A headshot of a woman with shoulder length blonde hair. She has bright blue eyes. There are many different paths to healing. For Threads of Life volunteer Katie Giesbrecht, sharing her personal experience has proved to be one of those paths. Katie is a Threads of Life volunteer speaker and a newly-trained Volunteer Family Guide. She has also helped with family forums, and assists with Steps for Life. 

Katie first learned about Threads of Life through her daughter, around two years after the death of Katie’s son Bryan. Katie and her daughter Nikki attended a family forum, where Katie realized how much she needed the support, but how reluctant she felt to face some of the emotions she was dealing with. 

A year or so later, Katie volunteered to join the speakers’ bureau. 

“It was personal,” she says. “I thought that maybe this was something I could do to help me. It was an opportunity to talk about Bryan, and I felt like I needed to vent.” And while sharing her story did become healing, it went way beyond venting. 

“After my first presentation, I felt like I did have something to say,” a safety message to contribute, she adds. “If at least one person, one kid truly hears me, then it’s meaningful.”

Her favourite memory of volunteering was a presentation she made at a major oil and gas site in Fort McMurray. The company was holding a safety stand-down for all its employees. As Katie was preparing to speak, “the buses kept pulling in; they kept setting up more chairs.” In the end there were roughly 3500 people in the audience, and “it was just wild that the company had gone out of their way to hear my story. I realized it did make a difference for those people.”

After a number of years and many presentations, Katie decided recently to add Volunteer Family Guide to her volunteer roles, seeing it as a next step for her. She feels a little daunted by the idea of supporting someone this way, but knows how important it is to find “that person who doesn’t judge, but can just listen.”

For Katie and her family, volunteering is built into their values. She has always volunteered for various community organizations, and her son Bryan also volunteered from the time he was a kid. So for her, volunteering is reaching back to honour Bryan’s memory, and reaching forward to make sure his legacy is a strong one. 

“Bryan was just born with this kind heart,” Katie says. For her, volunteering is about “those moments in life when you can think ‘maybe I helped somebody’.”