Jeanette Arsenault stood at the front of the sanctuary in Picton’s United Church, the veil of grief still cast a shadow across her face. Her short, dark grey hair was just beginning to show signs it was growing back, evidence of the solidarity she displayed with her daughter as she endured further treatments in an effort to battle a cancer that ultimately stole her life away. It was for this reason Jeanette now stood, ugly crying and despondent in front of a supportive and somber crowd. A litany of musicians had paid tribute to Jeanette’s only biological daughter only moments earlier, and the gratitude Jeanette tried to express came out in garbled words between sobs.
Kait’s Tribute was a remarkable testimony to the lasting impact Jeanette and Kait had within the community of Prince Edward County and amongst the many talented musicians assembled that day. Standing now in front of friends and family Jeanette impressively composed herself and, with the support of her family, found the words that she had been hoping to share all afternoon.
It was important that Kait’s life not be in vain. Jeanette wanted to ensure that the generosity her daughter exhibited in life was not forgotten, and so Jeanette was vowing to commit the same energy into continuing her daughter’s legacy. Jeanette described how, while staying in hospital long-term, Kait would remark on different things she found helpful. Kait had wondered out loud if there couldn’t be something pre-packaged that hospitals could have on hand for patients to have in order to make their stay more comfortable. It was small comforts; a good lip-balm, a nice hand cream, a warm blanket, or a pair of fuzzy socks. Jeanette had been taking mental notes each time Kait talked about these little things, and she decided even before Kait passed away that she would honour Kait by fulfilling this dream for her.
So on this Spring afternoon, in 2018, Jeanette announced the launch of Kait’s Comfort Kits. It was a non-profit started in her daughter’s memory and she was announcing it to friends and family on a day appropriately designed to pay tribute to a young woman who had a smile that could light up a room, had a voice that could soothe a soul, and had a heart that could fill the whole world.
Thanks to the generosity of so many donors, mostly from the County and the Quinte region, Jeanette’s team was able to raise over $30,000. They distributed over 300 Kait’s Comfort Kits to several hospitals. This included hospitals in Picton, Belleville, Kingston, Ottawa, and Hamilton. They gave Kits to Prince Edward Hospice, and two long-term care facilities. They even sent some to a nearby homeless shelter. So many local volunteers stepped forward to help stuff the Kits, which was greatly appreciated.
What Jeanette wasn’t expecting was the number of families whose loved ones received Kits who in turn wanted to make a donation to assist in creating more. They all expressed their great appreciation for the generosity, kindness and thoughtfulness of strangers.
When COVID hit in March 2020, the hospitals were no longer able to accept the Kits, so the team pivoted and instead donated $9,000 worth of Personal Protective Equipment and supplies where they were needed most.
Initially Kait’s Comfort Kits were designed for oncology patients in palliative care, however, many more hospital departments have expressed an interest in receiving Kits including ICU, emergency, palliative care and complex care. Each have different needs so the Kits can be tailored to suit what their patients need most.
You can read the first story that featured Jeanette’s and Kait’s journey here. Once the pandemic is over, Jeanette and her team plan to resume fundraising. They are currently in discussion about how they can make it a sustainable project. If you are wanting more information or would like to follow along, you can find Kait’s Comfort Kits on Facebook.
As each year goes by it never gets easier. Jeanette will often retreat to her quiet place for solitude on special days, especially Kait’s birthday, the anniversary of her death, and on Mother’s Day. She turns off social media, will spend the day taking time to care for her body and soul, and remembering her sweet, sweet girl. She has expressed time and again her gratitude to all of the donors and generous businesses that have helped bring this project success. It is because of the generosity of Prince Edward County and the Quinte Region that she was able to bring on her daughter’s last dreams to reality.