Keeragh Robertson Has Come Full Circle
“My name is Keeragh Robertson and I am a past participant at Seasons Centre. I first joined the Centre when I was 13 after losing my dad to soft tissue cancer.
Like all little girls, my dad was my hero. He was brave and strong, and I thought he was invincible. When I lost him, I was scared and confused. It didn’t seem real. My last memory was saying goodbye in the hospital. He looked so small and fragile. He didn’t look like the big strong man I knew. I told him that it was okay to let go, that he didn’t need to keep fighting, that he didn’t have to hurt anymore. I promised him that I would take care of everyone, just as he always had.
After he was gone I felt isolated, like I was lost at sea. I couldn’t find a way to honour my promise to him. I spent too much time alone, I didn’t want to see anyone or do anything. I was depressed and angry, and afraid of losing anyone else. That was when I found Seasons. Even to this day, I remember how warm Seasons was, how safe it made me feel, in a time where I had forgotten what safety felt like. But I was nervous joining my first group, afraid my feelings wouldn’t be validated, and that I would stay out at sea.
I was wrong. Seasons was, and is, a safe harbor for hundreds of kids who have lost a loved one. Sitting in group, and knowing that each of those faces staring back at me had felt the same loss made it easier to share my own experience. They were kind, and patient, and let me work through things in whatever way made sense. Even though I was in the teen group, we would go upstairs and play in the ball pit and in the volcano room. We could work out the anger and frustration that had built up over a week. We could forget about our loss for a while.
I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but one day, the grief was less. It stopped feelings as if I was left out at sea, and that I had found my way into shore. Because of this, when the next person joined our group, I was able to help them grieve in the same way my group had helped me. We built a community; formed by our loss, but built on our understanding for each other. Through this, we were able to honour our loved ones, and help each other grieve.
While at Seasons Centre, I found myself wanting to do more. I wanted to help as many kids get through this process as possible, to show them that their worst days could be behind them too. I began to volunteer as a buddy with the Siblings and Friends children’s group.
During this time, I saw a different face of grief. Every aspect of the children’s play was geared towards understanding what had happened to their loved ones. They would play doctor, and never be able to save a patient. They would throw balls around the pit with an energy and aggression that seemed too large to contain. Sometimes, they would be quiet and sit in a corner to reflect. They were open in their grief, and constantly shared aspects of their experience.
After I graduated from high school, my time at Seasons’ Centre came to an end. I moved out of Barrie for a while, but the Centre still stayed with me. When anyone would ask about my dad, I would tell them how losing him brought me to Seasons, and how I was so grateful to have it in my life. When I moved back home to Barrie, I felt the need to get involved again. With a college schedule, it didn’t seem like I was going to be able to volunteer as a buddy, so I decided to pursue other avenues, which is what led me here today.
I am now able to help Seasons Centre in a different way, through a placement role with the Development office. Through my experiences at Seasons, I have come to understand how vital it is to the community and to those who utilize the services. I am proud to be able to honour my father by giving back to Seasons, so that they may continue to help those in need.”
Saves for Seasons – Tye Greschuk
In 2015, Rama Aces goaltender, Tye Greschuk decided his last junior hockey season should be a meaningful one. He launched the Saves for Seasons Campaign to raise money for Seasons Centre for Grieving Children. The personable goalie vowed to donate $1 for every safe he made to the organization that helped his family in their time of need. When Greschuk was in grade 10, his mom died following a lengthy illness.
“It was awful, but I was 15 at the time and I was kind of able to deal with it”, said Greschuk, now 21. “But for my sister, she was 11 and it seemed to hit her harder. As an older brother, I didn’t know what to say or how to help and my dad found it really tough.”
Thankfully, they found Seasons, which provides peer to peer support groups for children aged 5 to 24 who are grieving the death or life-threatening illness of an immediate family member. It helped Greschuk and his sister, Paige, deal with the devastating loss of their mother.
“They helped take my sister off a dark road and brought light back into their life,” said Greschuk. “It was something our family will never forget.”
The Aces goalie anted up $661 – one dollar for every save he made. But many others were also inspired to contribute. Even though the Aces folded at the end of the season, its one-time owner and general manager, Pat Geary, contributed to the cause, as did the owners of the Temiscaming Titans, the team that ousted the Aces in the second round of last year’s playoffs. “After Temiscaming eliminated us from the playoffs, I had a chance to meet their ownership group and their coaches and, at that point, they told me they were making a donation to Seasons on my behalf, which was just one of the coolest moments; to have this expand to another province and just to see all the support was incredible”, he said. “I am just so thankful for the support,” said Greschuk who noted the cheque presentation was an emotional moment. “A lot of people might expect it to be a sad place, but for us, it’s a place of happy memories,” he said of Seasons. “In the room that we made the presentation, on the wall, there are handprints of kids who have lost their parents. They’re always part of the house, so it was a powerful room to be in”. In a tumultuous on-ice campaign that ended with the club folding, Greschuk, who also battled illness and injury during the season, said the Saves for Seasons campaign was a salvation of sorts.
“It gave my playing a purpose”, said Greschuk, who works full-time at Molson and helps teach goaltending to kids at the Barrie-based Canadian Goaltending Academy. “Every junior player wants to win a championship, but so few get to accomplish that; winning isn’t everything. I think it’s important to support our community, so from that perspective, it was a great way to end my hockey career”. He is considering a career as a sports psychologist, but, after his family’s experience at Seasons Centre, he would also not rule out working with kids dealing with grief. Tye has also inspired other youngsters to fundraise as well. Young Emily Vanderstelt, a past participant of Seasons Centre as well ran her own “Saves for Seasons” campaign raising money each time she had a shut out.
The Vanderstelt Family
Former participant and now super star goalie Emily Vanderstelt decided that she wanted to give back to the place that helped her and her family when they needed it. Through her “Saves for Seasons” campaign she raised $270! Each time Emily had a shut out she would receive a donation – and with 27 shut outs it didn’t take long to accumulate a nice donation to Seasons Centre for Grieving Children.
Emily, now aged 11, was just six years old when she joined the program at Seasons Centre. Emily came to Seasons because her baby brother Ben died in 2009, just before she turned five. Emily’s mom, Kristin, shared with us that until the moment her brother died Emily was a happy, caring and compassionate child. Gradually in the days and weeks after Ben’s death Emily regressed. She became angry and lashed out at everyone around her, refusing to do the simplest tasks such as brushing her teeth. Her parents, Kristin and Brian, didn’t know what to do and sought help. They took Emily to a therapist who explained that she couldn’t give Emily what she needed as she felt that Emily needed to be with other children who understood how she felt, and that is when they found Seasons Centre. When Emily joined group her parents noticed changes. After every group Emily would bring home the activity she had completed that night and placed it on a shelf where she kept all of her activities. Each one was a reminder of a lesson that she had learned in group. Emily was able to explain her behaviour, she learned to talk about her emotions and when she was having a bad day she would ask “how many sleeps until I go to Seasons?” Emily got back to being the little girl she was before Ben died. To this day Emily still has a collection of activities that she completed at Seasons Centre. One activity that happens with young participants is called “The Feelings in My Body”. With the help of a volunteer buddy they create an outline of their body and use words, colours and pictures to show the different sensations in their body that are triggered by their emotios, then they talk about what those emotions might be. Emily left group in 2012 feeling ready to walk her path without group. “The Feelings in Her Body” still hangs on the back of her bedroom door as a reminder every day of the lessons she learned in her time in group. In 2014 Emily approached us to ask if she could give back. We are so grateful to hear about Emily’s success and to be a part of her desire to give back.