One family uses positivity and heart to give back to the community with Claire’s Craft Fair.
American actor Will Smith once said, “If you’re not making someone else’s life better, then you’re wasting your time. Your life will become better by making other lives better.”
Since their daughter was diagnosed with multiple medical challenges at age 13 months, Jeanine Hannam McDonald and her husband Barry McDonald have been enriching their own lives by reaching out to others.
The couple’s only child, Claire McDonald, is seven years old. She lives with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism and OCD.
Claire’s diagnoses came at a traumatic time for the family – just two days after Hannam McDonald’s father, Glyn Hannam, died suddenly at age 63.
Change in Perspective
Life as the family knew it changed drastically after Claire’s diagnoses. When you have a child with special needs, Hannam McDonald said, your perspective on life changes as does those around you.
“Once Claire stopped crawling, people stopped calling … Not everyone wants to be involved or wants to hear about your hospital visits,” Hannam McDonald said.
Because of Claire’s weakened immune system, a common cold could be life threatening. It’s not unusual for Claire to spend several months out of the year in hospital, her mother said.
In an effort to learn more about their daughter’s conditions, Claire’s family started a Facebook group called Claire’s Community about five years ago. It’s a place where they open up about Claire’s life, sharing their good days as well as their bad.
“We were meeting lots of families but not a lot with conditions like Claire’s … Our goal was to try and understand things ourselves and, if we could understand, then maybe we could help other people in similar positions who didn’t know where to go or reach out to or connect with,” Hannam McDonald said of starting the Facebook group.
The family also shares details about other local groups and events via social media.
Hannam McDonald said she’s grateful to the CNIB and the Cerebral Palsy Association for supporting her family’s other initiatives including a parent support group and a play group.
Claire’s Craft Fair
An annual event dubbed Claire’s Craft Fair (which is now in its fifth year and will boast over 40 vendors) has brought in over $20,000. The money supports Easter Seals programs as well as other charitable causes including helping families struggling to provide their child with equipment they need to live life to the fullest. Some of the funds raised this year will also help Claire purchase some new equipment.
“Claire knows the craft fair is coming up and every year she’s excited to go… I hope she will eventually come to the understanding that Mommy and Daddy did something for her and because of that helped other people,” Hannam McDonald said. The craft fair – which was Hannam McDonald’s mother, Yvonne McDonald’s idea – is another way for the family to connect other families with resources they may not know about. It’s a community event, Hannam McDonald said, that takes place at Easter Seals House. The facility is completely accessible.
The craft fair – which has also become a place where many local artists have gotten their start as entrepreneurs – is also an opportunity for Claire’s family to educate people about the challenges many in life face every day.
“We’re just an average family. We don’t have a lot of money … but this (Claire’s Craft Fair) gives us an opportunity to give back … we want to reach out to other people, not just in the special needs community. It could mean changing someone’s mind about their attitude (towards people with special needs).”
Even though Claire lives with several medical conditions, Hannam McDonald said her daughter is a happy, thriving child who loves ponies, cars, bikes and life in general. Hannam McDonald has the same hopes and dreams for Claire that most parents do for their children. She wants her daughter to have a fulfilling life and to reach her full potential.
“We take life day to day… We see her thriving. We see her learning at her own pace … Claire has this way about her that attracts people to her. Our hope for Claire is that she’ll one day see how important it is to be an advocate for herself and for others.”
The craft fair takes place at Easter Seals House on Mount Scio Road in St. John’s Oct. 14 and 15. For more information on the event visit Claire’s 5th Annual Craft & Shopping Event on Facebook.