See why three lucky contest winners from across Canada are bringing friends and family together for an unforgettable reunion.
Sprawling picnics and barbecue bashes. Outdoor birthdays, weddings and park play dates. Sitting on the dock with the kids at the cottage, or spinning round and round at the annual ceilidh. When we think of summer, our mind wanders to those defining moments that shape our memory — that precious time spent with family and friends in the fresh open air.
With Canada turning 150 on July 1, more families than ever are inspired to celebrate with loved ones this year — from coast to coast. And when friends and family come together, there’s usually a good meal involved! That’s why Catelli, which is also celebrating its 150th birthday this year, decided to give three very lucky "families" from across Canada the reunion of a lifetime.
Of course, the bond of family is not exclusive to relatives by blood or marriage—it’s those you love, support and trust. These three stories really showcase what family means to different people.
From a group of friends and staff at a northern Ontario retreat for people with disabilities to a New Brunswick couple's 60th wedding anniversary and university class reunion in Quebec, here are the winners and the stories that touched us:
Leah Walker, Severn Bridge, Ontario
The wish: “I would like to reconnect with all of the participants and staff at the "Providing Adults with Developmental Disabilities Lifelong Experiences (PADDLE)" educational program in North Bay, Ontario. This is a program where people are accepted regardless of their abilities. It is a wonderful place where adults with various learning, developmental and/or physical disabilities can feel loved, supported, and at home, all while learning new skills, and reaching goals. When people go there, it really feels like family.
“I worked there for 3 years until I moved. I miss everyone greatly. They helped shape me into the person I am today. As much as I was there to support them and make their daily lives great, they did this for me!
“One of the biggest issues for this group is transportation as many are in wheelchairs. They love outings and field trips, but often aren’t able to. I would absolutely LOVE to invite them to my home in Severn Bridge, Ontario for a reunion and be able to pay for the costs of their transportation (renting accessible vans). I have a large accessible property that we could have a wonderful outdoor picnic and day of friends and now-family together.”
Leah’s initial reaction to hearing about being selected to win was, “Thank you to you and the entire team! You have no idea how excited the participants at PADDLE are going to be when they hear about this trip they get to take, without costing them anything. They never get to do this!”
Joyce Walker-Haley, Saint Stephen, New Brunswick
The wish: “It's a special year for our family, my parents' 60th anniversary. As Cape Bretoners, this is a great reason to gather! This event will bring together mom's family, along with dad's adopted as well as birth families. Being adopted, it is a constant journey of discovery for us to meet dad's family. It would be amazing to have a special meal with all the elder siblings, simply to be together.
We celebrate with gratitude, as life's journey is never without health issues. Undaunted, my 83 year young parents are busy with senior bowling, Crib games, and exercise classes. Sláinte mhath! Life is to be lived joyfully!
Years ago, our family's potlucks featured a cultural medley from pasta dishes, to Jiggs dinner and fish cakes. In fact, it seems like Catelli has been a part of our festivities as long as I can remember! For islanders, a great meal is followed by music, bonfires and laughter. So, we've already begun to plan the party in Ingonish, Cape Breton, and you're invited, so bring your flip flops and beach towel, leave the fancy clothes at home—this is a ceilidh!
Caroline Rivest, Stoke, Quebec
The wish: “In 2003, I was far from imagining that I was going to make a choice that would change my life... I registered to a geomatics program at the Université de Sherbrooke. I met "MY" family, the one that was going to accompany me, to see me grow and succeed, but also the one that would help me to overcome the challenges in life.
This family is composed of 21 people with whom I have evolved during these four years of studies. They are unique and generous people, with whom I laughed, cried and fought hard to succeed.
In April 2017, it will be 10 years since we graduated. Through our busy lives, the loves and the children that embellish it, the distance that separates us and the expense that it requires to organize a reunion, we never have the time to gather.
My most cherished wish is to bring together all these important people of my life and share a good meal with them! To laugh and sing like "back in the days," to hug and tell how much we love each other.”
Inspired to host your own reunion this year? Visit our ultimate guide to summer-reunion entertaining for our best recipes and tips for feeding a family.