In Memory of Emma Federer
Every now and then someone comes along who sparkles with a very particular kind of energy. Emma Federer was one of those people. Fourteen years old, she and three friends, came to St. Felix Centre last spring, in order to complete a project for school (Bishop Strachan School). I will never forget that interview. Emma didn't just ask questions, she wanted to know, and with every answer I gave - about the children here, our programs, our goals for the future, and about what we believe and how we operate - she got more and more excited. Her enthusiasm was palpable - and catching.
Emma's interest in what we do here caught fire, and off she went. She and her friends Amanda, Nicole and Olivia organized a yard and bake sale, raising over $1,000. They were determined to help us get our new youth leadership program underway - and they did. Emma was full of plans for the autumn and she was so unequivocally and wonderfully committed to St. Felix Centre, the children in particular, that it touched us all.
We thought our hearts would break when we learned that Emma had died suddenly on July 8. We were struck hard when we learned that Emma's family asked people to make memorial donations in her memory to both St. Felix Centre and the Bishop Strachan School Foundation. Nothing could have meant more to us. Every cheque that came in seemed like a message from Emma - to never lose the spirit we have here, which she loved so much.
Over the summer and autumn St. Felix Centre has received $28,000 in memory of Emma. With these monies we were able to offer a contract to the Director of our Children's Programs and in turn once more provide the after school program. St. Felix Centre doesn't receive any revenue from government, or United Way and although we are blessed by a grant from the Felician Sisters, we need to raise a further $200K every year, in order to run the Centre and its programs. Given the downturn in the economy this year, it had looked like we might not be able to have a full time after school program. But now, thanks to the generosity of Emma's family, and the remarkable gift of their beautiful child, we have been able to teach and guide and help another 50 children. One more time I am struck by how random and terrible and still how beautiful life is.
As we move forward - as always we must - Emma's legacy lives on. Her family is helping us build a small library in the Centre. A cozy place for children and adults to read books, listen to music, or just curl up and be safe. "Emma's Reading Room" will be put together over the coming weeks, in time for "Friends" and guests at our Tea, to see on December 12th.
Andrew Federer wrote me a note recently, about Emma, and I think it pretty much says it all:
"I hope a permanent reminder of Emma, her generosity of spirit and that she accepted everyone, regardless of how they looked or how much money they had or what their social position may have been, may inspire others to help the centre as well.
It importantly may also remind and inspire the many children in the after school program to understand that they too can make a difference, even at a young age, in other peoples lives".
Emma - we will always think of you and know that you left a small piece of yourself with St. Felix Centre, making us only stronger and more committed to all that we do.