There's nothing like the warm hug of gratefulness sewn into quilts created for members of the Canadian Armed Forces and first responders.
Recently, the three founding members of the Wayfinders Wellness have come to know that feeling first-hand.
At a drum circle at the retreat last Friday, two of the founders of Wayfinders, president Paul Wagman and a first responder who goes by Banger, became the first two members of the group to receive a Wayfinders quilt.
Previously, Bryce Talsma, the other Wayfinder founder, was surprised with the presentation of a Quilt of Valour during the Wayfinders' Nov. 8 events at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre.
Talsma says he was blown away by the presentation, especially with it being made in public without any advanced notice. He says he's come to realize they do it that way to make the moment authentic.
"I already had my game face on. I was going to go for a march and was going to do all these things to raise some funds and some awareness and then these people were wrapping me in this very symbolic and genuinely authentic quilt of love and support. It was very moving."
The design of his quilt reflects his pride in Canada's rich heritage. Suitably, it included the iconic white, red, indigo, green and yellow of a Hudson's Bay Company's point blankets combined with images of a bear, moose, and canoe.
"I have such passion for this country that the unofficial colours of Canada are HBC. These are the guys who actually made Canada, and I love it. It's beautiful."
It was this presentation that inspired Wayfinder volunteer coordinator Lora Weir to have quilts available for members of Wayfinders, which serves both members of the Canadian Forces and first responders and their families dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"One of the things that really impressed me in this entire experience so far is the networking and community amongst the quilters across Canada. It's amazing how they support one and another because they're all doing it for the similar reason of helping somebody."
She came to be connected with Patti-Jo Haley, of Quilts 4 Everyday Heroes, and Chris Bishop who makes comfort quilts for Calgary firefighters. The result was the creation of the Wayfinders Quilting Crew.
The first two quilts were donated.
"Out of the goodness of their hearts, they gave us these two quilts without charging anything," says Weir. "It was a really fabulous way to initiate this group."
By chance, the quilts were presented at a now monthly drum circle at the retreat. It amplified the powerful and emotional of the presentation, as did the words shared by the quilters.
"Drum circles are a very strong therapy and these guys didn't know they were gifted quilts," explains Weir. "So, the combination of two was very moving for them, and, I think, for the group, as well. Going forward, chances are we'll try to include drumming each time. This just happened to come together, and we had no idea how therapeutic it would be or the impact it would have."
Wagman was surprised and moved by the presentation and how suiting it was to be presented at the drum circle.
"As soon as you're wrapped it in, you go from being a responder where you're always in service to one of gratitude for these people thanking me for my sacrifice and injury because really they're recognizing that sacrifice."
"It perpetuates into what we're doing here; caring for others."
When someone is referred for a quilt, their interests are researched. For Wagman, a western outdoors theme was used. For Banger, it was all about golf.
"Every time that quilt is wrapped around them, or every time they look at that quilt, it reminds them that the people that they go to the frontline for, the people that they sacrifice for, are the people that acknowledge their sacrifice," explains Weir. "So, they know the person. They know them well enough to know their likes and dislikes. And when they put the quilt on, they know they're getting a big hug."
Nominations can be submitted (anonymously, if you wish) through the Wayfinders' website.
References are now being accepted for Wayfinder quilts. While the quilters donate their time and labour for each quilt, the $250 cost of materials needs to be covered.
"We need people who will donate monies of any amount. On each label that gets applied to the quilt will be the names of the people who have sponsored that quilt, so it's a legacy of sorts."
References are accepted word of mouth and they can also be submitted through the Wayfinders website here. Donations can also be accepted through this same website.