Beautiful Women 2009 P1
Written by Staff
Nancy and her daughter Allison.
After feeding her six-month-old daughter Allison a banana and seeing the child’s ears swell to three times their size, Nancy Boni knew something was very wrong. The simplest act of feeding her daughter became fraught with concern and worry. But 20 years ago there was little information about food allergies to inform and comfort the young mother.
“In those years,” says Nancy, “There really wasn’t much knowledge or information.” This was the start of a journey of trips to doctors and specialists and by age 12, Allison had 10 severe food allergies as varied as peanuts, fish, kiwi and mushrooms.
With very little resources available, Nancy became heavily involved in her own daughter’s school division to develop anaphylaxis safety guidelines and stay close to her daughter.
The perfect candidate for lobbying the cause, Nancy was in the unique position of being both an affected mother and having a social work/educator background. With her matter-of-fact approach to dealing head on with allergies, she exudes a calm strength.
“I’ve always been able to see the different sides to this,” says Nancy. “The parent side and what’s realistic for the schools and what will work for the schools.”
This led to her taking over the Manitoba Anaphylaxis Information Network (MAIN) 12 years ago, a support group that provides information, counselling and meetings for other affected parents—parents like Nancy’s nominator Shelley Ross, who have children living with life-threatening allergies.
Ross was initially overwhelmed and frightened with her daughter’s potentially lethal peanut allergy diagnosis, but MAIN helped with the challenges. “It was incredibly helpful to speak to another mother who really understood my concerns and had already been dealing with it for years.”
Nancy also became involved in lobbying for Bill 232—The Public Schools Amendment Act (Anaphylaxis Policies), spending countless volunteer hours meeting with government representatives. The bill became a reality last fall when it passed Manitoba Legislation. Schools in Manitoba are now required to have a plan in place to deal with severe allergies, making us the second province to have this type of law in place.
Nancy takes a three-prong approach to dealing with the deadly allergies. They include education and awareness, avoidance of the trigger foods and establishing an emergency plan to deal with potential exposure. She says if you have a plan, it won’t consume you.
“My idea on how to deal with this has always been to do everything you can to be prepared, then relax and enjoy your life,” she says.
What started out for her daughter, who is now 20 and managing her allergies, has grown into a network of support that provides so many families with a little more peace of mind.
“I’ve never wanted to give up providing support for others,” says Nancy. “I know how difficult and how challenging it was for me. I feel good about it when I have a meeting and I see that parents are feeling more confident.”
— by Lenore Hume
Despite having retired over a decade ago, Gwen Carroll is showing no signs of slowing down or putting her feet up.
Upon meeting her, Gwen’s warmth is instantly felt—and that feeling is not unfounded. At 74 years old, she continues to contribute to and remain active in the community, lending a hand to anyone who requires one.
Much of her time Gwen spends as an active member of the River East Council for Seniors. Through them she offers rides to seniors who need to get to medical appointments, and she credits the council for being a tremendous help to the elderly in Winnipeg. “In honouring me, you’re really honouring (the council),” she says. She also facilitated a women’s self-help group for the Manitoba chapter of the Osteoporosis Society of Canada, only one of her many volunteer roles over the years.
Previously a social worker with the Children’s Aid Society, Gwen, who grew up in Portage la Prairie, spent the majority of her working years as a highly respected registered nurse at the Children’s Hospital, spending time in both the emergency and operating rooms and mentoring countless employees during her 30 years at the hospital. “My remuneration was helping people,” says Gwen, who raised a family of her own while working full time.
In spite of her busy schedule, family has always played an important role in Gwen’s life. As well as making time for her children and biological grandchildren, she is “Nana Gwen” to the children of one of her friends, all of whom enjoy the home-cooked meals she prepares for her loved ones.
And even though she has dedicated much of her life to looking after others’ health and wellbeing, Gwen has faced several major health issues herself. Over the past 20-odd years, she has undergone three hip replacements and an emergency appendectomy and has suffered from arthritis, in addition to several other ailments. But her injuries have not affected her positive energy or spirit, nor have they prevented her from helping those in need. “Feed the hungry, look after the sick, clothe the homeless,” she lists as some of the rules she lives by.
Indeed, Gwen puts those rules into practice every day, says the woman who nominated her. “Gwen constantly puts the needs of others first,” friend Allison Murdoch-Schon wrote in her nomination letter. “If someone is ill or experiencing difficulty, Gwen simply rolls up her sleeves and does whatever needs to be done…She is an inspiration to all women.”
Gwen, however, remains modest about her accomplishments and credits her parents for teaching her everything she knows. “I have never looked for recognition for what I have done,” she says with a small smile. “This is just who I am.”
—by Andrea Danelak