Donna representing Threads of Life at a fundraiser ball hockey tournament

Donna Van Bruggen’s life was shattered on October 17, 2012 when her son David was killed at work. Donna began a journey to heal her own personal grief and ultimately became a champion to help others living with the aftermath of a workplace tragedy. Donna is a dedicated volunteer and impactful speaker delivering presentations about workplace safety and injury prevention. She is a kind and compassionate human being and this profile shares a little bit about her.


I remember standing in my living room after I returned from my son David’s funeral. I wondered how I would face this deep grief alone and how to begin my journey to healing. Some months later I found out about Threads of Life and was invited to attend the next Family Forum in Edmonton. When I arrived at the Family Forum, I was a little anxious about being with a group of people I had never met before. When I left the Family Forum two days later, I had found a second family. It was the first time I had been able to verbally express how David’s death affected me as his mother. Previously, when friends and acquaintances would ask about the tragedy, their questions were always about how David’s wife and 4 young children were doing. No one asked how I was doing. My Threads of Life family changed that and I finally felt heard and supported.


Volunteering has been a part of my life since I was in my teens. In high school I volunteered to sell tickets and snacks at football and basketball games. I looked after young children so their parents could spend time together and attend an activity. I helped decorate the gym for dances.  Throughout my life, I have had ample volunteer activities through my church. That could be anything from having a community food drive to refill Food Bank shelves, help people move, clean their homes and do yard work, prepare meals for someone who was ill, visit the lonely and whatever else needed doing. I have taught classes at church to women’s and children’s and youth groups.


I volunteer with Threads of Life because I believe that I can make a difference to at least one family – that their loved one will be able to come home safe each and every day. I have a dream that one day no other family will ever receive that phone call or that knock on the door and find out their loved one will never come home again or has been seriously injured. But until that day, there is much work to be done. And I am honored and humbled to be a part of this great Threads of Life work.  One of my favorite sayings is “Be not weary in well doing. For out of small things comes that which is great”.


I have so many wonderful memories, particularly with the speaker’s bureau. I would say my most favorite memory has happened three times. After I have finished my presentation about my son David, there’s a first group of people who come up to me right away to say thank you and offer condolences. And they quickly leave. Then there’s a second group who hang back a little until the first group has gone. This second group needs to speak to me a little longer either about something that happened in their lives around workplace safety or to ask me a question about my presentation. Then there’s the third group. They tend to be more quiet and shy and they patiently wait alone at the back of the room until everyone else has spoken with me and then left the room. As I walk to the back and get ready to leave, the quiet, shy ones (who so far have been large males) give me a heartfelt hug and say “David would be so proud of you.” Their remarks bring instant tears to my eyes.