Until the phone call comes, you never think it will happen to you – not to your family. But every year, regular families right here in Kingston and across Canada get the call to tell them their loved one is not coming home from work, because of a work-related injury or illness.
It happens to regular families like Bill Stunt’s. Bill’s son Karl was performing maintenance work at a ski resort when he was fatally injured while entering the ski lift terminal.
“My son was killed in 2004 while working at Sunshine Village Ski resort in Banff Alberta,” recalled Stunt. “He had a summer job working as an assistant on a lift maintenance crew. Karl suffered a fatal head injury when, against safety protocol, the maintenance car he was working on entered the lift station with Karl on the top of the cage. He was 25.”
“Karl was in Banff fulfilling a long-term dream of spending a winter skiing in the Rocky Mountains,” Stunt continued. “He took a break from his career as a video editor and travelled from Ontario to Banff with his two best friends. They all got part time jobs in Banff to finance their adventure.”
This spring, Stunt is the spokesperson for Steps for Life in Kingston. ‘Steps for Life – Walking for Families of Workplace Tragedy’ is a national event aimed at promoting workplace health and safety, and supporting families affected by work-related fatality, life-altering injury, or occupational disease, according to a release from Threads of Life. Stunt has walked in, and been the family spokesperson at, many Steps for Life events since 2005.
“Being the spokesperson for the Kingston Steps for Life walk is important to myself and my family,” Stunt said. “We know first hand the devastating consequences of a workplace fatality.”
Threads of Life is currently supporting the healing journey of more than 3,200 family members across Canada who have suffered from a workplace fatality, traumatic life-altering injury, or occupational disease, including Stunt and his family.
Stunt said that his family was made aware of Threads of Life by a WSIB worker. “A Threads of Life Volunteer Family Guide contacted us and offered peer support, practical advice and information about an upcoming Family Forum, which we attended,” he said. “My wife and I got (and continue to get) much comfort from the Forum workshops and the information and strategies they offer. It’s also very comforting to spend time with other families who are dealing with the impact of workplace tragedies. I’ve become an active volunteer for the organization. I am currently the chair of the board of directors and a member of the Speakers Bureau.”
According to the release, Steps for Life is an opportunity to turn tragedy into hope and healing. It’s a fun five-kilometre walk which serves as the premier fundraiser for Threads of Life. This national charity supports families affected by workplace tragedy. Steps for Life Kingston is in its sixth year. During that time, local volunteers, businesses, and families have raised close to $75,000 to support families like Bill’s with peer support, information, and training to help them share their stories. This year’s event plans to build on that success.
The money raised will be used to fund Threads of Life programming like peer support and Family Forums, according to Stunt. The money is also used to fund travel and accommodation for families from the Kingston area who attend forums and training sessions.
“I’d like Kingston area families to know that Threads of Life is there to provide support,” Stunt expressed. “I encourage them to reach out. For the general public, I would like to encourage them to come out and support the walk to help us spread the message that traumatic workplace injuries, occupational diseases and deaths are both preventable and unacceptable.”
“Steps for Life honours workers, like our son and brother Karl who was fatally injured at work,” Stunt added. “Others have suffered life-altering injury or illness as a consequence of something most of us do every day: going to work. Steps for Life serves to raise awareness of the necessity of protecting workers everywhere.”
Steps for Life Kingston takes place on Saturday, Apr. 30, 2022 at Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area, located at 1641 Perth Road in Glenburnie. Registration opens at 9:30 a.m.; and the walk kicks off at approximately 10 a.m.