An Estevan family has been recognized for their tireless work on behalf of the Canadian Diabetes Association.
Pat and Doug Fergusson, as well as their children Mark and Michelle were presented with the CDA’s National Volunteer of the Year Award at a ceremony Oct. 12 in Vancouver. The award is given annually to a volunteer, or volunteers, who go “above and beyond in supporting the work of the association.”
Pat Fergusson said she was initially stunned to learn they had received the award but after having time to digest the news was humbled by the honour.
“It was nothing that we had gone looking for, which probably isn’t unusual,” Pat said. “I was able to put my feelings together when we were actually at the awards ceremony. With an association like the diabetes association, the work is still so ongoing, there is just so much more to do, that I think it’s not recognizing the end of an achievement. But I backed up and I thought, it’s really nice that the organization recognizes long-term volunteers, and as we did the thank you for the program, I kind of thought we have done a lot of things and you step back and reflect. It was really rather sweet of the people that wrote the letters for us.
“It was nice too, for our kids to see that when you do volunteer, people notice and you are making a difference.”
Making a difference for Canadian families that are impacted by diabetes is almost second nature to the Fergussons. Doug has lived with Type 1 diabetes for a number of years and Mark was diagnosed at the age of three.
Pat said that after Mark was diagnosed, they began attending a family camp sponsored by the CDA, which included support groups for parents. After attending for two years as participants, the Fergussons were asked to return as the host family and lead the support sessions.
From there the family’s involvement with the CDA snowballed into other avenues such as provincial advocacy for the pumps for kids program and approaching the Saskatchewan government to add new insulins to the provincial formulary. They have also been to Ottawa to lobby the federal government for the national drug plan.
Mark has become a strong voice for children with diabetes, attending the children’s camps and giving presentations on behalf of the camps in Regina. The family has also been active locally, bringing in different speakers with connections to diabetes and sharing their experiences with families going through similar experiences.
“You have to take the situation you are given in life and not let it inhibit you, but take it and make the most of everything you can to appreciate it,” Pat said. “I know I have heard Doug say it so defines who he is, he couldn’t even imagine now not having the disease. I know that sounds kind of weird, but it just becomes part of who you are.”
Pat added that although they were familiar with the disease through Doug, when Mark was diagnosed they were forced to undergo a whole new learning curve.
“You can’t make a decision without it impacting your life so there is just no escaping it,” she said. “One of the things we were involved in was working with the schools. As an educator I realized this is going to take a lot of groundwork to have a kid in kindergarten.
“It’s a story that so many families are touched by.”
In a press release from the Saskatchewan branch of the CDA, the Fergussons were further honoured for their volunteerism and efforts as a family to “being part of the solution."
“Diabetes affects the whole family and the Fergussons take a group approach to being part of the solution. They have made the Canadian Diabetes Association’s mission their lifestyle, and as such are most worthy recipients of the 2012 National Volunteer of the Year Award,” said Leah Domoney, public programs and services co-ordinator for the CDA in Saskatchewan.
“The Fergusson family has taken their experience of having two family members living with diabetes in a rural community and given a voice to others. They are an inspiration to other families dealing with the challenges of diabetes and are wonderful ambassadors for the association.”