By Claire Parker, Wood’s Homes 2016 Never Give Up Gala Speaker
A few weeks ago I was asked if I would be willing to attend the Wood’s Homes 2016 Never Give Up Gala. The purpose was for me to share our experience with the Whole Family Treatment Program we had participated in earlier this year. I was extremely flattered to say the least, and extremely anxious and nervous. Doing something like this would force me to step WAY out of my comfort zone. But, I thought about my kids and all the families that need help, and that motivated me to say yes. What I didn’t realize when I accepted the offer, was just how much I would gain personally from this experience.
In true Wood’s Homes fashion, my boys and I were looked after every step of the way. Beforehand, we were thanked profusely for agreeing to be part of this major event. On the night of the Gala, we arrived at the Hyatt and were greeted and attended to like true celebrities. None of this surprised me; from the very beginning of my experience with Wood’s Homes, we have been treated like royalty. The encouragement and support I got to help me get over my public speaking jitters was unsurpassable. It was because of all this support that I was able to go up, in front of 450 people, and share our story. I have to admit that speaking in front of all those people, by myself, absolutely shocked everyone who knows me. And I wouldn’t have gotten through it as gracefully as I did without the amazing people affiliated with Wood’s Homes.
The event itself was classy, fun and inspiring. The organization was stellar from the fabulous meal and tech savvy silent auction, to the production of the evening entertainment. And, despite the state of Alberta’s economy, the donors were generous. It was a truly remarkable event.
It was after I finished speaking that completely took me by surprise. I am not sure what I expected; I had never stood up publicly and shared my family’s journey before. But what happened was overwhelming. I was approached by so many people. Strangers came up to me and hugged me, they cried in my arms, they encouraged me and told me what an extraordinary woman I am. One lady brought me flowers and, when I told her I didn’t often get flowers, she burst into tears and hugged me as tight as she could. Another woman brought over several pieces of paper, one for me and one for each of my boys. She had written encouraging words, calling my boys “super heroes” and telling me that I was a true example of “resilience and success.” Some told me of their own struggles with their kids, or their sister’s or someone else they cared for. Others talked to me about the ‘dream’ of the Whole Family Treatment Program and how finally that dream was coming true. One little girl, who sat at the table next to ours, came over to hug me not once, but twice. She couldn’t have been more than 7-years-old. Her Mother explained to me that she wasn’t prompting her daughter, that the little one just felt compelled to come over and comfort me. I was told my story gave new spirit to the fundraising efforts to support the Whole Family Treatment Program.
That evening made me stand back and take a good hard look in the mirror. For the first time ever I felt proud of myself, for what I had to say had made a difference. It felt like all those years of struggle finally had meaning. I was part of something that is bigger than myself and it is a feeling I will remember for the rest of my life. I will never be able to thank Wood’s Homes enough for what they have done for my boys, my family and for me personally. I didn’t realize that one evening could make my spirit grow so significantly.
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For more photos from our 2016 Never Give Up Gala, check out our Facebook album.
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