‘I couldn’t be more thankful for my team’: The impact of the Wilfred Schlegel Hope Fund

“I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy,” says Amanda Neveu as she wipes away the tears that gently wind down her cheeks. She recounting the terrible night in the spring of 2023 when her husband, Pascal, laid down in bed beside her and never woke.

Amanda kneels at the front of a group photo with her and her team and a large cake.Amanda sits in the quiet family sunroom at Coleman Care Centre, where she has worked in food services for nearly a decade, and she shares her story bravely, acknowledging how the small Coleman Care Centre Community and Schlegel Villages have helped carry her through the darkest period of her life.

She describes reaching over to shake her husband that night, wondering if a snore had woken her, and she knew instantly there was no life in him by the way his body failed to respond. Through all his 34 years, an underlying, dangerous heart condition called cardiomyopathy went undetected and on this horrific May night, his heart stopped and Amanda’s was left shattered.

Her voice is rough as she describes those first moments of realization, the result of scarring on her vocal cords after the painful screams that followed.

“I didn't hear the sound of breathing,” Amanda says. “I didn't hear anything and so I put my hands on his stomach and I noticed that there was no rise and fall, so I put my hand over his heart and there was no heartbeat.”

From that point on, her memory is a blur. “I was like a deer in headlights,” Amanda says. There was confusion, despair, and the screams of heartbreak, and the need to try and comfort their son, Atticus. At five years old, it can be hard for any child to comprehend such loss, but for Atticus who is autistic, there is an added challenge.

Months later if you ask Atticus where his Daddy is, he’ll respond: ‘Daddy’s in your heart.’

“That’s what I’ve taught him,” Amanda says through her tears. “I didn’t know what else to say.”

There’s something beautiful about that thought, she is assured; sometimes there is nothing more to say.

There’s a blankness that follows such tragedy, and in the hours that followed, Amanda was lost in chaos. Thankfully her grandmother is nearby, as are Pascal’s parents, and her Coleman Care Centre family was always close, with different members taking turns to be beside her in her grief and sorrow.

Some two days later, she received a call from Alam Raymon, the director of food services in the Village, who told her not to be alarmed when she noticed a deposit in her bank account on behalf of the Wilfred Schlegel Hope Fund.

“No sooner did she say that and it was there,” Amanda says of the cash deposit, which was made possible through the donations of team members from across Schlegel Villages and the Schlegel Family, which matches the donations.

Amanda was overwhelmed with emotion, knowing that the generosity of others was there for her in her darkest moments of worry; she hadn’t known how she might cover the cast of the cremation funeral arrangements, and now that concern had been alleviated.

She can hardly describe what it meant to have that help.

“I don't even know how to put it into words,” she says. “It was just the most amazing thing that I had ever experienced.”

She’s fiercely independent and not likely to ever let on when she needs help, yet her Schlegel Villages family was there to ask on her behalf, and the small ray of brightness that gift represented in the darkest instant offered a sliver of hope.

Ten months later, Amanda still struggles to believe what happened. She still expects the phone to ring with Pascal’s happy voice on the other line, but she’s there for her son and is able to find comfort in the community she has around her.

“Everyone made it known that they were there for me,” she says, “and I couldn’t be more thankful for my team.”


Consider donating to the Hope Fund here.