.
But she didn’t stop there.
Support through sports
When a good friend and fellow human resources professional lost his son, he reached out to Jane. She directed him to BFO-MR.
Before long, he too was involved and looking for ways to support the organization. Drawing on their shared love of sports, they launched a charity golf tournament in 1998 and the next year, a curling bonspiel.
“We reached out to our network and our family and friends. I have a large family and bring them in from far and wide,” Jane says with a chuckle.
The events gradually evolved and have raised tens of thousands of dollars for BFO-MR families over the last 20 years.
Jane continues to be an ambassador for BFO-MR, guiding those looking for support in their grief to the organization.
“Friends have told me that the support from Bereaved Families has saved them,” she says.
“I feel the same way. And I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to build relationships and, through that, to support this very worthwhile agency and to see its impact on the community.”