As a small non-profit, volunteers are a central part of how BIST is able to do what we do. Meet our Volunteer of the Year, Caregiver Category Kevin Redmond O’Keefe who for years has come to our office on the third Wednesday of the month, every month, to co-facilitate our Parent Support Group.
Thank you Kevin for all your hard work – you have made a big difference in the lives of ABI caregivers!
The reason I began volunteering at BIST: My sister had an acquired brain injury from a car accident 23 years age and I went to a support group for a couple of years at Bloorview. At the time Caron Gan was running the group and she asked me if I would come on as a co-facilitator. She said she wanted a gender balance of facilitators and that having a family member facilitate would be a good idea. A couple of years ago when I found out that Bloorview wasn’t able to do the group and BIST offered to take it over, it seemed as a natural progression. The important thing for me was that the group continue.
If I could pick any job in the year, I would pick: For 25 years I’ve been a TV producer making documentaries for TV stations. I’ve been lucky that I usually work on projects that I’m passionate about. Right now I’m trying to decide if I want to work at a TV station or go out on my own and start my own production company. So I guess if I could choose, it would be to start my own production company and only work on projects that I love.
I have an (irrational or otherwise) fear of: I don’t think I have any specific fears. I’ve traveled pretty extensively and worked in some pretty dangerous places. e.g. during the civil war in Sri Lanka or in the capital of Honduras which, at the time, was the murder capital of the world. This past year I just returned for working in Haiti which was challenging. I guess I have a fear of trying to figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life (see previous question)
My greatest assets as a volunteer are: I think I’m a good listener and I really enjoy getting people to share their stories. Caron Gan gave me good advice when I first started to volunteer– she said that my job was not to solve people’s problems but to get them to share their story. That took a lot of the pressure off because sometimes I felt bad if we didn’t solve everyone’s problems during the meeting. Since Caron’s advice during the group I look at the people who are not talking and try to get them to open up. I find sometimes those are the most powerful moments.
My friends would describe me as: Hahahaha. I just emailed my friends as part of a career counselling questionnaire on me, so I have all their answers: warm, friendly compassionate, honest, hard working and committed.
If I could invent a super power, it would be: something to prevent Acquired Brain Injuries – even though it has enriched peoples’ lives it has also caused a lot of pain and suffering to a lot of people.
What inspires me about BIST is: Oh my god – family members. Their unbelievable love, devotion and commitment to their children. They’re all super moms and dads. They have such persistence and tenacity to help their kids. It’s just awe inspiring the way they can overcome obstacles and the incredible strength and courage they have to pick themselves up and keep moving! After every group meeting I leave inspired for sure!
If I won $1 million dollars I would:Oh gosh! I would produce whatever documentaries I wanted as the fundraising is always a challenge. I would use it to do my passion projects. I would also take time off to travel with my husband. We plan to go to Japan for our honeymoon and still haven’t had a chance to do that. (I got married a year ago)
My personal hero is: I’m working on a documentary now on a young Indigenous man from Nova Scotia. Last year he did a Pride parade on his small reserve with a population of under 4,000. He did it because a lot of LGBT Indigenous people had committed suicide and he wanted queer people to feel like they belonged. He is an amazing guy to talk to – to see his wisdom and compassion.
My “celebrity” crush: Lisa Vanderpump! She is on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and also has a spinoff show called Vanderpump Rules. I like watching her shows and the last time I was in West Hollywood, I went to her restaurant Sur and her bar called Pump. I think she’s funny, glamorous and she also does a lot of animal rights work. My guilty pleasure is watching her shows.
My favourite BIST event was: an art exhibit of survivor’s art. One of our group member’s mom had photographs of her son’s work, such sensitive works and was a really an amazing idea.
Kevin’s favourite BIST event is happening this week!
Don’t miss our Community Fair & Expressive Art Show on April 26, 4-7 p.m. at Christ Church Deer Park.
A quote/motto I try to live by is: I got from a meditation book I’m reading. It says, “When you’re going through a difficult time try to be as compassionate to yourself as possible. And even try to be compassionate to yourself about your inability to be compassionate to yourself”. (in other words, we all beat ourselves up sometimes and that’s okay too)
If I could volunteer anywhere in the world: I guess I would volunteer in a warm climate, doing something fun cuz I’ve just finished a documentary and have seen a lot of devastations, natural disasters. Maybe as a volunteer on an animal reserve or working with children. I looked at an organization called Right to Play: children who have suffered because of poverty and war and they help children do normal things, playing and helping at the same time.
One time, as a kid:I built a volcano. I used to do a lot of building, mechanical stuff, creative things growing up.
I am most proud of: the people in my life who have overcome tremendous obstacles whether it be my sister, the people I do the documentaries on like the young aboriginal man or the families I meet at BIST.
My favourite BIST moment from the past year is: At one of our family support groups we all went around the room and talked about whether this experience has made us better people or a worse people. We got some really emotional, powerful answers and we all agreed that in the end, even though we would never chose to go through this, we had all become better people.