Features(Archives)

Nov
25
2013
Volume
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Melanie Antoine… Committed to Making Lives Better

MINDY BRAR
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Within the region of Wood Buffalo, everyday you meet people who are committed to making lives better for people in the community. They believe in giving their time and energy to causes they are passionate about and will spend countless hours without thinking once about receiving a thank-you. These people love their community and want to give back so that everyone can benefit from their knowledge or success. Melanie Antoine is one such person.

A resident of Fort McMurray for over 20 years, Melanie and her husband, Lloyd, moved from Fort Chipewyan for opportunity. “We were looking for employment and Fort McMurray made sense as it was so close to all of our family and friends in Fort Chipewyan,” recalls Melanie. Melanie and Lloyd worked at Syncrude Canada for a number of years before branching out on their own with A.P.E Maintenance Ltd in 2008. Now, they have a successful business which offers oilfield and maintenance services locally. In 2013, A.P.E Maintenance Ltd. was the recipient of the Regional Aboriginal Recognition Award for Entrepreneur of the Year through the Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association. As a successful business owner, Melanie wanted to give back to the community that meant so much to her. She sought for an opportunity that would resonate with her and aligned with her values. She found that the Northern Lights Health Foundation was the organization that did.

Melanie remembers attending her first Festival of Trees Gala in 2011. “The trees represented a great cause, as the proceeds were raised by the Northern Lights Health Foundation to help improve health services at the local hospital,” muses Melanie. She was impressed that all the money raised would help those at the local level, within the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, and that the money was not shared with other areas in the province. That was when Melanie decided A.P.E Maintenance Ltd would support the Foundation by sponsoring a tree at the next Festival of Trees.

“Our first tree started out as a family project, where everyone got together and crafted items,” Melanie reflects fondly, “it didn’t take long for people to want to be a part of it to say thank-you to the hospital for caring for so many of their loved ones.” The family project was a way for Melanie to tell a story about the Aboriginal culture in the region. Over an eight month period, every item on the tree was passionately hand crafted. She feared the tree would be viewed as “junky” or not perceived by others to have any value, but her fears were put to rest as the tree raised a significant amount of money for the Foundation. “To me it did more than sell. It gave a story to those that lived it, for those that needed to learn and it gave those that seen it memories of their childhood.”

As Festival of Trees is fast approaching this year, Melanie expressed excitement about the tree that A.P.E has already started on themed “The River of Life” which will feature many one-of-a kind items. “We want to show the beauty of the river,” says Melanie. “We are maintaining the cultural aspect in this year’s tree as well, which we hope will bring memories, stories and knowledge of history through the crafts and art that will bestow the tree.”

Melanie’s commitment to the Northern Lights Health Foundation does not stop at tree sponsorship. In January 2013, Melanie was asked to join the board of directors for the Health Foundation as a Director. “I was honoured when I was asked to be a member of the board,” shares Melanie. “I enjoy the challenges and rewards of getting to see firsthand the generosity of the community members and organizations that give so much over and over.”

In Melanie’s view, the regional health centre plays a very important role in not just Fort McMurray, but also the outlying communities. “Many of our Elders within the outlying communities stay at the hospital on a yearly basis for continuing care,” explains Antoine. “I always tell people that this hospital is the heart of the region and if I can help in any way to make this heart stronger, I will!”

Melanie recalls the new MRI funded by the Foundation. She, herself, had driven down to Edmonton twice to use the MRI as it was not available in Fort McMurray at the time. Due to the hard work of the Foundation and tremendous community support, enough money was raised to buy a MRI. Because of its availability in Fort McMurray, people are saving hours and money spent flying to Edmonton. “I want to give back and help improve health care in Fort McMurray which not only helps the McMurray residents but the outlying communities as well,” says Melanie.

When Melanie is not working or focusing on the Northern Lights Health Foundation, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. They frequently return to Fort Chipewyan, to connect with family and friends. Their belief and community resonates through their lives as Melanie and Lloyd teach their children about the beauty of the region and value of nature. “It is really important that we return home so our children understand where we come from, so that they never forget their roots,” shared Antoine.

The Festival of Trees

The Festival of Trees a signature event for the Northern Lights Health Foundation for has been in community for 24 years and has become a family tradition in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Every year, thousands of residents come to see the trees and participate in the various family-friendly activities.

Festival of Trees 2014 will take place from on November 13-16 at the Suncor Community Leisure Centre at MacDonald Island Park.

If you would like to sponsor a tree like Melanie and A.P.E Maintenance Ltd., you can contact Jessica Musycsyn, Events Manager, at 780.791.6207 or jessica.musycsyn@albertahealthservices.ca

Did you know?

  • Festival of Trees has raised over $5 million (net) in its 24 year history
  • Syncrude Canada Ltd. has been the presenting sponsor of the event for eight years
  • Festival of Trees is the official kick-off for Christmas in Wood Buffalo and welcomes thousands of people each year making it the largest annual event in the Region
  • The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party was added this year which will feature East Coast favourite, Signal Hill.

For more information on our programs and services, or to make a gift, contact us: Northern Lights Health Foundation 7 Hospital Street, Fort McMurray, AB T9H 1P2

Phone: (780) 791-6041 Fax: (780) 791-6241 Email: foundation@nlhf.ca

Online: www.nlhf.ca

Twitter: @NorLightsHealth Facebook: NLHealthFoundation

Charitable Registration Number: BN 107395030 RR0001

MINDY BRAR

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