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Tribute launches ‘Kait’s Kit’ to help others face the worst days of their lives

An equally heart-breaking and heart-warming tribute to a young life gone too soon showcased love and strength inside Picton United Church on Sunday as community members rallied around the family of Katie Shannon – and launched a “kit” to help others.

While the 23-year-old battled the ravages of cancer in the final few months of her life, she and mom Jeanette Arsenault worked together to devise a way to help others who will have to face the fight. Katie passed April 19.

Katie Shannon

“It was their dream,” said Suzanne Pasternak, producer of the tribute show. “They want every patient who gets admitted to the oncology unit at Ottawa General to be able to have ‘Kait’s Kit’ to make their life just a little bit easier.”

It will include a quality shampoo, hand lotion, a soft face cloth, soft hand towel, non-slip socks and a booklet to be written by Jeanette with Katie’s help, offering advice on ways to make life a bit easier in the oncology area.

Katie’s father, Dr. Michael Shannon, spoke of “the precious souls” who are in the oncology ward at Ottawa General.

“Some of them who could, would reach out, and be motivated by Kait. They had fear in their eyes or a tear coming down their cheek… She was there for them.”

“The nurses were in a league by themselves. They are so incredible,” he said, as the audience burst into knowing applause. “Some of them were not much older than Kait. These people were observant, they were passionate about what they did and they really care,” he said, also praising the work of the doctors and staff at the hospital.

“I intend, with the help of this community, and Jeanette, if you will help me, to help make a difference to these wonderful human beings.”

Following the show’s short intermission, it was announced the County’s Fida family (Angeline’s in Bloomfield) would donate the first 100 Kait Kits.

Jeanette, whose trademark hair is beginning to grow again after shaving it off in solidarity with her daughter, spoke of the strength and love shown by family, friends and the community as they faced the worst days of their lives.

“God bless you,” she told the audience tearfully. “You are what sustained us… so I could be in that room 24/7 to be with my daughter. I wanted her to have the best of me, her father and boyfriend and everyone who surrounded her, to give her the best of who we were, because that’s what she needed… And the support everyone gave… allowed her to feel nothing but joy and peace and love in the worst time of her life.

Jeanette recalled Kait telling the room “I feel so loved”, but at the same time was concerned she couldn’t keep up with the tidal wave of support.

“I can’t do it, it’s too much. You have to tell all my friends and the community and the people who keep writing, and putting notes on Facebook and texts and messages …that they help sustain me Mom. I feel loved, I feel embraced.”

Jeanette thanked the community “for lifting me up and keeping Kait alive in the memories you have. Thank you for honouring her today and thank you to this family of incredible musicians.”

Katie, like her mother, was part of the musical fabric in Prince Edward County as a singer, pianist and composer. She also had some input into the concert, demanding “no long, sad, drawn out songs” and was instrumental in approving or disapproving some of the song choices.

Amy Rutherford

The result was a few hours of celebration in song by musicians Katie had known and performed with over the years – including school mate Amy Rutherford whose soulful rendition of At Last, by Etta James, moved the audience to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

The applause and ovations continued to rise as more than a dozen performers including Tom Leighton, Fraser Hardman, Mark Despault, Alec Lunn, Kim Inch, Renee Thompson, Lenni Stewart, Michelle Fraser Found, Suzanne Pasternak, Emily Fennell, Ben Vandergaast, Amy Rutherford, Jessica Bell, Gavin Massey, Caleb and Megan Hutton  continued the tributes, then joined together for the finale, singing Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’.

Those unable to attend who wish to support “Kait’s Kits” may donate online at



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  1. arl and Corry Niedergesaess says:

    Dear Jeanette and Family
    Our hearts go out to you. Please accept our sincere condolences.
    We would have loved to be in Picton for the musical tribute for Kait, but were unable due to a previous engagement that could not be changed. So sorry about that.

    May God surround you and your family with His everloving arms.
    With Love
    Karl and Corry

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