© Laura Hines
Charmaine Salter holds up photos of her late father, Ronald Garland. The Hantsport resident will be participating in Steps for Life this coming weekend in honour of him.
This May, Charmaine Salter will be hitting the trails to help raise awareness of workplace tragedies. She's doing so in honour of her late father.
Salter, who lives in Hantsport, is participating in Steps for Life, an annual fundraising walk hosted by Threads of Life, a Canadian charity that supports families who have suffered from a workplace fatality, traumatic life-altering injury, or occupational disease.
Salter's late father, Ronald Garland, was an active 74 year-old music-loving, family man before he fell ill. When a nagging cough sent him to the doctor in 2011, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a disease caused by repeated exposure to asbestos.
It's believed Salter's father came into contact with asbestos throughout his career as an electrician for large corporations.
By the time Salter's father was diagnosed, the cancer had spread to his bones and other parts of his body.
“We were shocked and devastated that a healthy, life-loving man who looked and acted more like 60 than 74, was given two to four months to live,” Salter told the Hants Journal.
“Dad continued to live life fully, enjoying his family, friends and music, which was always a large part of his life,” she noted.
While in the Hants Community Hospital, just a few days before he died, friends and family gathered to hold a jam session in his hospital room.
Garland died on his sister's birthday — Dec. 18, 2011 — which was not long after the diagnosis.
Remembering a music man
Garland had played music his entire life. He played with many bands, including Newfoundland Connection, which was a group he and his lifetime friend Dorothy (Dot) Rogers formed. He, and his wife June, also played with The Kings Fiddlers.
And it was music that helped Garland initially woo his wife of 54 years, Salter recalled.
“They had an absolutely beautiful marriage,” said Salter.
Prior to his death, Garland fulfilled a lifelong dream and created a CD with Rogers. The CD was made available to family and friends during a night of music in honour of Garland. Proceeds from every CD purchased was donated to the IWK children’s cancer ward and to Christmas Angels.
“Dad had a great love for the children in his life.”
Salter said her father belonged to many boards and was an active member of the Windsor United Church until his passing.
Salter hopes that the sharing of her father's story will raise more awareness of workplace incidents, and help spur corporations and various levels of government to always place safety in the forefront.
“Because of a lack of knowledge and protective measures that would have prevented this occupational disease, many men and women have been exposed to asbestos and have died as a result,” she noted.
Salter is excited to volunteer with Steps for Life, and will be ready May 4 to lace up her shoes for the annual fundraising walk at Smiley's Provincial Park. Registration is at 12:30 p.m. and the walk starts at 2 p.m.
“I am helping (in) any way I can. I really believe we need to get more (information) out on work safety.”
She's organized a 10-member team to participate in the fundraiser, and hopes to raise $500.
Helping families heal
Threads of Life hosts the Steps for Life walk annually.
The organization, also known as the Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support, serves to aid families in the healing process.
Salter says they “are a life raft to those going through any workplace injury, occupational disease or death.”
Kevin Bonnis, the Threads of Life regional development co-ordinator for Atlantic Canada and Quebec, said the upcoming walk is more than just about raising funds.
Threads of Life is a national charity devoted to helping families who are living in the aftermath of a workplace fatality, life-altering injury or an occupational disease. Family support includes peer-to-peer support with another trained family member who has suffered with similar injuries. They also offer training to become an injury prevention speaker.
Salter first learned of Threads of Life when a letter addressed to her father came in the mail. That letter led Salter and her mother to a special function at the Oak Island Inn.
Salter said they were met by a woman who stayed with them throughout all of their sessions and meals. She told her story, listened to theirs, and didn't try to fix anything, Salter recalled.
“She was there to listen. She was a comforting presence,” said Salter.
This year, Threads of Life will be offering their annual Atlantic Canada Family Forum at the Oak Island Inn at the end of May. Throughout the weekend, they will offer workshops to help families cope, said Bonnis in an interview.
“It's a heavy, but uplifting weekend.”
People can reach out to the organization for support whenever they are ready, noted Bonnis.
“We're here with open arms.”
Threads of life is also supported by the Workers Compensation Board of Nova Scotia.
To contact Threads of Life, or to register for a walk, visit: www.stepsforlife.ca or call 1-888-567-9490.