The Store Upstairs Amazing Heart Nominees

Pharmasave Amazing Heart – a woman whose humanity and compassion have touched the lives of others.

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Betina Fillion

A 33-year-old mother of three, Betina Fillion, along with husband John Langenau, has endured every parent’s nightmare: life-threateningly sick children.

In April 2012, son Easton fell ill with invasive group A streptococcal sepsis. “For 16 days I stayed by his side in the hospital … it was pure relief when he turned the corner and started to get better,” Fillion says.

One week after Easton was discharged, daughter Payton was diagnosed with invasive group A streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. Doctors said they had one chance to save Payton’s life, and put her on a heart and lung bypass machine called ECLS. Fillion stayed by her side and after six days Payton made it off life support and began a long recovery, beating what had been 50-50 odds.

Looking back, I wonder where I got the strength to keep going.

“Looking back, I wonder where I got the strength to keep going. We took it one moment at a time and got through it as a family,” Fillion says

Upon learning the ECLS program at the Alberta Children’s Hospital was donor-funded, Fillion began volunteering on behalf of the hospital foundation. Today, she speaks at fundraisers and events to raise money and awareness. Langenau is in awe of his wife.

“Betina’s an amazing, strong woman who held our family together,” he says. “She believes we could never repay for our children’s lives and wants to pay forward our good fortune to as many as she can.”

Caroline Filip-Muyser

Caroline Filip-Muyser is one tough cookie.

In March 2010, Filip-Muyser developed flu-like symptoms, but they just kept getting worse. “My husband remembers me telling him, ‘I think my head is swollen,’” she says. “I don’t remember a lot of what happened in the next seven to 10 days.”

Her husband took her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with encephalitis – a virus that attacks the brain, causing swelling and killing brain tissue. She spent a total of 32 days on an IV and required extensive rehabilitation.

“The brain is very pliable and – with a lot of hard work – I have managed to make a full recovery,” she says.

The most rewarding part of owning the salon is having a continued relationship with the residents

Prior to her illness, Filip-Muyser worked at Bethany Airdrie care centre as a personal care aide and then a recreation therapist assistant. But she’d also been a hair stylist on the side and was able to take over the hair salon at the Bethany once she was back on her feet.

“The most rewarding part of owning the salon is having a continued relationship with the residents,” she says. “A lot of them see the salon as a hub of visiting and fun.”

The 44-year-old has been married to the “man of her dreams” for 25 years and is the proud mother of two daughters. To the delight of their mother, both young women visit Filip-Muyser at the salon, where they admire her rapport with the customers.

“I truly think her heart is so big that it makes Bethany Care a better place,” says daughter Angel.

Diane Gibeau

“Leaving your child in the care of another person has to be one of the hardest things to do in life,” says Alanna Bryant. “Diane Gibeau has, for 20-some years, loved and cared for her day home children like they were her own.”

After having her second child 24 years ago, Gibeau decided to leave her executive secretary position to stay home and start her own business. “I had discovered as a teenager … that I loved working with children, so I decided to open my home to other people’s children,” she says. “The joy these little ones bring me is incredible.”

The joy these little ones bring me is incredible

Currently, she takes care of preschool-aged children and loves watching them grow up and learn new things. “The little ones in my care are like an extension of my family and I have been truly blessed that the parents in my day home treat me like a family friend – or grandma,” she says.

Gibeau is an active volunteer and has helped out with Airdrie BMX and the Airdrie Festival of Lights. She has also been a Girl Guide leader for many years and volunteers once a month at the Brenda Strafford Centre and at Abbey Dale House in Calgary.

She is an Usui and Karuna Reiki practitioner and teacher, a talent she shares where needed.

“Every year a group of other Reiki practitioners and myself volunteer at the Airdrie Relay for Life, providing complementary introductory energy healing treatments to the relay participants,” Gibeau says.

Gayla Worden – FINALIST

Gayla Worden has dedicated her life to teaching and her passion for the job is palpable.

Worden had already been teaching for seven years when she transferred in September 1985 – 30 years ago – to R.J. Hawkey School, where she still works today as a music teacher. “My love of working with and meeting new people, young and old, drew me into teaching,” she says.

Worden is a staunch advocate for the arts in education and considers herself lucky to work at R.J. Hawkey, where the music program has been well supported by colleagues, parents and the administration.

“For me,” she says, “music is the voice of the soul and for many students the music room provides a safe place to relax and learn the universal language of music. It gives them the freedom to express themselves, [to] work with others and to be creative.”

music is the voice of the soul

With help from parents and other teachers, Worden produces five musicals a year and leads two choirs. Additionally, she has held an executive position with the Fine Arts Council of the Alberta Teacher’s Association for years and has chaired many conferences around the province.

“She should be recognized for her love, dedication and commitment to the R.J. Hawkey drama and music programs, as well as her love for the students and her zest for life,” says parent Jacqui Jepson.

Kathy Ritcher

Kathy Ritcher wears her heart on her sleeve.

She is the manager of executive and administrative services for Boys and Girls Club of Airdrie (BGCA) – a cause in which she believes deeply. “The most rewarding part of my job is being part of such an amazing organization that cares for the children and youth in our community,” she says.

Ritcher is proud to watch the children and youth who frequent the club’s services grow up. “It is very fulfilling knowing that in some aspect you are an influence in their lives. I love what BGCA stands for; it truly is a good place to be,” she says.

She never has any time for herself

Ritcher loves to volunteer and helps out in the community – including at BGCA events – whenever she can, along with the rest of her family.

She has been married to husband Stephan for six years and together they have a busy, blended family complete with three teenagers. Her father also lives with them, as does her niece, Courtney Varga. Ritcher’s passion for the community and dedication to her family and her work do not go unnoticed by her loved ones.

“She spends her days at the BGCA … and she spends her nights coming home and taking care of her family. She never has any time for herself,” says Varga. “Her heart is filled with love for the community of Airdrie.”

Kristin Brown

Kristin Brown is a registered dietician working at Simply for Life, a nutrition education and weight loss clinic in Airdrie.

Brown, who grew up in a small Nova Scotia town called Antigonish, studied nutrition at St. Francis Xavier University. In her youth she was a competitive highland dancer and her experience with dance inspired her love of fitness and healthy living.

Today, she is a much-loved nutritionist who takes pride in the relationships she builds through her work. “It is so incredibly rewarding to watch my clients reach their weight and health-related goals,” she says.

it is so incredibly rewarding to watch my clients reach their weight and health-related goals

Brown is passionate about her job and her insights, dedication and commitment do not go unnoticed. “Her clients are not just clients; they are her personal charges. She loves each one with such compassion that her clients continue to come to see her for encouragement and love,” says Shanna Cline, a client and co-worker.

Brown brings an infectious energy to her day-to-day tasks and has seen firsthand how a positive attitude can help her clients overcome the difficult task of changing lifestyle and eating habits for the better.

“I see [more than] 100 people each and every week and I always want them to leave feeling encouraged and excited about the week ahead,” she says.

Linsey Jay – FINALIST

“Linsey is always willing to go beyond to help others and never asks for anything in return or even expects any of the credit that she deserves,” says her husband, Jeff Jay. “She always puts others’ needs before her own.”

Born and raised in Airdrie, Linsey Jay is now a stay-at-home mom to four children and two stepchildren. She runs a day home and volunteers extensively.

“I keep very busy … as a volunteer mom at my kids’ school. I am a treasurer for my sons’ hockey team and have been on the Fuzzy Pickles Playschool board for three years,” Linsey says, adding that she attended Fuzzy Pickles Playschool herself 30 years ago and is thrilled to be involved today on behalf of her own children.

The busy mom is also very involved in Airdrie’s Japanese exchange program and has taken two students to Japan for two weeks for each of the last three summers.

Giving back to the community is very important to me

“Giving back to the community is very important to me. I believe volunteering strengthens your community and makes it a better place to live,” she says.

Family means a lot to Linsey. Her parents and sister all live in Airdrie and they remain close-knit and supportive of one another. Her own parenting style, she says, is inspired by her own wonderful upbringing. “It’s important [to me] to raise my children the same, with values and honesty,” she says.

Lisa Lysak

Lisa Lysak’s career has deeply personal roots.

A registered nurse, Lysak was inspired to join the medical field after her oldest son, Jacob, was born with a benign tumour on his leg. With no clear treatment plan available, she and her husband decided to leave the tumour alone and over time it began to shrink.

Meanwhile, Lysak had a second son and immersed herself in learning more about her eldest boy’s tumour. “I wanted to educate myself about it and because of that I decided to become a unit clerk,” she says.

She has the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met

The young mother was struggling with postpartum depression and, at the urging of her husband, made a plan for her future. “I realized I wanted to work in ICU as a nurse one day and decided to go back to school when my youngest son was in the first grade – that was my goal,” she says.

And that’s exactly what Lysak did.

“The impact of dealing with such a traumatizing event has given her strength and resolve,” says husband Steve Lysak. “She has the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met.”

Lisa started the nursing program at Mount Royal University right on schedule. She continued to work, study and raise her sons all at once. At the behest of the other students, she even shared her story with the crowd at their graduation – a huge honour. But best of all, on Dec. 21, 2011, the Lysak family learned that Jacob’s tumour had completely vanished.

Lisa Silva

Lisa Silva has worked at Blue Grass Nursery, Sod & Garden Centre for a remarkable 15 years.

Today, Silva is the marketing and call centre manager and, in addition to planning the yearly marketing and advertising strategy and budget, oversees the company’s charitable endeavours.

She is an amazing woman for all her efforts to raise funds for local and worthwhile charities

“Lisa … has worked so hard over the years as the lead on our annual fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital, Pumpkin Fest,” says her boss, Sherri Slater. “She is an amazing woman for all her efforts to raise funds for local and worthwhile charities.”

The Pumpkin Festival is a family-friendly event with such activities as pumpkin carving, photo booths and an exciting giant pumpkin smash. Last October, three pumpkins ranging from 400 to 1,100 pounds were dropped from more than 120 feet – a sight to see.

Silva has been involved since the event’s inception in 2004 when she planned the then small fundraiser for the first time. Last year’s event was the most successful to date, raising $39,820.

“In the 11 years I have been involved with Pumpkin Festival, we have donated $4,000 to STARS Air Ambulance and $195,000 to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation,” she says. “I work really hard and Pumpkin Fest is my opportunity to see our community come together.”

Melanie Lacroix

Cat and dog owners in Airdrie are in good hands, thanks to The Cat Next Door.

Owned by Melanie Lacroix and her partner, Cheryl Lindberg, the business offers professional, certified pet sitting and pet first aid certificate classes, among other services.

“We are also called upon to assess behavioural issues within a household with feline issues,” explains Larcroix. “Understanding what an animal is trying to communicate to you can sometimes be difficult to understand or recognize.”

Larcroix is an active member of the local community of pet owners and is passionate about animals, wearing her heart on her sleeve. “I am very involved in helping locate lost animals and in educating [residents] about pet safety and responsible pet ownership,” she says.

The help she offers pet owners in moments of need truly comes from her heart and is driven by her own love of animals. “I don’t rush out in the middle of the night for a hurt or lost animal for the recognition, but because I truly want to ensure their safe return home,” she says.

Melanie has the kindest heart of anyone I know

Lacroix’s partner is her No. 1 fan. “Melanie has the kindest heart of anyone I know, and her best shining moments are when she is helping people and animals,” says Lindberg.

In addition to a successful business, the two also have two young sons and – ever the animal lovers – 11 cats, two dogs, fish and crested geckos.

Michelle Bates – 2016 Recipient

Michelle Bates is a truly inspiring woman.

Bates and her family moved to Airdrie in fall 2009 and, soon after, son Lane got a cold. Faced with the choice of waking him up, travelling to a different community with 24-7 urgent care and waiting for hours to see a doctor, she and her husband decided to let him sleep – he didn’t even have a fever.

“Lane woke up in the night and very quickly we knew something was wrong,” she says. “He suddenly passed away on Oct. 26, 2009.”

Thirteen months after Lane died, her youngest daughter, Alyssa, woke up sick and Bates and her husband soon found themselves driving through a terrible snowstorm to Didsbury. “We were lucky to have gotten there and back safely. between my grief, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and being so scared for my girls’ lives … I  was on the verge of losing it,” she says. “Then I thought, ‘Why don’t we have 24-7 health care
in Airdrie?’”

No one wants urgent care open 24 hours a day as much as I do

Bates met with then-MLA Rob Anderson and Mayor Peter Brown and founded the Airdrie Health Foundation – a fundraising entity of Airdrie Health Services (AHS). The organization raises money to enhance the facility and community, and is pushing for adequate, around-the-clock health care. So far, more than $200,000 has been raised.

“No one wants urgent care open 24 hours a day as much as I do,” Bates says. “The Airdrie Health Foundation is working with AHS and other stakeholders to make that possible.”

Bates has earned plenty of admirers for her advocacy on behalf of the community. “She is a woman who has taken the greatest of tragedies and turned it into change for all in our community,” says Shelley Bitz. “Through her pain and suffering, she has chosen to make a difference to other families.”

Tracy Osborne

Tracy Osborne has called Airdrie home for 54 years now.

Osborne grew up on her grandparents’ farm south of the city back when the population was around 1,000 people. A portion of the land she was raised on, in fact, was recently dedicated “Osborne Park” in memoriam of her grandparents’ contributions to the community.

“My grandfather taught me to give without remembering and receive without forgetting,” she says.

Today, she is a stay-at-home, single mom to 13-year-old daughter Kara. Osbourne lost her older brother when she was a teenager and the experience had a profound impact on her life. She is grateful for every day, and for her own and her daughter’s health. “We both have two arms and two legs, and a healthy heart that beats. We have a roof over our heads,” she says.

To give back, Osborne volunteers when possible. She works with the Calgary chapter of Les Marmitons, providing a white table service to the homeless. The volunteers serve a chef-prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Calgary Drop-In Centre. “She’s a good soul [who] makes a difference in so many lives. Airdrie is lucky to have such a giving and caring person in their community,” says Christine Franco.

Osborne’s hobby of choice is acting and she’s a familiar face on local stages.

“I have done a few performances with what was formerly known as Airdrie Little Theater and was just in a short film, Father Robin Hood, directed by our local Mitchell George,” she says.

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