Annette Higdon of New Harbour, Trinity Bay was “honoured and humbled” on April 11 when she received an award from the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in St. John’s during an event for volunteers called, "strength in numbers."
Higdon earned the community engagement designation from a list of awards in honour of the late Dr. Jack Hand, an advocate for the facility.
RMH is a home that gives families the opportunity to stay near their children when they are hospitalized or undergoing treatment.
The Helping “Hand” Awards were given to several individuals for their active and dedicated involvement with RMH. And Higdon was one of them.
The avid volunteer was recognized for her involvement in community engagement for fundraising and assisting with the development of the facility for several years.
“I give freely of my time and talent, and never expect anything in return, other than the smile on a child’s face, or to see a family that can be together in a comfortable setting during sometimes a very trying time in their lives,” Higdon told The Compass in an email.
Higdon and her husband Chris, who is also a volunteer, attended the conference in St. John’s, which included training, guest speakers and the awards gala.
The couple received two-year service pins at the event, something they are very proud of.
As people were receiving awards, Hidgon said it was heartwarming to see those involved in the house get recognition.
Higdon is always involved with fundraisers for the house, including the Red Shoe Crew walk from Whitbourne to Heart’s Desire.
As one of the largest groups in 2013, with some 200 people, Higdon's event raised some $20,000 for the house.
She has also helped gather household items for the house.
Hidgon told The Compass last year she accepts donations of all kinds for the house, including toiletries and other items a family may need during a stay there.
She is not done helping the RMH, and will keep organizing and assisting events in her area.
“I trust I will continue to receive that support from all of you in the future as I continue to stand proud in (Dr. Jack Hand’s) honour,” Higdon said.
Honouring Dr. Hand
Dr. Hand was a pediatric oncologist and hematologist, and was a driving force behind RMH.
The house opened in September 2012, but Hand passed away from a brain tumour in June that same year. He didn’t get to see it open.
“(Dr. Hand) was an exceptional man with boundless energy,” described Higdon. “A man that had a very busy professional life was an exceptional father and a loving husband.
While he was all of (these things), he still gave freely of his time and commitment to seeing RMH a reality.”
During the awards ceremony, Hand’s wife Tina helped distribute the awards, something Higdon believed helps honour his legacy.
“As Tina … approached the stage, I began to think to myself the persons that will accept these awards will have to feel the honour and excitement to know they are keeping (Dr. Hand’s) memory alive,” she said.
Higdon was one of the first to receive her award, and she admitted she was emotional over the experience.
Other award winners included Jackie Furlong (house operations), Lorna King (leadership), Chatters Salon (house program) and Newfoundland Hydro (outstanding philanthropist). Volunteers acknowledged were Gerry Beresford, Cathy Bennett, Theresa Rahal, Rod MacDonald, Brad Wicks, Rod Legge, Cathy Dorhan, Bill Budgell, Peggy Bartlett, John Henley and the late Dr. Jack Hand.