What’s happening at BFO-MR?

Where to start?!

It has truly been a whirlwind four months at Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region. We started off the New Year with a bang and have been jumping ever since.

We are proud to share this update with you:

Our team is growing…
The staff team at BFO-MR has evolved and grown significantly over the last few months. In February we welcomed back Carly Kowalik to the role of Program Coordinator. She joined BFO-MR in April 2017 to cover a maternity leave contract and we are excited she is now a permanent member of our team. Carly’s care, compassion and kindness for our members and volunteers is inspiring and we are so grateful to have her back onboard doing the amazing work she does.



Shortly after Carly’s return, we welcomed Melina Pearson as our Outreach Coordinator. Melina’s position is funded through a two-year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation with the mandate to build awareness about our Living with Loss group for adults grieving a death by substance use. In the short time that Melina has been with us, she has connected with (or met in person with) almost 100 organizations in our community who may be serving families grieving a death by substance use. The organizations include school boards, doctors offices, counselling agencies, churches, hospital staff and many non-profit agencies working in the community.


This has been an incredible opportunity for us to not only get out and talk about the Living with Loss group, but all of the grief support programs we offer. We are humbled by the response we’ve received and grateful for everyone’s willingness to connect and learn how we can work together to best support the community.

In April our team grew again with the addition of Breanne Schaeffer as Events Coordinator. Breanne has jumped into the role with tremendous enthusiasm, great ideas and has been a huge help to our Executive Director in the short time she has been with BFO-MR.

Breanne will be your main point of contact for all things event-related, including our upcoming Charity Golf Classic and Butterfly Release Walk to Remember.


In addition to our staff team, we have also welcomed two placement students over the last few months. Andrea is a student from Wilfrid Laurier who completed her Community Service Learning-Placement with us from January to April. She focused her time on reviewing and updating our Living with Loss program and researching topic ideas for our biennial conference.

Pauline, a first-year Social Service Worker student from Conestoga College, completed a five-week placement with us during the month of April. In the office four days a week, Pauline was fully immersed in all things BFO! She was instrumental in helping to develop a number of policies, she created content for our website and an educational campaign, conducted interviews with members and provided wonderful insight and ideas. We are excited that Pauline will be returning in the fall for her second-year placement.

We were also recently awarded a Canada Summer Jobs grant to hire a Marketing and Events Assistant. This nine-week position will primarily be focused on communication activities that will enable us to build awareness about BFO-MR programming, volunteer opportunities and fundraising. We’ve been blown away by the response to the job posting… we received more than 140 applications in less than a week!

Spring groups and facilitator training
Amidst all of these changes, spring groups and facilitator training got underway. We reached capacity in both our program for parents grieving the death of an infant and parents grieving the death of a child and were almost full in our Healing Little Hearts Program as well.

While dates have not been confirmed for fall groups as of yet, we are always accepting registrations. Please visit the Programs page on our website for more information.

We are also pleased to announce that four new facilitators completed our spring facilitator training program! BFO-MR programs truly wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of our volunteers and we’re excited to welcome four new peer facilitators to our team.

What a generous community we live in

The last few months have also seen the completion of two fundraising events and a surprise donation from a local business! On Saturday February 2,  more than $10,000 was raised for Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region at our 20th Annual Curling Bonspiel! We’d like to extend a special thank you to Wayne and Bev Short (pictured here), who after 20 years, are stepping down from our organizing committee but who promise to continue curling with us (whew, thank goodness!). It has been an honour and a pleasure working with you. We would also like to share our gratitude to all the sponsors and donors who contributed prizes to our silent auction and raffle tables and to the incredible volunteers who helped make the day run so smoothly. We truly couldn’t do it without you. While we didn’t quite hit our fundraising target this year, we are very pleased with this result and know we’ll do even better next year.

Also in February, we were selected by Cambridge Centre Honda for their Test Drive for Charity for the month of February and received almost $1,800 from this awesome campaign.

April saw the launch of our 4th Annual Used Book Sale. As always, we were blown away by the generosity of the community who donated an incredible number of books to our sale. This year’s sale was our most successful yet, raising almost $1,800 for our programs.


BFO-MR Board of Directors receives a Volunteer Impact Award!
Our Board of Directors was a recipient of the Group Involvement Award at the Volunteer Action Centre’s Volunteer Impact Awards on April 11.

We have a small but mighty board of incredibly smart and dedicated people. Each member brings with them a wide range of experience and skills yet they all share a common passion – ensuring families in the community who are grieving have access to support.  

While they always have the big picture of our organization at heart, our board members never hesitate to dig deep in the trenches when supporting our staff team. Whether it’s helping evaluate and interview employee candidates, serving refreshments at our memorial events, consulting on policies and procedures, or simply being a compassionate listening ear, the staff at BFO-MR feel fully supported and appreciated by this wonderful group of volunteers. 

Special kudos to Breana Walker, our Board Chair for her inspired leadership. She is new to the role and has taken the reigns with passion and integrity. Breana is clearly very invested in the success of BFO-MR as evidenced by the significant amount of time and energy she contributes to our organization. Her willingness to shake things up has seen positive results as BFO-MR transitions into an exciting year full of opportunity and growth.  

We continue to evolve and increase our capacity to support the bereaved community, and this transformation wouldn’t be possible without the support and dedication of our Board of Directors. We so appreciate their trust and confidence in the staff team to make a difference in the lives of families when they need it most. 

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