August 30, 2018
Corinne Gagne combines professional and personal experiences to transition into role supporting families with seriously ill children.
Corinne Gagne has devoted her entire career to helping people – but how she’s doing it now is dramatically different than even just one year ago.
This January, the Sudbury native retired from the Greater Sudbury Police Services after 25 years in law enforcement.
A few weeks ago, she started as the new Coordinator of the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto Family Room at Health Sciences North (HSN).
“Over the years, I’ve chased bad guys, investigated serious crimes and reached out to support women working the streets,” says the former police sergeant. “As I got further into my career, I was drawn to the softer touch, rather than being the heavy.”
As Coordinator of the RMHC Toronto Family Room at HSN, Corinne’s role will be to provide a welcoming and comforting environment so parents of sick children can rest and recharge while remaining just steps away from their child’s bedside.
Corinne accepts a donation from a lemonade stand fundraiser hosted by Noah and Mason Lamoureax.
Corinne will also be the liaison between RMHC Toronto and Health Sciences North, and take leadership in recruiting and supporting the volunteers who help ensure the Family Room stays open for families every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 365 days a year.
“I can’t overstate how important our volunteers are. It will be my responsibility to ensure they know the critical role they play and keep them engaged in our mission and vision,” she says.
Research shows that parents who stay close to their ill children are able to be more involved in clinical decision making and care and have more positive hospital experiences.
Corinne’s attraction to the “softer” side of supporting families comes from some profound personal experiences as well as her history in policing. Her 9-year-old son, Beckham, has a rare genetic movement disorder that was not diagnosed until he was almost 15 months old. She and her husband spent many days in hospitals while doctors struggled to diagnose his condition.
“There was a sheer exhaustion that set in for me after five days in the hospital,” Corinne recalls about those early days with Beckham back in 2009.
“Something as simple as my husband bringing me a face cloth and a towel was much needed comfort. Being able to have had a place for reprieve – to get a break for a while – would have been a god send back then.”
Corinne’s career shift is not one she could have predicted. However, in the lead-up to her retirement, she had started volunteering at the Family Room. She was one of close to 50 dedicated volunteers who contribute an average of three hours per week, supporting families with children in the NEO Kids paediatrics and neonatal intensive care units at HSN.
And when the full-time position came up, it was an opportunity she couldn’t let pass by.
“I love that this job helps me to be there for families in a different way. I don’t have to be the heavy anymore.”
“When my son was in the hospital, I needed a breather sometimes, but I didn’t want to go far. The Family Room offers that. It’s a break, and then back to the bedside, refreshed. It makes a big difference for families.”
A busy and energetic professional, Corinne will also continue to pursue her work in real estate.
The Family Room at HSN is one of seven in-hospital Family Rooms operated by RMHC Toronto as part of our mission to keep families of sick children together and close to the care they need. It includes a kitchenette stocked with snacks and beverages, a relaxing fireplace lounge with TVs, and two rest and respite areas, with a total of six recliners, where families can nap and sleep.
Thanks to volunteers from the Sudbury area, the Family Room is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. The recliners are available to families 24 hours a day.
The Family Room at HSN has supported more than 200 families since it first opened in December 2016.