A diminutive dynamo

She's raised over $90,000 for charity, including $10,800 this year alone, but remains quietly reserved when asked about it. "I don't want to come across as pompous," said Wendy Callahan.

She’s raised over $90,000 for charity, including $10,800 this year alone, but remains quietly reserved when asked about it.

“I don’t want to come across as pompous,” said Wendy Callahan.

Governor General David Johnston presented her with the Caring Canadian Award in recognition of her efforts in April.

“These volunteers are examples of everything that is right and good about our country,” said Johnston.

The award recognizes living Canadians and permanent residents who have made a significant, sustained, unpaid contribution to their community.

She and a friend were flown to Ottawa for the ceremony.

“I was honoured that she asked me to go along with her,” said Nancy Irvine. “I’m honoured to have her as a friend.”

“Look what one local person has contributed,” she said. “One person can make a difference.”

Callahan found the ceremony, complete with a barrage of photographers and journalists, to be overwhelming.

As for the trip and the way she was treated, she said simply, “It was really very nice.”

She is quiet and modest, but this diminutive dynamo is an example what can be done by single-minded effort.

It all started with her participation in CIBC’s Run for the Cure fundraiser in 1998.

The catalyst for her involvement was Flo Kitz, a regular customer at the restaurant where Callahan was a server and who was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“She was vivacious. She had so much to offer, she was just a very nice person,” she said.

Watching Kitz battle with cancer had a profound impact on Callahan.

“She was so positive and I never thought that she wouldn’t make it,” she said. “But she didn’t, and I thought that was just very sad, and what a waste of a life.”

That year $18,000 of the $40,000 raised remained in Yukon, as the organizers were a national group.

“It was the first deposit towards our mammogram machine, so it was very useful,” Callahan said.

A new mammogram machine cost nearly $700,000. The entire amount was raised through a new program, Run for Mom.

Run for Mom was started by two local women, Tamara Goeppel and Donna Jones, along with an organizing committee made up of volunteers, community members and hospital staff.

Callahan joined the first Run for Mom that was launched on Mother’s Day in 1999. She hasn’t missed one since.

That year she had the name of a woman whom she babysat as a child emblazoned on her bib.

“Her mother had asked if I would do that and I was very happy to do that for Karen. Karen had survived. She’s a survivor.”

There is no history of breast cancer in Callahan’s family, and she has had no personal battle with it. But there has been no lack of motivation for Callahan to continue her journey with Run for Mom.

She’s watched others courageously battle cancer. Some have been victorious, others have not.

“It just makes you realize they really need a lot of support,” she said.

Callahan works in the Yukon government’s mailroom.

“Even in this building there were two women in less than a few weeks, both diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said.

“That was three or four years ago. They’re both survivors.”

They were in the same department and worked a few doors from each other.

The people that sponsor Callahan do so year after year.

“The people of Whitehorse I find are very generous,” she said.

“Even before I get my campaign started some years, people are coming up to me going, ‘When are you starting your campaign for Run for Mom? Don’t forget me. You know I have such loyal support.’ I’m very lucky.”

Her quiet, unassuming manner belies a fierce dedication to the cause. The amount of money she’s raised has consistently increased each year.

Run for Mom has funded the publication of a handout for women on what to expect when they come for a mammogram, supported the Paddlers Abreast canoe team, and made it possible for two local breast cancer survivors to attend the International Congress on Breast Cancer.

They continue fundraising for diagnostic equipment, delivery of services, education, public awareness, and development and support of community projects and programs related to breast health.

All proceeds from this fundraiser remain in the Yukon.

Callahan says she is not an active volunteer for other groups. But she did volunteer for the Canada Winter Games and the Arctic Winter Games.

“If someone asked me to do something, I definitely would help with other things. But as far as being someone who goes out and volunteers all the time, I wouldn’t say that I’m that kind, or have that much time.”

Some people believe otherwise.

“You know you can always depend on her,” said Irvine. “Certainly she is out for the community in general.”

The accolades continue for the unpretentious Callahan.

Besides receiving the Caring Canadian award, a tribute to her was presented in the Yukon legislature by MLA Kate White.

She is about to be further recognized by being the recipient of a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award for her volunteer efforts.

Callahan’s mother, Janet Couture, received a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award in May for her creation of the Yukon Tartan.

Apparently, community service runs in the family.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Yukon Budget 2.0

If the banks that finance the Yukon’s growing debt were the only… Continue reading

Yukon Supreme Court Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan dismissed an application on May 3 seeking more transparity on the territory’s state of emergency declaration. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Supreme Court rules confidential memo can’t be used in challenge of state of emergency

Court upholds cabinet confidentiality after request to use internal government memo as evidence.

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 7, 2021.… Continue reading

Yukon Party MLAs Wade Istchenko and Stacey Hassard are facing criticism for crude text messages in a group chat. (Submitted)
First Nations leaders call for stricter punishment of Yukon Party MLAs

Queer Yukon has also criticized the two individuals involved in an inappropriate group chat

Fire chief Jason Everett (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City launches emergency alert system

The city is calling on residents and visitors to register for Whitehorse Alert

Two young orienteers reach their first checkpoint near Shipyards Park during a Yukon Orienteering Association sprint race May 5. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Orienteers were back in action for the season’s first race

The Yukon Orienteering Association began its 2021 season with a sprint race beginning at Shipyards.

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its May 3 meeting and the upcoming 20-minute makeover.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister talks tourism in “virtual visit” to the Yukon

Tourism operators discussed the budget with Freeland

Polarity Brewing is giving people extra incentive to get their COVID vaccine by offering a ‘free beer’ within 24 hours of their first shot. John Tonin/Yukon News
Polarity Brewing giving out ‘free’ beer with first COVID vaccination

Within 24 hours of receiving your first COVID-19 vaccine, Polarity Brewing will give you a beer.

A Yukon government sign is posted to one of the trees that have been brought down for the sewer project in Riverdale explaining the project. The area is set to be revegetated with grass when it is complete. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Planned stormsewer outfall will improve drainage on Selkirk Street

Resident raises concern over clearing as council considers agreement.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s baby bison, born April 22, mingles with the herd on April 29. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Yukon Wildlife Preserves welcomes two bison calves

A bison calf was the first 2021 baby born at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

A map provided by the Yukon government shows the location of unpermitted logging leading to a $2,500 fine. (Courtesy/Yukon government)
Man fined $2,500 for felling trees near Beaver Creek

The incident was investigated by natural resource officers and brought to court.

Most Read