October 19, 2017
Nicole, Ryley and Leigh-Anne have formed a special bond at RMHC Toronto
Nicole Aversa, Ryley Stapleton and Leigh-Anne Onlock are a tight trio, bonded by the compassionate nature of their work and their close physical proximity.
“We’re always bumping chairs,” says Ryley, with a laugh. The three Family Services Associates (FSAs) at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto share two small offices between them, in the front entrance of the House. Their offices are a hub of activity, where they register new families, field questions from volunteers and greet children who stop by to chat. The quarters are tight, but close relationships have formed between those walls.
“We read each other’s minds and finish each other’s sentences,” says Nicole. Their familiarity has developed over many years. Ryley and Leigh-Anne have been working together since 2012, and Nicole joined the team in 2014. All three women had previous experience in the social services and non-profit worlds, bringing unique and complementary strengths to their roles.
“Nicole has the best memory. We count on her for details we’ve forgotten and she knows our schedules by heart.”
“Leigh-Anne has the best analytical mind.”
“Ryley is our sense of calm. She’s the most easygoing and helps us to keep things light.”
These qualities are all important for FSAs, as their duties are wide-ranging, often reactive and always very human.
“FSAs are always there when you come and go each day, ready to offer a hello, a smile, an ear to listen, a tissue to cry or simply to provide answers to any questions about the House,” says Tanya Boehm, a mom who has stayed at the House on and off since 2013 while her daughter, Marlow, is treated for cancer. “Their job is to help families feel comfortable and welcome and I can say, on every level, they do it phenomenally well.”
For the FSAs, their close contact with families is what they love most about their job.
“Having worked here for so long, we get to see children grow up,” says Leigh-Anne. “We spend holidays together and share milestone moments. How many first birthday parties have we helped plan?”
“There are many families who send pictures or come back to see us because they considered us like family,” says Nicole.
“We see families leaving with good news, and that’s emotional. We see families leaving with bad news, and that’s emotional as well,” says Ryley.
Dealing with tragedy is one of the more difficult aspects of their work, as some of the families they come to know leave RMHC Toronto with a sad outcome for their child. On those emotional days, Ryley, Leigh-Anne and Nicole are grateful to have each other.
“That’s what is so great about our team: the support,” says Leigh-Anne. “Whether we’re dealing with our sadness together or separately, we always look out for each other and pick up the slack when needed.”
Their support for each other allows them to support the people that matter most to them: RMHC Toronto families.
“It’s rewarding to help families take care of themselves and offer some relief when they’re probably the most stressed they’ve ever been in their lives. We’re grateful for that opportunity every day.”