15 Jun Brenda Agnew excited to join Easter Seals board
Gluckstein Lawyers client liaison Brenda Agnew says she is thrilled to be joining the Easter Seals Ontario board of directors and is looking forward to making a meaningful contribution during her three-year term.
“My 14-year-old son Maclain has benefitted directly from Easter Seals services, so this is a great chance for me to continue to give back for everything we’ve received for so long,” says Agnew. “I couldn’t have given this type of volunteer commitment when he was younger. Now I can, and I can’t wait to get started. I was supported by all those who came before me, and I am honoured to keep the cycle going.”
Easter Seals provides programs and services to children and youth with physical disabilities to help them achieve greater independence, accessibility and integration.
“I’m so excited, and I know many people in the organization from years of being involved with their events,” she says. “I am not doing this out of a sense of obligation. I never approach anything with that attitude. This is a passion for me. This is a want.”
Agnew, a former Gluckstein Medical Malpractice client, has two sons, Chase and Maclain. Maclain has severe Cerebral Palsy and profound hearing loss as a result of a condition known as Kernicterus, a brain injury resulting from untreated jaundice.
Supports and advises clients
As client liaison, she supports and advises clients and their families throughout their cases.
Over the years, Agnew has been a tireless advocate for better systems and programs for children with special needs. She has been appointed to the Community Council for the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine for a three-year term and is an active member of such volunteer organizations as CP-Net, CHILD-BRIGHT Citizen Engagement, and the Burlington Accessibility Advisory Committee. She was also an Easter Seals representative on her school board’s special education advisory committee.
In her multi-pronged role on the Easter Seals board, Agnew “will be in a position to make sure that we’re reviewing governance, ensuring that the board is directing the organization as it should, and providing leadership in that capacity.”
“I will also be there as a voice of a parent of a child with physical disabilities, which I think is extremely important given the mandate of Easter Seals,” she says. “I would imagine I will also be involved in aspects such as fundraising and community partnerships and creating awareness.”
Volunteering is essential
For Agnew, volunteering is an essential part of her life.
“I believe it is the most important thing we can do. There have been so many ways that our family has benefitted from the generosity of volunteers, and I couldn’t imagine not giving back in some way,” she says, “My family and most of the people in my life volunteer in some capacity. Here at Gluckstein Lawyers, we devote so much time as a firm doing volunteer work.
“People would be denied the help they need if no one stepped up to do it,” Agnew adds. “Without volunteers, charities wouldn’t exist, community initiatives wouldn’t exist, school councils wouldn’t exist. Think of all the things that wouldn’t exist without the love and dedication of committed volunteers. It makes for a better community.”
She says many fail to realize the importance of charitable foundations such as Easter Seals.
“People have this notion that the government provides funding for everything we need. That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Agnew explains. “Easter Seals steps in and provides financial assistance for families. The cost of caring for a child with a disability is extraordinary. There is equipment, therapies, modifications to the home, respite care and assistance at home.”
Government assistance is lacking
She says many parents do not receive much in terms of financial assistance from the government.
“Many of their programs are income-based, and that is fantastic for families who require it, But just because you have a house and you make a decent wage doesn’t mean that you don’t need help,” Agnew says. “If you are looking at something like a wheelchair, for example, that can be $15,000. There are plenty of things the government does not pay for. Without charitable organizations to fill the gaps, many families would be in an even more difficult position.”
She says the help given by foundations such as Easter Seals cannot be understated.
“Look at the Easter Seals camp program as an example. It allows my son to go away independently of his parents for 10 days,” says Agnew. “He stays in a cabin with his three best friends and enjoys the things that every child or teen should get to experience. You can’t imagine the feeling of dropping him off and realizing how excited he is or how excited we are for him. And that does not exist outside of Easter Seals. For some caregivers, it is the only break they get the entire year.”
Develop strategic vision
She says being part of the board will allow her to help develop “the strategic vision and assist the organization with new initiatives.”
“It’s so surreal for me. I was on the other end of things as a parent filling out an application to get funding for equipment, and now I’m sitting on the board of directors,” she says. “It has come full circle.”
“I want to make sure that Easter Seals will be around for a long time so that families like ours can continue to benefit,” Agnew adds. “Yes, it’s an extra responsibility, but it almost seems organic to what I do. I’m always trying to advocate for families like ours, and this is just one more way of doing that with a fantastic organization. It really ties in well with what I do as a client liaison at Gluckstein Lawyers, working with many different community partners.”