Kaya Firth and Zach Sutherland lived lives filled with love, fun, laughter and connection. They passed suddenly and tragically while enjoying a short kayaking trip. They were both the first born children in our families and were about to finish their undergraduate degrees at the University of Guelph. They each have two younger brothers with whom they shared an extraordinary relationship.
From the beginning of this tragedy our first priority as parents was to support Kaya and Zach’s siblings through this life altering loss and help them grieve. We also recognized that to be able to do this, we ourselves must grieve inwardly and outwardly and together discover healthy expressions of our grief now and in the future. It is our belief that when grief is not properly dealt with, it will continue to manifest itself in other negative ways throughout a person’s life.
When we looked at the friends in our children’s lives, we found that too many had had to deal with the loss of a significant loved one and had also faced other adversities. We recognized in these young people an innate kindness and a strong ability to empathize, and realized that these qualities foster resilience.
At the one-year point following the event that changed the direction of our lives, both families felt the need to honor and celebrate the lives of Kaya and Zach. Each family was drawn to the purpose of giving support to youth who despite having to endure great loss made an active choice to integrate their experience of adversity into their lives and make positive change in themselves and in the lives of others.
In honor of all of our children, we choose 2 Be resilient.