Becoming myself again

March 14, 2018
Volunteering at RMHC Toronto helped Sheri feel like herself again
Sheri Askey

Since 2012, Sheri Askey has been one of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto’s most dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers. In addition to her shift at the front desk every Friday, Sheri has helped with arts and crafts, golf tournaments, teddy bear clinics, RECESS and Christmas activities. She calls McHappy Day her “second favourite holiday.”

RMHC Toronto came into Sheri’s life at a time when she really needed it. Off work on disability leave, she was looking for an opportunity that would help her feel productive again. A mom to Steph, 25, and Kai, 9, she felt fortunate to have healthy children and wanted to help families who did not.

“Just being at the House and seeing families healing together made an immediate impact on me,” she says.

Six years later, Sheri continues to be moved by the love and kindness on display during her shifts here.

“I got to see a little girl touch snow for the first time. That’s amazing. I just saw a mom bring her son back from the hospital after a transplant. That’s amazing. I see families who have lost their children come back and make donations. It’s inspiring. I tell people this is my happy place, and I mean it.”

Sheri had to take an unexpected leave from her ‘happy place’ recently when she endured a health crisis of her own. Last spring, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Sheri had surgery in May and began chemotherapy in June. Though she tried to keep volunteering, by August it had become too much.

“I struggled to walk two blocks to pick up my son from school,” she recalls “I would do dishes and have to sit down halfway through. There were days when I just wanted to give up, but I would think, there are kids that are going through this right now, and if they can do it, I can keep going.”

When Sheri’s chemotherapy came to an end in December 2017, she was determined to return to the House.

“I knew that for three hours a week, as tiring as it would be, volunteering would also give me a boost. I would be surrounded by people I adore and have supported me through everything.”

Scott Sawa and Sheri Askey

Sheri returned for her first shift on February 16. Though nervous at first, “the minute the gate opened, I felt calm. Another volunteer gave me a hug and everything felt right again.”

Now in remission, Sheri is feeling good and enjoying experimenting with her many funky wigs. (Her son has given them all names. “Bob” is her favourite.) She’s beyond thrilled to be back on her Friday shift with her partner Scott.

“When I volunteer at the House, I get more than I give. I credit RMHC Toronto for saving me and making me ‘me’ again.”