Stouffville Honouree 2022
Dean and Karen Wood and their family leave an imprint of kindness and caring wherever they go, Dean as a Toronto paramedic, Karen as a child and youth worker, and together through their volunteer work. The community of Stouffville is home.
For Dean, it’s incredibly fulfilling to help patients and their family navigate the health system and get the supports they need. He reflects on one such opportunity where he was able to assist a patient with an advanced neurogenerative disorder by helping his family navigate a discussion surrounding his end-of-life care; the patient shook Dean’s hand in immense gratitude. Through his volunteer work, particularly with the Ontario Volunteer Emergency Response Team (OVERT) Inc., Dean is determined to help others where the supports or services we take for granted are not available. He says that being a paramedic has afforded him a comfortable living and he feels compelled to use his training and skills to assist others in need globally and at home.
Karen is inspired to support children and youth who find themselves in social-emotional turmoil. Children are the victim of circumstance; they do not get to choose the conditions of their life. Providing a compassionate, sympathetic ear helps children from the most difficult of situations know they matter, and that is exactly what Karen’s mission is every day.
Both Dean and Karen are enriched by the many wonderful relationships they’ve developed throughout their careers and volunteering. And, Karen is continually amazed to hear from past students and their families, often several years later, each expressing deep appreciation for the support she provided them during otherwise very challenging times.
Dean has been volunteering with OVERT Inc. since about 2005, and has traveled to Attawapiskat, Cambodia, and Florida (Hurricane Irma) to support this work. A trip to Cambodia to deliver water filters to families who are too impoverished to afford clean water left Dean with immeasurable appreciation for the fortunes in his life.
To observe a sense of social responsibility growing in their children, seeing them find their own way to improve the world around them, has been such an unexpected reward. Their son, ten at the time (now twelve), was planning on joining Dean on another trip to Cambodia; unfortunately, the pandemic interrupted those plans, but he continues to have a strong interest in helping others. Their oldest of the two girls, eleven, has shown her heart for helping from an early age by donating birthday money to the food bank, fundraising for Make-A-Wish Foundation, and more.
Hopeful that much of the uncertainty of the pandemic is behind us, and finding a balance between caring for others and, at the same, their own family, the Woods are exploring more local travel experiences within Ontario and Canada, especially until the world opens fully again.