A Community Rallies Behind One Family in the Wake of Tragic Loss

Ten thousand dollars raised for the Mental Health & Addictions Program at St. Joe’s — In loving memory of Bobbie-Laine Sayer and Meredith Sayer-Van Gronigen

Growing up, the Sayer household was always packed with family, friends, laughter and great times. Dave & Cheryl raised their 4 daughters in Hagersville and the girls grew up helping run the family business, studying piano, playing baseball & hockey. Bobbie was the youngest and was easily the funniest person you’d ever meet. Meredith, the second youngest, was thoughtful and cared deeply for her husband Bart and daughter Everly.

Meredith Sayer-Van Gronigen (left) and Bobbie-Laine Sayer (right)

Mental illness and suicide can take people from our lives much too soon. Meredith and Bobbie lived with mental illness and due to the shame and stigma that still surrounds this issue, they often suffered in silence. Tragically, Bobbie and Meredith both lost their lives in the summer of 2019 after hard-fought battles with their illness.

Friends and family were devastated by the loss of these two courageous young women. And while it would have been easier to retreat into a quiet cave of grief and loss, those closest to Meredith and Bobbie-Laine decided instead to do something bright, meaningful and powerful to celebrate their lives and their struggles—and to help others like them, too.

Close friends of the Sayer family, Jennifer Wall and Alison House, decided to honour the loss of their friends through a mental health and suicide awareness campaign. Due to the pandemic, they took to social media to spread the word and sell raffle tickets for prizes which were generously donated by caring members of the community.

Jennifer and her husband Tyler Wall, a Hamilton Paramedic, came up with the idea to design a green shoulder epaulette to represent mental health awareness and be worn during the month of May, when the Canadian Mental Health Association acknowledges Mental Health Week. Green is the colour of the awareness ribbon for mental health, and Jennifer felt the bright green colour might help to draw attention to the issue of mental health, to start dialogues about the services available in our community, and to help reduce the stigma that still surrounds mental illness. Hamilton Paramedic Services sold the epaulettes to other first responders and asked for donations to support the Mental Health and Addictions Program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

Pictured: One of the green shoulder epaulettes that Hamilton Paramedic Services sold to other first responders in exchange for donations to support the Mental Health and Addictions Program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

In just two months, this group of committed people, with the help and support of the Sayer family and their vast network of friends raised more than $10,000. And on Thursday, May 4th, during Mental Health Week, Meredith and Bobbie-Laine’s parents Dave & Cheryl Sayer, their daughters Jodi Sayer-Laforme and Lyndsay Sayer-Mattioli, their son-in-laws Terri Laforme and Bart Van Groningen, Alison House and Jennifer and Tyler Wall arrived at the West 5th Campus of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton for a socially distant cheque presentation. Together, they presented a cheque in the amount of $10,280 to Mark Brogno, the Director of Special Events & Community Engagement at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation.

Meredith and Bobbie-Laine’s parents Dave & Cheryl Sayer, their daughters Jodi Sayer-Laforme and Lyndsay Sayer-Mattioli, their son-in-laws Terri Laforme and Bart Van Groningen, Alison House and Jennifer and Tyler Wall pose with Mark Brogno, the Director of Special Events & Community Engagement at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation at the Margaret & Charles Juravinski Centre for Integrated Healthcare at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s West 5th Campus for a socially distant cheque presentation.

The funds will be donated directly to the Mental Health and Addictions Program at St. Joe’s and they truly couldn’t come at a better time as Hospital officials say that the demand for mental health care has increased by 40 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re so grateful to the Sayer family, Jen, Alison and the Hamilton Paramedics for embracing this campaign and raising important funds for St. Joe’s,” said Brogno at the cheque presentation event. “It takes such courage to turn not one, but two tragic events into something that has the power to help so many others facing similar mental health challenges. We’re proud to be a part of honouring Meredith and Bobbie-Laine’s memories and we hope the Sayer family may take comfort in knowing that the funds raised will help our Hospital to provide mental health supports and care to people in need across the region St. Joe’s is honoured to serve.”

A heartfelt thank you to all who donated, purchased tickets and supported this campaign.