There’s a spirit of generosity within The Village of Winston Park that Susette McGrath and Hilda Zuzinjak have seen regularly in their respective 30 and 20 years working there that instills a sense of pride. When a team member is in need, the Winston Park community steps up, they say; it always has. As Susette recalls the most recent display of this village spirit in action, quiet tears well in her eyes.
Susette and Hilda first met Wendy Miller when she began working at The Village some 20 years ago, and the friendship was instant. They speak of Wendy’s humble compassion, her kindness and her willingness to help others.
Though Wendy moved on 10 years later to work as a nurse consultant with the Schlegel Villages Support Office, they remained close, and Hilda and Susette see her regularly during her village visits.
They know her well enough to know that her family has been struggling in recent years. Wendy’s daughter Mackenzie lives with a rare and chronic condition known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, which has no clearly understood cause and no known cure. What is known is the constant pain Mackenzie is in and the growing financial burden that comes with supporting her and helping her live well through the constant daily challenges.
“Wendy is a wonderful, great person,” Susette says simply, so one day Hilda and Susette told her they were going to find a way to help. Alongside two other longtime team members, Branka Kilibrada and Pavlinka Iankova, they set a goal to raise $20,000 to pay for Elsa, the service dog the family recently brought into the family to support MacKenzie.
On July 23, Winston Park residents, team and family members hosted friends from other villages and the Miller family’s extended community for a barbecue in show of support. The efforts have gone well beyond that, however: there have been ongoing 50/50 draws; a GoFund Me page is still active with more than $1,300 in the fund as of July 26; Susette will walk down Main Street to begin a shift and residents will offer her a 10 or 20 dollar bill.
A loved one is in need and people want to help.
“This fundraiser has been absolutely amazing,” Susette says, thinking back to the tears in Mackenzie’s grandparent’s eyes the day of the barbecue when they saw the joy in their granddaughter’s face – joy that is often hard to see through the pain.
The reason efforts have been successful with somewhere near $5,000 raised so far is simple. “It’s because it’s Wendy,” Susette says, “and everybody loves Wendy.” Hilda points out that Wendy “is a humble person,” but the generosity, kindness and compassion she shows for all her neighbours, from Kitchener to Guatemala, can only come full circle.
These friends and loved ones may never take Mackenzie’s pain away, but they can let her know she and her family will never be alone, and there’s a simple beauty in that support.
Susette, Hilda, Branka and Pavlinka wish to thank everyone who has helped and donated – their appreciation can’t be overstated. Click here for Mackenzie’s GoFund me page.