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Casey Award honours lifetime of passion in social justice work

Nancy Parks with cousin Jay MacGillivray. Sue Capon photo

Nancy Parks, and her cousin Jay MacGillivray will be belles of the SnowBall this Saturday as the two attend a $500 per plate Casey House fundraising dinner in Toronto. Jay received complimentary tickets as she will receive the prestigious Casey Award.

Casey House, founded in 1988, provides treatment, support and palliative care for people living with HIV/AIDS. The Casey Awards were created in memory of June Callwood, a founder of Casey House, to recognize individuals or organizations whose pioneering leadership and activism in the fields of HIV/AIDS and social justice carry on Callwood’s passionate life’s work.

Jay, who calls Prince Edward County home, will be honoured for 30 years work providing care, compassion and support to people living with HIV and striving to provide people with dignity and compassion during life’s most pivotal moments: birth and death. She is one of Ontario’s first registered midwives, and co-founded The Positive Pregnancy Program which provides comprehensive pregnancy, birth and postpartum care to HIV-positive mothers, and their babies.

Jay first began working with the HIV community in the early 1980s as a social justice advocate and volunteer community activist, working closely with street-affected women and sex trade workers. It was through this work she met individuals who were dying, alone, of AIDS and in desperate need of comfort, compassion and end-of-life care that was not available through the traditional health care system.

“My first work was with people nobody else cared about – those in the sex trade, homeless, people without family and community,” Jay says. “I will always remember the first women, Joan. She had no family, no friends and she had lung cancer. She opened my eyes to the fundamental importance of life: how you live your life and treat the people around you, carefully, properly, respectfully, with expertise and kindness during birth and death says something about us as a community and as a society. All other things are secondary.”

“I know all about hospice because of Jay,” said Nancy Parks, who is now Hospice Prince Edward’s Executive Director. “She didn’t want any award but she has come to peace with the award because the bottom line is that there is so much work to be done here at home, as well as in Toronto and everywhere. Jay is doing the work and she’s not looking for credit.”

The award reminds Jay of good work she and friends had done with June Callwood, noted Canadian journalist, author and social activist who died in 2007. June became one of Canada’s most famous social justice activists, founding, or co-founding more than 50 Canadian social action organizations – including Casey House.
Some of Jay and June’s experiences together unfold in Callwood’s book, ‘Twelve Weeks in Spring’, an inspiring story of a group of people who came together to help a friend battling cancer and discovered their own unexpected strength and humanity.

In February, 1985, Margaret Frazer was told she had terminal cancer. She was a retired, single woman whose family was far away. She was facing a lonely death in a sterile hospital. Margaret’s lifetime of giving to others was repaid when friends created a “hospice” team to care for Margaret in the comfort of her own home.
“What came out of all that was the foundation for Trinity Home Hospice (now Hospice Toronto).”

Jay not only provides care to clients through her midwifery practice and through the Positive Pregnancy Program, but also does outreach at centres such as Women’s Health in Women’s Hands and the Theresa Group, an AIDS services organization for women affected by HIV/AIDS.
“Nancy helped me figure through the emotional process to help make change,” said Jay. “Hospice Prince Edward does extraordinary work that benefits every single person in the community. We will all die. We need to make sure in the County that everybody has access to what hospice is providing. Hospice is committed to every single person in the community and every single person can benefit from Hospice Prince Edward. I am so proud of  the passion Nancy brings to her work.”
Nancy has invited Jay to participate in a special evening to be hosted by Hospice Prince Edward later this year.
For the moment, they are both delighted to further hospice awareness and fundraising by attending the Casey House SnowBall: There’s No Place Like Home fundraiser in Toronto.
“Everybody needs somebody when they’re born, and when they die,” Jay concludes.

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  1. Sharon says:

    True inspirations. Have an amazing time at the Gala! 🙂

  2. Robyn says:

    Congratulations Jay. Your story is an inspiration. Hope you both have an awesome time! 🙂

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