Written by Ryan Charles Parker
This is a story about dedication. A long chronicle of helping for the sake of others. A tale of self-sacrifice. An unfinished history of giving without any care of material reward or personal recognition.
For Mckenna, charitable work began early in her life. “The first notable time I began volunteering was when I was 8. I asked my friends for money instead of presents for my 9th birthday to buy sleeping bags and food vouchers for the homeless. That year we had a really cold winter and my little brain couldn’t fathom that there were people who actually had to sleep outside in the cold and didn’t have a warm house to go home to.”
But her contribution to the less fortunate didn’t end there. 3 years ago, RBC introduced an initiative for Canada’s 150th birthday wherein they provided $150 to people with an eye to using it for charity, in whatever method they chose. Mckenna was one of the recipients. And she made that money count. As Gloria Dersken, Executive Director for Central Alberta Victim & Witness Support and Mckenna’s nominator told me, “She challenged others in the community to do-nate $150 and due to her efforts raised over $12,000 which was donated to the Red Deer Health Foundation to purchase a much needed Billi Soft LED Photother-apy set for NICU.”
Raising that much money from just $150 takes a sustained effort and a good deal of dedication and goodwill. But that is just the type of person Mckenna is: always looking for a way to help.
Mckenna has been a volunteer with Gloria at Alberta Victim & Witness Support since February of 2018 and explains her role in the organization, “The main thing I do as an advocate is go out to call outs. The majority are (next of kin) notifications or suicides, and occasionally car accidents. I also go into the office and call victims of crime and tragedy…to see how they are doing. While I’m in the office I make care packages that we give out to victims with information on future supports, symptoms of grieving, the role of the medical examiner, etc. This sup-port is more being there for someone to talk to and making sure they aren’t alone during a difficult time, compared to raising money for a cause.”
This is not easy work. Needless to say, much of it is grim. It takes a big heart to be able to do such labour and not be negatively affected by it during day-to-day life. But Mckenna walks this tightrope with ease. As Gloria said, “…she has pursued this volunteer role with relentless perse-verance. She responds to crisis calls, attends training, meetings, and vari-ous events on behalf of VSU, all done with her same cheerful attitude.”
With that much on her plate, she informed me of an initiative she is now taking part of. " Recently, I’ve been raising money to create care packages for children in the Oncology Unit at the Alberta Children’s Hos-pital. Two of my friends and I made it possible for people to “sponsor a box”. It was $50 to sponsor a box, and you could pick the age group you’d like the box to go to. We have since raised enough for 50 boxes/packages filled with things from books to puzzles to board games to toothbrushes to blankets and socks. We also had many wonderful people make hand-made items to donate to the boxes and some classrooms have decorated the boxes!” The only task that remains for this project is to fill the pack-ages with the goods that have been so graciously donated. Oh, and she is attending college and works part-time.
Needless to say, Mckenna is overwhelmingly deserving of the award of Volunteer of the Month from Volunteer Central. Keep up the good work. The world is a better place for having you in it