Canada Cares has been honouring dedicated family and professional caregivers with our annual caregiver recognition awards for more than a decade. We’re pleased to announce our 2022 Caregiver Award recipients, including six nominees who have been selected to receive financial assistance through our One Wish Award Program.
Take a look at their stories and learn how these caring Canadians are going the extra mile
to look after loved ones in need.
Our One Wish Awards are intended to help make a difference in the lives of caregivers
by providing financial assistance to meet specific needs. These are the caregivers
who received a 2022 One Wish Award.
Since Tracy’s son Ryan was diagnosed at six months old with Tuberous Sclerosis, she has dedicated her life to his care. Today, at 25 years old, Ryan requires the same level of care and commitment as he did from the day he was born. He has tumours on his brain, skin and eyes, has chronic kidney disease, epilepsy, autism and is developmentally disabled. He relies on his mom for all aspects of his daily life including personal care, safety and decision making.
When Ryan finished high school, Tracy relocated from a small town in Newfoundland to St. John’s so that he could be near a major hospital and have access to activities for young adults living with disabilities. The decline in Ryan’s kidney health over the past few years has resulted in many hospitalizations, requiring Tracy to be there 24/7, caring and advocating for him. Despite the high physical, emotional and financial costs, she continues to do it all with a smile and tries to bring joy to each day of Ryan’s life. Tracy is receiving a One Wish Award to help with the expenses she incurs in caring for Ryan on her own.
Kurtis and Carrie are loving parents of three children – Mallory, Mowat and Jaxon. Nine-year-old Mallory was diagnosed with Mowat Wilson Syndrome, a rare disease that required multiple surgeries and an ostomy bag when part of her bowels had to be removed. She now has a feeding tube and a catheter and uses a wheelchair while she awaits surgery to enable her to walk.
Seven-year-old Jaxon was diagnosed with Microdeletion Syndrome and Leukodystrophy, resulting in severely delayed motor skill development that makes it difficult for him to hold up his head, sit up and walk. His parents began taking him for specialized treatments, initially in California and now over a two-hour drive away in Saskatoon. Carrie has also taken courses and has given up her full-time teaching job to be able to help Jaxon at home and care for the rest of the family. A One Wish Award from Canada Cares will help Kurtis and Carrie meet the financial challenges of their children’s care.
The Mitchell’s are first-time parents to one-year-old Mackenzie who was born with Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy, a genetic condition that affects her breathing, feeding and muscle function. Mackenzie spent the first 10 months of her life undergoing treatment in various Toronto hospitals over an hour away from the Mitchell’s home. Her parents moved into Toronto’s Ronald MacDonald House for five months to be near her. After that, one or both of them made the drive to Toronto each day to see her and receive the training they would need to care for her at home.
Mackenzie was finally able to go home with an array of feeding and breathing equipment that requires constant cleaning and maintenance. Her parents now provide the lion’s share of her complex care needs and make sure that her life is filled with games, books and music that bring regular smiles. Canada Cares is pleased to provide the Mitchell’s with a One Wish Award to help pay for the specialized equipment needed to enable Mackenzie to enjoy outdoor strolls.
Stephanie’s mother, Eileen, was partially paralyzed by a stroke 30 years ago. Rather than putting her in a nursing home, Stephanie made the tough decision to bring her mother home to live with her, her husband, infant son and two-year-old daughter.
Initially, Eileen required extensive care including toileting, bathing, feeding and administration of medications. Stephanie juggled her mother’s care with child care and, for many years, dedicated time each day helping Eileen regain some of the strengths and abilities required to perform basic daily living tasks. Although Eileen continues to face daily struggles, her daughter’s continuous care has had an enormous impact on her quality of life. Canada Cares is providing a One Wish Award for Eileen to spend a few days at a respite facility so that Stephanie can enjoy some much-needed time away knowing that her mother is well cared for.
Four years ago, Danny’s wife Lisa underwent emergency surgery for a perforated colon that resulted in sepsis and a massive stroke. Although she recovered from sepsis, the stroke left her with aphasia and seizures. She struggles with recalling words and is relearning to read and write. She has limited use of one side of her body and is slowly starting to walk with a walker/cane.
Danny has taken on the challenge of caring for Lisa and their three children while balancing the pressures of running his own business. He assists Lisa with her basic needs like eating, grooming and toileting, monitors her health, medications and medical appointments and stays by her side to make sure she doesn’t fall. Lisa requires a lot of physiotherapy, speech and language therapy that’s only partially covered by Danny’s health plan. Canada Cares is pleased to provide a One Wish Award to be used towards Lisa’s ongoing therapy.
During the first year of the pandemic, Sharon’s good friend Joy suffered a fall resulting in a broken leg, two major surgeries and two years of medical appointments and rehab. Sharon has been there for Joy from day one running errands, doing laundry and providing constant support. At the same time, she cares for an elderly cousin and volunteers as a secretary at her church.
Joy calls Sharon a “special angel” who is more like a sister than a best friend and who never hesitates to help others no matter how busy she is. Canada Cares is pleased to grant Joy’s wish to help pay for some of the gas expenses Sharon has incurred driving around to help her friend.
At any given time, about one in four Canadians are providing care for a loved one with little or no recognition. As the sole national caregiver recognition program, Canada Cares is pleased to recognize the following incredible family caregivers.
Jessica is a single Indigenous mother whose son Caleb was taken away from her by local Child Services when he was a toddler. After a lawyer proved she had been mistreated by the system, her son was returned, with severe brain injuries inflicted by his foster mother. Now age 19, Caleb lives with lifelong disabilities, needs to use a wheelchair and requires significant ongoing care.
Jessica is Caleb’s primary caregiver and relies on a strong support group, including her other son Aiden, to ensure that his physical, emotional and social needs are met. She does all she can to support both boys while continuing to perform her social work duties in support of other families in the community. Her nominator says she’s a cultural woman who loves to help others and brings her sons everywhere with her so they can live a fulfilling life.
Although divorced for many years, Lillian and her ex-husband Steen remained good friends for life. When Steen was diagnosed with prostate cancer 12 years ago and told he had six months to live, Lillian stepped in and dedicated herself to his physical and emotional wellbeing. Since no traditional medical treatments were offered, she sought naturopathic treatment that prolonged his life and enabled him to fulfill some of his travel dreams. When taking care of himself became a challenge, she welcomed him into her home. When his cancer metastasized and he required surgery, she continued to be his advocate as he dealt with excruciating pain.
Sadly, Lillian died suddenly last year as a result of a fluke accident while on her way to visit Steen in hospital, and he passed away soon after. Her friends and family describe her as a kind, determined and caring angel who was dedicated to helping others in need.
Aaron’s brother was a foster father to siblings, Katherine and William, who have several disabilities and had been neglected prior to moving in with him. When his brother died eight years ago and no one came forward to raise the kids, Aaron and his wife Marion stepped in to do it. He rearranged his entire life, moved to a new home and changed careers so he could be more present for them. He knows that the kids will always require constant care and that he will likely never have a real retirement but he does what it takes and forges on.
Gulghutai is an amazing mother of three kids with rare complex medical conditions. Both of her daughters (Niki, age 12 and Lexi, age 23) were born with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and her son Alex (age 19) developed Battens Disease in his teens. In addition to typical mom duties, Gulghutai stays on top of her kids’ medical appointments, documents their constantly changing medical needs, takes care of their daily exercise and grooming routines and remains with them during overnight hospital stays.
Whether at home or on the job as a medical device technician, she takes joy in caring for people and upholding a positive environment. All three of her children have inherited her optimism and work ethic. Niki is already a budding disability rights advocate and an ambassador for Easter Seals Ontario. Lexi is a fourth-year university student specializing in Cognitive Science and is completing a work study program. Alex is a college student studying Architectural Technology and is an active volunteer in his community.
Barbara helps care for her parents, Brian and Sara, and her godparents, Malcolm and Vicki, while working part-time as a registered nurse and parenting two teenage kids. Her father has severe diabetes and is on dialysis and her mother has Alzheimer’s disease. When COVID hit, Barbara moved them out of assisted living back into her late grandparent’s home where she works with a team of caregivers to make sure all their needs are met.
She also manages caregiving arrangements for her godparents, accompanies them to doctors’ appointments and serves as their medical representative and advocate whenever needed. Her godmother says Barbara is the most compassionate woman she has ever know and that they could not manage without her.
Kari’s son Lucas, who was suffering from depression and anxiety, attempted to end his life in 2021. She experienced the trauma of finding and resuscitating him, only to learn afterwards that he had incurred a severe brain injury. Since then, she has based her life around his rehabilitation, working as much as she can with him on his speech, ambulation, mental health and overall emotional and physical recovery.
In addition to caring for Lucas and her other children, Kari works full time as a director of care at a home for the elderly. Her husband Michael says she has given so much of herself as a nurse, a mother and a wife and his greatest wish is to see her reach her goal to get Lucas, now age 21, back to a baseline for a fulfilling life.
At six months old, Toni Good Eagle’s daughter Melba had surgery that took seven hours and caused severe brain damage. Toni was told that her daughter would likely only live to age 16 but she is now 35 years old. However, she remains at the mental age of a two-year-old, wears diapers and requires constant care.
When Toni injured her back in a car accident and was struggling to lift Melba, she looked for a supportive family in her community to assist with her daughter’s care. Her search led her to Maria Baginda who has cared for Melba in her home on weekdays for the last 15 years. Maria and Toni work well together to ensure that Melba receives the care she needs to keep her happy and safe. Toni says Maria is her hero and that Melba is fortunate to have two mothers who love her.
Debbie’s 24-year-old son Elliot has Autism and ADHD. She has structured her life and work schedule entirely around his needs in order to support him and ensure he stays happy and engaged. When she’s finished morning shifts at her job, she does many activities with Caleb including daily walks, playing games and puzzles and driving him to the local Abilities Centre to participate in sports and recreation. She recently helped him write a children’s book about his experience playing on the Mixed Ability Rugby Team in Ireland (his team came in second out of 24 countries).
Debbie is also involved with several community organizations dedicated to treatment, awareness and inclusion of youth with autism and other disabilities.
Front-line health workers have been lauded as the true heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic – and rightly so.
Canada Cares is pleased to recognize these outstanding professional caregivers.
Erika has been a social worker at Hillsdale Estates, a 300-bed long-term care home, since early 2020. She was on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic from the beginning, risking her health and that of her loved ones to tirelessly serve highly vulnerable residents and their caregivers during what was arguably one of the worst times in human history. She fearlessly donned her PPE to hold residents’ hands when their families weren’t allowed to visit and consoled caregivers as they said a final goodbye to their dying residents.
Erica continues to advocate for better recognition of the critical importance of caregiver support to the psycho-emotional-social-spiritual health of long-term care residents. She has also developed innovative new programming to destigmatize older adult mental health and help residents get support for their mental health issues (sometimes for the first time). Her co-workers describe her as an incredibly caring human whose passion and commitment are both unwavering and inspiring.
Tania is the longest serving Community Care Assistant in Richmond County with more than 34 years of experience taking care of residents throughout rural Nova Scotia. She travels every back road, often in harsh Cape Breton winter conditions, to help meet the daily living needs of service users. She has supported so many individuals and families over the years that, if you mention her name to anyone, they will tell you they know her in some capacity.
When Tania began her career, she had three infants and her husband was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour who was given 10 years to live. Her husband survived but she has been the main source of income for her family for over 30 years. On top of her commitment to her job, this amazing caregiver also makes time to volunteer in her community.
Norlynah works as a personal nurse to 67-year-old Penny who is disabled due to Chronic Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. Penny has been totally dependent on Norlynah for all activities of daily living since 2019. She says Norlynah is very supportive of her many requests, expertly manages frequent changes to her daily routine and calmly handles all challenges with a positive attitude. For as long as she has been working for Penny, Norlynah has voluntarily not taken a single vacation.
Alyse is a Resource Coordinator for Minnedosa and District Services to Seniors (MDSS) who works tirelessly to provide community members with access to programs that support their independence and wellbeing. She goes above and beyond to ensure they receive the physical, emotional and technology support they need to live a less isolated, more fulfilling life.
Alyse began her role at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and was forced to adapt when community outreach became drastically limited. She jumped in, developing many new programs to help seniors connect virtually with friends and family, sharing educational resources and even filming her own exercise videos to help seniors keep active in their homes. Her employer says Alyse does her job with respect and compassion and is the best care provider they have ever had in this position.
Dan is a Direct Support Worker for Community Living North Bay supporting people with physical and developmental disabilities. His employer says he is professional, caring, funny and thoughtful at all times and that he works diligently and selflessly for his clients every single day. In addition to being a professional caregiver, Dan is also a family caregiver. His daughter Ryker was born with Cystic Fibrosis and requires daily support and expensive medications in order to live. Whether at work or at home, Dan is a consummate caregiver who always puts the needs of others ahead of his own.
Kirsten is a professional caregiver at the Wellington Retirement Residence in Edmonton. During COVID she worked double shifts, often two days in a row, making sure all residents were cared for during these trying times. When residents were dying from COVID-19 and their families were not permitted to visit, she spent extra time with them and kept families updated. Kirsten personally watched 48 residents die in her arms yet, somehow, she managed to keep her spirits up and brought out the best in her co-workers and residents alike.
Kirsten also provides home care to individuals with mental health issues or dementia and other cognitive disabilities. A single mother of four, her 81-year-old father who has bone cancer has moved into her home where she plans to personally provide the palliative care he will eventually need. In the meantime, she’s now working early morning or night shifts so she can be at home most evenings with the children and her dad.