by Lucie Roy
Kristine McDonnell along with family, friends and colleagues attended the International Women’s Day event sponsored by the Baha’i Community of St. Albert on Saturday.
McDonnell was one of the honourees and recipients of the award for Mental Health, Unsung Heroine and Youth Empowerment.
McDonnell serves as the Executive Director of Sturgeon Victim Services, dedicating her time and energy to supporting victims of crime and trauma in the community of Morinville and the surrounding area.
McDonnell has done much to assist vulnerable children and adults in their time of need.
She was inspired by her grandmother who impressed upon her, from a very young age, the importance of family, community and the church. She was further inspired by her family’s service in the Canadian Armed Forces.
One of her ideas was to apply for a Facility Court Dog and within a few weeks, Hope arrived. Hope a 3-year-old yellow Labrador retriever came from Dogs with Wings, an Assistance Dog Society, where Hope was specially selected and trained to provide a calming influence for victims of trauma or violence.
Hope has become her constant companion and helping McDonnell with community outreach and education or supporting both children and adults in their darkest times.
Whether in a hospital, during disclosure of traumatic events or through court proceedings, Hope’s presence helps calm the victims and lets them find the courage to report violent crimes or to retell their stories to police, investigators or judges.
In partnership with Zebra Child Protective Services, McDonnell and Hope accompany children facing traumatic circumstances to empower and comfort them in times of need, with Hope providing the best form of emotional support.
Under her guidance, SVS has been made more accessible and comfortable through the implementation of many trauma-informed practices, such as creating a warm and inviting atmosphere by providing comfortable seating, dimmable lights, and putting out treats.
Hope, the official Court Facility dog, is always on hand to provide and help people feel more relaxed.
McDonnell has also spearheaded several youth initiatives, including the Junior Advocate Program for Grade 11 and 12 students at Morinville Community High School and Sturgeon Composite High School. This is a 3-credit course which provides an educational stepping stone for youth who are interested in future careers in areas such as law enforcement, emergency medical services or social worker.
Her commitment extends beyond her day job.
She also finds the time to volunteer on community boards, fund-raise for worthy causes and collaborates with grassroots initiatives such as Higher Grounds and the Father’s House Church.
She also inspires co-workers and friends to participate and support the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation (JMMF) and the Town of Gibbons annual teddy bear drive.
Her dedication to her family and the community is fueled by her intense passion to make a positive impact on people’s lives and with Hope’s help, continues to build a future where children and adults will have a sense of well-being, safety, and Hope.