Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Community looks after its own through tough times

by Bethany Davidson
Published in the June 18 edition of the Goderich Signal Star

I first saw her at the Goderich YMCA. She was one of those happy, sweaty ladies pounding through an aerobic class of some sort: cute workout clothes; lots of energy and friends and laughter. The next few times were at J’s Bistro on the Square. She and I would be there for a coffee or a breakfast date with our toddlers; the boys would size each other up as we waved across the room.

It didn’t take long for Colleen Edwards to introduce herself. We had something in common, noted she, so we should set up a play date for our youngsters. We exchanged numbers, and the rest is history.

Only we haven’t actually done that play-date thing yet. Turns out I’m selfish with really amazing people, and I’ve been scheduling all of our get-togethers for when the kids are away.

I did get to meet the rest of Colleen’s wonderful family, and a few of her many friends, too. On December 31, 2012, a bunch of us piled into Colleen and Al’s home to ring in the New Year – early, with plenty of juice boxes for the little ones. That’s how they roll: if Colleen and her gals want something done, it gets done their way.

Then came the abdominal pain. And the text message with the Big-C word in it. And the tears.

But it was action time. Colleen was only going to be in the hospital for one week following surgery, which was barely enough time for her friends to show some major love.

A secret Facebook group called “Colleen’s Crew” was created, and membership quickly cleared 40. A lot of Goderich-area locals, plus BFFs from Toronto and across the ocean, and of course Colleen's mom, met there as co-conspirators. All of a sudden, there was a dog-walking schedule, a dinner-making plan – even the rally-point for a back-yard makeover!

Kelly Karges got on the phone: soon, Gold Coast landscaping, Grayhaven Gardens and Art’s Landscaping had donated a ton of river rock, topsoil and plants to add to their dear friend’s surprise. Sommer Brothers Construction pitched in labour on a brand new deck and planters. Darryl Duncan’s landscaping expertise gave direction to crews of willing friends and the money they’d collected. The weekend of June 2nd and 3rd became a work bee on Trafalgar Street, amidst threatening weather forecasts and several hyper children (Melanie Norton-Ball kept those entertained; the weather took care of itself).

Colleen came home that Sunday. Ivy (five-year-old with an iron will) insisted that her mother enter the new back yard with her eyes closed. Taking Al’s hand, Colleen did what she does best: rose to the challenge without hesitation, smiling widely. What she saw when she opened her eyes was that major love I mentioned. Here’s a sampling…

“Colleen is the friend who loves you no matter what flaws you may have. People have said Colleen is lucky to have us as friends, but I feel like we are the lucky ones! I know she would do this for every one of us.” – Chris Wilson

“Colleen embraces you - once you know her, you don't get away! She has introduced me to most of my current friends. I think she knows everyone.” – Melanie Norton-Ball

“Colleen is my #1 cheerleader! She's always living her life to the fullest...something we all should be reminded to do!” – Kelly Karges

“I love it when she tilts her head just a bit and flashes that big old toothy smile; you know she is cooking up something fun. An hour with Colleen can be bit exhausting BUT in a really good way... it can take a bit of work to keep up with her!” – Teresa Marshall

“Colleen is like a rock... a talking, laughing, loving rock who would do anything for her friends... so a very animate, mobile rock, and much warmer and softer than just any old rock.” – Catherine Falconer

“You are a lucky person if you have the pleasure of knowing Colleen, and you always feel like you are never far from her thoughts.” – Lisa Taman

I’ll vouch for that. Here’s to you, Colleen, to your family, and to this community you’ve become such a vibrant part of!

Photo by Kelly Karges

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