From trauma to good will, how a Guelph family is working through grief by giving back
In the kitchen of their Guelph home, Susan Lodge helped her nine-year-old daughter put on an apron that bears her name, ‘Alyssa’, before the young girl stepped on a chair in order to reach the cupboard and bake cookies.
But she’s not only baking. In a way, she’s healing and helping her parents heal too because Alyssa Lodge is now the only child living in their home
“Of course the biggest change for her is that she's gone from being the youngest of three children to being an only child,” Susan said.
Today, and for many weeks, Alyssa has been baking and selling cookies, raising money for a hospital close to her heart.
“McMaster was the hospital that I went to. and they helped me a lot,” she said.
On January 31, Alyssa, her 10-year-old sister Amanda, 12-year-old-brother Evan and their mom Susan were driving home from an afternoon cross-country ski trip when they were struck by a vehicle in North Dumfries.
After being hit by the first SUV, the family says their van was then struck by a second SUV.
The Lodge family van flipped multiple times, finally coming to rest on its roof.
The family says it’s believed Evan was killed instantly. Amanda was on life support at McMaster hospital and died just a few days later.
“I had a broken pelvis and broken ribs,” Alyssa, explained. The nine-year-old also suffered a concussion and stayed in the hospital for just over a week.
As Alyssa’s mom and dad, Susan and Gregson held photos of the wo children they lost while sitting on their living room couch.
There was no lack of words about how much potential is now gone.
“They had very bright futures ahead of them. They were both very smart, kind, athletic,” Susan said.
Amanda was excited she would soon be of age to accept more responsibility, like babysitting neighbourhood children. Evan dreamt about what high school would be like and what clubs he would be able to join.
The family is now working to heal as much as possible.
“Even just tidying the house, because we're still running into things, that you know, the last time we had it out was when everybody was together,” Gregson said.
The way Susan looks at it, they have two options.
“I can curl up in a ball,” she explained. “Or I can put one foot in front of the other,” knowing their only surviving child needs her parents more now than ever.
But it turns out Alyssa, in return, is helping mom and dad too.
When the nine-year-old first told her parents she wanted to give back to the hospital that helped her, mom and dad told her she could when she was older because right now, the trio needed to focus on healing both physically and mentally.
Yet, after memory-filled anniversaries, birthdays and holidays passed, Alyssa continued to ask.
“Then she came to me on mother’s day and said ‘how old do I have to be before I get started?’ So I finally went ahead and said 'yes, let’s go ahead and do this,'” Susan said.
“Originally she just wanted to go back into the hospital and hand out toys to kids but with COVID, you can’t,” Gregson said.
“When I was in McMaster they gave me toys and colouring stuff and fresh pyjamas for me to use,” Alyssa said with a smile.
The family passed out about 10 flyers to neighbours only, stating Alyssa was selling batches of cookies for ten dollars each and all proceeds are going to McMaster Children’s Hospital.
Demand somehow expanded from those neighbours and hundreds of orders came in.
The Lodge family Kitchen quickly became a busy spot.
“The outpouring of support from the community has been huge and we have been so thankful for that,” Susan said also referring to the immediate support the family received after the collision.
Alyssa raised five thousand dollars and at her last physio appointment at McMaster on Monday, she donated her earnings.
She also brought gifts for other kids, like pyjamas and colouring books - the same items she appreciated in her time of need.
To Alyssa’s surprise, others showed up too.
“When I went to drop off the money there were police officers there and it was a surprise because we didn't know that they would be there,” the nine-year-old stated.
The Waterloo Regional Police Association, The Guelph Police Association and The Hamilton Police Association all surprised the young girl by also donating on her behalf.
“It's a massive trauma and to know that she’s thinking of others, lets me know that she must be doing okay herself,” Susan said.
While the young girls baking not only helped raise money, it unknowingly helped mom and dad a little too.
“Every day when I wake up, the first thing I think is, my kids are gone. But then, sometimes the second thing is, we need to get baking today,” Susan added.
Waterloo regional police are investigating the January 31 collision and tell CTV News they expect to release updated information soon.