It takes a strong person with a lot of love in their heart to make something good from a personal tragedy, and in our community, there are lots of examples.
From Mike Neuts and his Make Children Better Now foundation to combat bullying, to Rhys Dulisch’s Soccer Dogs 3 on 3 soccer tourney fundraiser to honour the memory of his childhood friend Tyson Santavy, Chatham-Kent is no stranger to people committed to making people’s lives better.
Kim Doucet of Tilbury and founder of Ashley’s Place in Tilbury, along with family and a team of volunteers, is another example of a person who suffered the loss of her daughter, Ashley, in a car accident several years ago. In creating Ashley’s Place, she is carrying on the giving and caring spirit of her daughter, who worked as a child and youth worker.
Four years of projects involving youth and their needs means Doucet is no stranger to helping others, so when she saw the story of Lachlan’s Giving Bin at the (intensive care unit) ICU at a London hospital while at her son’s bedside, she was moved to act.
The bin, filled with items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, mints, deodorant, Kleenex and other personal needs, was available for free to family members not wanting to leave the bedside of a sick loved one in ICU. The bin was started by Lachlan’s wife, Donna Laurie, of London.
“In November of 2015, my husband Lachlan went into the ICU in London and we didn’t know what was wrong with him. He did have brain cancer, but we didn’t expect him to stay in ICU and we were there for 11 days. Unfortunately, he did pass away on Nov. 12,” Laurie explained. “While we were there, I noticed a real need for the families that were sitting day after day after day for a toothbrush or a mint or just something because you don’t want to leave.”
In one corner of the ICU, Laurie said her family and support people named it Lach’s Lounge because they were there all the time, sometimes upwards of 15 people.
On Dec. 18, 2015 Laurie set up the bin, Lachlan’s Giving Bin, in the ICU and she stocks it with items every two weeks to make sure families going through what she did have some comfort items on hand.
Doucet saw the bin and read the dedication to Lachlan framed on the wall in August of this year, while sitting at her son’s bedside.
“When I saw the bin, the sign and the story, it touched my heart. Not only what was in the bin and what I was able to use to help freshen up a little bit, but the story that I read made my whole inside feel different,” Doucet noted. “I felt so much, not better better, but able to move forward a little better and I shared the story with friends on Ashley’s group page (Get Away and Experience Paradise at Ashley’s Place) that we created four years ago. I wanted to replenish the bin to help others just like Donna does, to have that little bit of peace while you’re in a position like that.”
Over a week, even though Doucet is from Tilbury and she was in London, members of Ashley’s group shared Laurie’s giving bin story and gathered a bin stocked with items. A person volunteered to drive it to London and left the donation with a social worker in the hospital.
After that experience, a member of the group had the idea to bring the giving bin idea to Chatham-Kent “because it’s so positive and helping so many people.”
“So, I got hold of Donna through Facebook, even though I didn’t know her, and asked her if that would be OK. I thanked her, of course, for helping me as much as she did and asked if we could bring her idea to Chatham,” Doucet said. “It just so happened that Chatham is also where Lachlan was raised, so it will not only be for our community but also for his family that are in the area.”
Lynn Richie, Unit Clinical Leader at the ICU at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance said the giving bin is a nice touch for families who want to be close to a critically ill loved one in the hospital.
“When we are focusing on keeping a patient alive, sometimes we can’t provide that help to the families, so this will be a comfort for them,” Richie said at the dedication of the bin. “This will be an amazing contribution we can offer them just to get them through. Even though it’s beneficial to leave the bedside and have breaks, some just can’t.”
Both Laurie and Doucet praised the ICU nurses they have come in contact with.
“ICU nurses really are angels on earth. It takes a special breed of person who can do that job and do it well,” Laurie said.
Mary Lou Crowley, executive director of the CKHA Foundation, thanked both women for the donation and said anyone wanting to make donations of items or money to help replenish the bin can contact the Foundation or Doucet directly on Ashley’s Facebook page.
“It’s a beautiful idea. I had the opportunity to meet Kim and Donna and learn about Ashley and Lachlan and the understanding of what this means to families and patients that are here day in and day out,” Crowley said. “A lot of people come to the hospital thinking they are going to go home, but when that doesn’t necessarily happen, that’s when these items like a toothbrush or piece of gum can really make a difference.”