In 2011 Durham Steps for Life held its first walk and has been a growing success ever since. This is a testament to the dedicated group of committee volunteers, many of whom have been there since day one.

The dedication, passion and magic of this committee shines through in all the original members who are still as focused and dedicated as they were 12 years ago.

Kerri Stewart, the Committee Co-Chair reflected on how she learned about Threads of Life in 2010 after attending a speakers bureau presentation. She had the opportunity to chat with Threads of Life volunteer speaker Bill Bowman who shared information about Steps for Life walks. With the closest walk being Toronto, Bill suggested they start a committee and walk in Durham Region. After attending a few meetings that brought the group together, Kerri said “we were ‘all in’ and said ‘let’s do this’,” and the Durham committee was formed.

A group of people stand in yellow t-shirts and reflective vests that read "volunteer" across the back.

Durham Region Steps for Life is fortunate to have a blend of loyal members who’ve been there from Day One, plus new volunteers among its committee and event volunteers.

The committee is robust with most of their original founding members along with new ones they have welcomed along the way. Cristal Diemer-Ewles, Committee Member attributes their success as a committee to “working well because we have a good relationship” and they “have a commitment to Threads of Life but also a commitment to each other”. Lucas Curran joined the committee in 2021 and shares he appreciated the support from the committee. “Everyone works well together and there is a great alignment between Threads of Life, Steps for Life and OPG and the safety culture,” Lucas says, “and it has been a real pleasure working with the planning committee and participating in the Steps for Life.”

In its second year, the committee had a family member join. They shared that none of the founding members had been personally affected by tragedy, so when Patti Penny joined it put it all into perspective for the group, confirming why they organize the walk. Patti’s presence there “solidified our understanding of who we were working to help and support,” Cristal says. The personal connection was immense for the committee. Dermott Barrett, Committee Co-Chair shared that they all have a “connection to health and safety in our roles and that provides a good foundation for why we help”.

While understanding there is a serious message to be delivered, they still want to keep the walk fun and family-friendly. Even the committee members’ families get involved! All the members enjoy having an added touch for the kids by including Home Depot workshops, fire trucks and various other activities that bring families together. This year, Home Depot generously donated door prizes that left walkers going home with flower baskets and lawn tools. The committee works to add a new element each year to keep it fun.

On the day of the walk the committee gets so much joy out of seeing the “sea of yellow” – seeing everyone walk together brings the committee members back year after year. Dermott says he enjoys the local connection: they get more out of seeing and supporting members of their community. All the members love seeing familiar faces of teams that walk every year. The mix of family teams and workplace teams brings diversity to the walk.

Cristal highlights the importance of having a family spokesperson to open the walk is key. That personal story reminds everyone why they walk.

The committee talks about succession planning to continue the success of the Durham Steps for Life and they have welcomed new members over the years. However no one is even thinking about leaving anytime soon – this group of volunteers are truly committed. Dermott shares that past members have left due to relocation or a change in job roles but no one has left because they don’t want to continue.

When asked why they love volunteering for Threads of Life, Kerri echoes Dermott’s thoughts that when a volunteer role “aligns with the work that we do on a daily basis” it becomes a natural fit.