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Helpers: Supporting families at the hospice and caring for the needy

Leonie and Aldé Bedard have been dedicated local volunteers for decades
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Aldé and Leonie Bedard, seen here relaxing at home with one of Leonie’s hand-knit blankets for cancer patients. The couple has supported those in need over many decades and believe that volunteering helps keep a community healthy and strong. (Image: Marlene Holkko Moore)

Without the support of family, many volunteers could not contribute as much time as they would like helping others. Aldé Bedard feels blessed that, for the last 60 years and counting, the love and encouragement of his wife, Leonie, has allowed them both to remain active in many community causes.

Bedard was born in 1937 in St. Charles, about 45 km east of Greater Sudbury. He and his four brothers and four sisters grew up on a dairy farm, where the family raised between 45 and 50 cattle.

In the 1950s, community dance halls were popular social gathering places for teenagers like Bedard and his future wife, Leonie LaPierre.

After they married in 1958, the newlyweds eventually took over the family farm from Bedard’s retiring parents. “Leonie grew up in Hagar, in a large family — 14 kids in all. Her parents owned a beef herd, so we had quite a bit in common right from the start. Farming was in our blood.”

Seventeen years later, they sold the family farm and built a home. Bedard launched full-time into sales, working for a builders’ supply business in Verner. In 2007, the Bedards relocated from St. Charles to Greater Sudbury, but they have maintained close ties with family and friends in their hometown.

The Bedards have two adult children: daughter Gaetanne, 55, is employed as a computer specialist with Ferrero Canada in Toronto; son Gabriel, 54, is a computer consultant with Canada’s Department of National Defence in Ottawa. Loving grandparents to six, the Bedards also have three great grandchildren.

Bedard began volunteering as a youngster, following in his parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps. At 14, he joined the choir at L’Église St-Charles Borromée Church. For the last 25 years, he and Leonie have been choir members of their church, Paroisse Saint-Dominique, located in New Sudbury.

In the 1990s, Bedard became involved in hospice care through the volunteer organization, Warm Hearts. When it was amalgamated into Maison McCulloch Hospice, he continued volunteering within this larger program of palliative care. 

“I took an extensive six-week training course in respite care, which prepared me to provide comfort to palliative patients on life’s last journey. In the early years, I visited clients in their own homes and at Extendicare.”

By 2008, Bedard’s volunteer schedule was solely at the hospice.

“Giving comfort to those in palliative care warms your heart, and your time is so appreciated by their families. The support given by volunteers—whether it’s bringing food to the room or allowing the family a little time away—helps them relax and refresh before spending quality time with their loved one.”

According to Josée Neas, former residential volunteer co-ordinator with Maison McCulloch Hospice, “Aldé is one of the most caring individuals you will ever meet. He goes beyond the call of duty to ensure clients and residents and their families have as much quality of life as possible.”

Bedard has spent many evenings and overnight stays with palliative residents. “Leonie has always supported my efforts and she understands how important giving back is to me because she is exactly the same.” 

While the couple lived in St. Charles, Leonie volunteered with the Association for Community Living, teaching adult residents to make crafts and organizing fun activities they could enjoy together, such as bowling and winter sports.

She volunteered at Maison McCulloch Hospice for more than a decade, up until health issues halted her ability to volunteer in palliative care. However, she continues to volunteer, just in a different way. “I love knitting mitts and hats for the needy, which are shared with clients of the Pregnancy Care Centre and Infant Food Bank.” 

She also knits blankets to warm the hearts of cancer patients who are confined to hospital. 

Bedard has been a member of the Knights of Columbus for 25 years, and his wife has participated in the organization’s Women’s Auxiliary. A co-founder of the St. Charles community’s local assembly, Bedard continued to serve the organization seamlessly after moving to Greater Sudbury.

“Being a Knight is personally very fulfilling. We host events to raise funds that help support underprivileged families, and we also help defray church expenses.” 

In normal times, members meet monthly at St. Dominique Parish, and our partner fundraisers include seven or eight special events each year. 

“The community really enjoys our Sunday fish fry, the spaghetti dinner and our annual turkey supper to welcome in the Christmas season. Almost every event is sold out. It’s heartwarming to receive so much support from parishioners and the community-at-large.”

Although people do not become volunteers for the accolades, their longstanding dedication and outstanding contribution to society does not go unnoticed. 

Bedard is humbled by the many local and international awards he has received in recognition of his longstanding involvement with organizations such as the hospice, Knights of Columbus, the Garson Food Bank, Garson Lions Club, Rock Haven, Victim Services Sudbury, CNIB and Health Sciences North, to name a few. 

“It’s personally rewarding to belong to an organization and a privilege to give back to your community. Doing good is important. The need never goes away.”

Volunteering has been a way of life for the Bedards, and they encourage others to take a leap of faith and get involved or expand their existing involvement.

Aldé and Leonie Bedard’s Volunteer Words of Wisdom

Helping others in need is very important, particularly those who do not have family to support them. Helping others will also encourage them to pay it forward.

When you volunteer for an organization, keep an open mind to doing whatever tasks need to be done. In my case, at Maison McCulloch Hospice, when I had some free time, I would help with the laundry, wash dishes and offer to do whatever staff and other volunteers could use a hand with.

Organizations that are volunteer driven are finding it more and more difficult to attract volunteers, and many are losing members, which is a shame. No matter how little time we have to give, our time is sorely needed and is sincerely appreciated. 

Volunteering is the greatest gift, knowing we are making a positive difference in the lives of others and keeping our community healthy, vibrant and strong.

Quite simply, volunteering helps to keep you and your community healthy. 

Marlene Holkko Moore is a local communications professional and regular contributor to Sudbury.com.