Checking in with Steps for Life Durham

November 30, 2020

As the holidays near, this is normally the time of year where families plan to gather to celebrate together. And yet with the dynamics of the pandemic, that may not be possible in the same ways we’re accustomed coming together.

For some families, the holidays were forced to change when a family member was injured or killed in a workplace accident. Through the Steps For Life event on behalf of the Threads For Life, CRCS DKI works to support those families who have lost someone to a workplace accident.

“We started planning the 2020 event for May, back in October 2019,” said Steps For Life Durham co-chair Dermott Barrett. “This would have been our tenth year doing the event.”

Like most of the rest of the world, Threads For Life responded to COVID-19 by moving their programming online. Funds raised go towards projects that support those who have been affected by a workplace fatality, life-altering injury, or occupational illness.

At the forefront of the Threads Of Life efforts is the Volunteer Family Guides program, where a specially trained volunteer helps those living with the consequences of a workplace accident. Each of the guides is someone who has personally experienced the changes such accidents bring, using that experience to help build a personal connection and offer insights to those they guide. Each of these guides makes themselves available through phone calls, emails, and where possible, in-person meetings. They also provide connections to local organizations that can help offer additional support. More than 60 specially trained volunteer guides are already helping support families across Canada.

Each year, Family Forums have brought people together from across the country to build a support network among those affected by workplace accidents. For 2020, these events have also moved to the virtual world. Spouses, parents, siblings and friends gather to learn better coping skills, improve their understanding of the Occupational Health and Safety system, and so much more.

Additional efforts by Threads For Life also focus on the importance of information and connection. Prevention and Awareness programs include a Speakers Bureau, and the Steps For Life fundraising events.

“It was a meeting with the Durham School Board Health and Safety Committee that got me started with Steps For Life,” said Barrett, who was working for the Ontario Ministry of Labour. “I sort of got volunteered to be co-chair. Right away we were joined by great partners and strong community, and that continues to grow.”

Ryan Douglas of CRCS DKI agreed with the motivating power of the mission, and how that pulls the committee members together. “The committee just clicks. No one ever has to be asked to do something. No matter what needs to happen, people just step up.”

The committee has been successful in maintaining enough corporate sponsorships to ensure all funds raised by event participants go directly to Threads For Life – none of the funds raised pay for the event production itself. The funds raised are only part of the benefit of the Steps For Life events. As with the programming offered by Threads For Life, the community is strengthened through each event as more people get involved. Though that involvement is different in 2020 – this years’ Steps For Life event was a personal challenge to walk and fundraise and share the experience through social media – Douglas feels it indicates the high value of personal connection.

“The COVID Pandemic has shown the importance of the connections we’ve built so far, and how valuable it is to have those connections when we can’t gather in person. We’ll continue to prepare for future human interaction ahead.”

Despite all of the success built so far, Barrett admits that 2020 has been a challenge.

“The committee has done great work, and our sponsors have stepped up, but we’ve still struggled with donations,” said Barrett. “Everyone is tired and feeling apathetic these days, so we understand. We hope that people will continue to support Threads Of Life and the important work they do, especially when workplace Health and Safety has been brought to the forefront by the pandemic.”

You can donate to Threads Of Life directly, or reach out to Steps For Life Durham through their Facebook page.