"When I got the call... I was overwhelmed, I was crying... I never expected something like this ever in my life."
That from Ruth Reimer after been named 2019's Citizen of the Year by the Winkler Community Foundation.
"I am truly honoured," she says. "I'm still getting used to it."
Scott Doell, Winkler Community Foundation President explains Reimer was selected based on her work with Katie Cares and Katie's Cottage.
"Ruth’s passion has impacted so many people as they journey through health challenges with loved ones," Doell explains. "Her impact has also spread to children and youth as they have been inspired to organize their own fundraisers in an effort to fulfill Katie’s dream and help fund Katie Cares projects."
Reimer notes the charity and the respite home were sparked from her daughter Kaitlyn's desire to help other children walking difficult health journeys. "She's the mastermind behind it, I only wish she was here today accepting the award herself."
Kaitlyn passed away in 2012 after founding Katie Cares, which provides care packages to children in hospital. Inside each, recipients find fun and comforting treasures like crossword puzzles, colouring books, markers, and a teddy bear. On average, 400 care bags are given out in four hospitals, including Portage, Winkler/Morden, Carman, and Altona.
"It was a promise our family made to her, that we would do our very best to get Katie Cares going and make it strong so it could touch lives," Reimer says. "We've kept that promise, and I think exceeded even what I thought we could do."
The Katie's Cottage project was announced in October 2014 and in less than two years communities from across Southern Manitoba and beyond helped raise nearly $700,000. The respite home sees hundreds of visitors locally and from across the world including England, Australia, and Mexico.
"All these people come because they have a loved one in hospital... that is something that has blown me away," Reimer says. "Seeing the people and their gratitude, it's payment enough."
Reimer will be honoured at the 2019 Citizen of the Year Banquet at the Days Inn Conference Centre October 3. She hopes to leave the audience with a desire to make the most of life.
"Because every day we're here is a special gift... we don't know how long our time is here, but to make it the best we can," she says. "Kaitlyn packed so much into 15 years and I want to do the same. Every day I try to be grateful and thankful for what I do have and make a difference somewhere along the way."
This year’s speaker will be Chris Koch, internationally known traveller and inspirational speaker. Koch was born without arms or legs and while his family could have treated his disability as a total tragedy, they instead chose to take it all in stride and make the best of the situation.
Tickets are available through the Winkler Community Foundation office located in Winkler City Hall, by calling the office at 204-362-9292 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.