Pat Stewart was much more than a beloved and dedicated March of Dimes Canada volunteer and enthusiastic program participant. She was also a true ambassador who cared deeply for the people around her, inspiring them with her kindness, her positive outlook and her unwavering passion for life.
Pat passed away on Sunday, October 22, 2006 in Niagara Falls. She was 54.
A gifted teacher, Pat’s passion led her to the classroom as a young woman where she taught for eight years, until a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis at the age of 28 forced her out of a formal career.
Her love of helping others remained, however, and though her physical abilities decreased, her involvement in the community grew.
She worked on the Board of Directors of the Niagara Centre for Independent Living, taught students in her home, and began volunteering with March of Dimes Canada.
A long-time recipient of attendant care through March of Dimes Canada, Pat began serving as a member of the Independent Living Services Committee, contributing her experience, creativity and optimism toward solutions for improving and refining attendant service.
She was also a member of the Outreach Advisory Committee and the National Access Awareness Week Committee, and in 2003 joined the Niagara area’s Community Relations Committee.
Her passion, however, was for March of Dimes Canada’s Recreation and Integration Services. In addition to serving on the Recreation Committee, she forged relationships in the Befriending Program as both a volunteer and a participant, and promoted the program in the community.
Pat Stewart (centre) in the Summer Holiday program,
with Katie Bennett (left) and Nathan Pittman (right)
She was also a great champion of both the Summer and Winter Holiday Programs, believing deeply in the benefits of the activities and social interaction they provide. She shared her enthusiasm generously, and encouraged donations that allowed others to enjoy the experience. She even brought a warm summer evening to life for us in her personal account, A Night of Revalry.
Pat received the Ontario March of Dimes Reverend Roy Essex Award for dedication and commitment as a volunteer, after contributing more than 800 hours of volunteer work in 2002. Then, in 2004, Pharmasave Pharmacy selected her as a "Remarkable Woman in Canada."
Even after complications from MS forced her to give up activities outside her home, she continued to inspire staff and volunteers with her enthusiasm and her spirit of giving.
"This is such a great loss," said Donna MacKay, Provincial Manager, Recreation and Integration Services. "She was always positive. She really was an example of what people aspire to be, and she made a difference in so many lives."
Pat was always willing to put forth an effort and share her expertise in making our community a better place for people with disabilities. She was a remarkable woman, and we were very fortunate to have had her as a member of the family. We grieve the loss of a wonderful person and a truly great friend.
If you would like to make a donation to March of Dimes Canada in memory of Pat Stewart, you can use the In Tribute section of our website.