This originally ran Saturday, Nov. 22 in the Hamilton Spectator. Hundreds of folks turned out for the event.
November 22, 2008
Moose seeker wasn't in her job description but Debbie Crickmore did it every day with a smile.
Debbie — she's the one pictured at right — is executive director at the McMaster Children's Centre. She's also the chair of Hamilton's Affiliated Services for Children and Youth Supervisors' Network, childcare representative on Hamilton's Best Start Network, past chair of Mohawk College's Early Childhood Education program advisory committee, former president of the Hamilton branch of the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario, inaugural chair of the provincial Early Childhood Education apprenticeship committee, mentor to hundreds of college, university and high school students and co-author of a quality assurance program that's now used by childcare centres across Ontario.
A career worth of accomplishments and community involvement earned Debbie YWCA Women of Distinction and Mohawk Alumni of Distinction honours in 2008.
To my kids, Debbie is keeper and seeker of the moose. At the end of their day at the McMaster Children's Centre daycare, they would race down the halls and take a hard right into Debbie's office. Her art-covered door was always open and Debbie found time to talk with every child and parent who visited.
It was a popular spot. Her office was jammed with books, toys and art supplies.
During one visit, my kids found a toy moose and a daily ritual was born. While Debbie closed her eyes, my dynamic duo took turns hiding the moose somewhere in her office. If Debbie's search came up empty, the moose hunt carried over to the next day.
But then one day Debbie's door was closed. The moose hunt was postponed indefinitely. Debbie's husband, Ted, was very sick. It would take doctors a long time to come up with the diagnosis of a rare and progressive degenerative brain disease. Debbie's world fell apart.
As former U.S. president Woodrow Wilson said: "Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together." Debbie and Ted have many friends who are trying to piece back together a small part of their world.
Family, staff at the McMaster Children's Centre, colleagues in the community and friends at Mohawk College have come together to organize a community dinner tonight for Ted and Debbie. It has two goals: Raise money to help pay medical bills and home renovation costs, and offer a show of support for Debbie and Ted. To let them know how much they mean to so many people in our community. Debbie has cared for hundreds of families over the years. Now it's our turn to take care of the caregiver.
Debbie has meant a lot to our family and we miss her dearly. Maybe my kids will eventually forget about how they ended every day hiding a toy moose in her office. But they'll always remember how it felt to be treated with kindness and respect and to be given that rare gift of someone's time, undivided attention and genuine joy. Debbie wasn't just playing hide and seek. She was teaching my kids an invaluable life lesson.
The Crickmore Community Dinner runs from 4:30 to 9 p.m. today in Mohawk College's Fennell Campus North and South Cafeterias. No reservations needed. Just show up. Tickets are $25 per adult, $20 per student, $15 per child and $50 per family. Includes dinner, entertainment, crafts and games for kids and a family movie.
A trust fund has been set up at the Scotiabank branch in University Plaza. The account number is 90332 03977 25.
Jay Robb lives in Hamilton.