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The Birth of a Big Idea: The FFFS

When I wrote a blog post about a past miscarriage in the early days of my blogging career, I had no idea the response I would receive. CBC radio asked me to come on air and discuss my fertility and miscarriage and even added an article for their online content. CBC National picked up that online article and from there the views on my blog soared, the messages poured in and beautiful experiences presented themselves to me.

Out of my grief and experiences came a better gift: a purpose to help others. 

Out of my grief and experiences came a better gift: a purpose to help others. 

 

I was overwhelmed to say the least. To add even more excitement and awe to this incredible start to blogging, an old co-worker, Dani Friesen, reached out to me for a coffee meeting to discuss an idea she had. She was heartbroken to see many of her friends suffering with infertility and even more, she was appalled at the cost and financial devastation some couples were taking to try to conceive. She wanted to start a charity that raised funds for families to help pay for their fertility treatments. And she wanted my help.

I was honoured and confused; what did I know about charity work or fundraising? But Dani was confident I was a good fit and we began researching and planning immediately. I contacted Dr. Adrian Gamelin, the co-owner of Aurora IVF in Saskatoon to ask for her assistance. Her exact words: “we’ve been waiting for someone to do this.” She was on board to act as our medical consultant and help us decipher medical information. From there, Gamelin suggested we meet with Wendy Winiewski, a Global news anchor and mother who had her daughter via IVF. The three of us met, saw how well our personalities, skills and stories complimented each other and Family Fertility Fund was underway! Since then we’ve added one more valuable board member, Kristie Anne MacDonald who we know will be an immense help to FFFS and to all those who apply, reach out and/or work with.

Dani, myself, Wendy. Not pictured: Kristie Anne but you'll all see her soon enough!

Dani, myself, Wendy. Not pictured: Kristie Anne but you'll all see her soon enough!

 

It’s been hard. We obviously knew it would be challenging but hard work of getting a business off the ground aside, reading the applications from our applicants was heart wrenching and emotionally draining. We’ve done one round of funding where we gave $5,000 to one couple in December. Our criterion and selection method are based upon a grading process combined with an extensive application that reviews medical history, prognosis and financial statements. We ask for a fertility history as well as personal statements from both people on the application. We short list three couples who then receive a second medical evaluation form that is more thorough and in depth. That form is filled out by their physician and then sent to Gamelin who helps us decipher their diagnosis and prognosis. Her input is valuable but ultimately, the decision comes down to finances. What have they previously spent on treatment? What are their assets? Do they have any savings? Are they going to Mexico twice a year knowing their infertility diagnosis and quoted treatment costs? Have they made financial sacrifices? What’s their income to debt ratio? What percentage is their car payment out of their monthly income? Do they have student debt? Do they have a maxed line of credit from previous treatments? Do they spend frivolously?

As you can probably imagine, there is a lot that goes into the decision and it weighs heavily on us. On top of sifting through bank statements, budgets and medical jargon, we also catch a personal glimpse of who they are and how they’ve been impacted by their struggle from the story they share. Some even included pictures. When tasked with the fate of someone’s fertility, you can’t turn into a robot and let numbers and cents dictate your decision. There must be an element of humanity and compassion in the process.

The couple we chose for our fall funding met our expectations and medical and financial criterion. Without divulging their names, diagnosis or financial status, we wanted to share with you, many of you who have contributed donations and money to our organization already, an excerpt from their personal statement to show you how deserving and incredible these two people are:

From the wife, her first words were: “I am blessed. I really, truly am blessed with what and who I have in my life.” Despite her many fertility challenges and losses, she still has gratitude and finds the silver lining in a very dark cloud. She acknowledged her struggles and yet focuses on moving forward. She continued, “I still have hard days but I feel as though time really helps to heal. This year has been packed full of some of the most difficult moments I have ever faced. I truly feel that this year has tested my resiliency. I have learned that some things don’t always turn out the way you planned it or the way you think they should. I have also learned that things are bound to go wrong and can’t always be put back together the way they once were. But the biggest thing I have learned is that you can still come out on top if you are surrounded by the people who love you.”

Tough times are the biggest teachers for most people. They teach you strength or resiliency and sometimes, who to walk away from and who to embrace. They can also make you resentful and bitter. Hard times are just that, hard and infertility is such a hard beast; it’s a huge hovering menace that infiltrates every thought, move and decision. It takes over the lives of those it infects. To find a couple who could still embrace the good, acknowledge the bad and find strength to move forward was hard hitting for our selection committee.

Her husband’s story affected us even more. Upon finding out their first IVF cycle failed, he said, “ I was brought back down to reality when [wife] called me at work the next day to tell me that we did not have any embryos to be frozen. After hanging up with her, I had to leave the shop and have a moment to myself. I kept this a secret from [wife] knowing that she was at home having her own moment. I was more worried about how she felt. If there is one thing that came out of this horrible situation is that it brought me closer to my wife.”

Their story combined with their past struggles, life circumstances, financial status and medical history led us to choose them. It was a night to remember when the FFFS directors got together December 21 to deliver the best Christmas gift we could ever imagine giving: funding for their last chance to have a baby.

Delivering the $5,000 we raised from two online auctions and two events to Aurora IVF on behalf of our recipients

Delivering the $5,000 we raised from two online auctions and two events to Aurora IVF on behalf of our recipients

It was incredibly difficult to give bad news to eight other deserving couples. It broke our hearts to tell them they hadn’t been selected even though they all deserved a chance. Here we were, a group of women trying to help, and yet, breaking hearts along the way. It stung. But the joy, disbelief and tears we heard over our speaker phone conversation was enough to know that we were doing something good for our community and that we needed to continue. My husband Clayton, a farm boy with a tough exterior, filmed the conversation and even he had tears in his eyes witnessing such a magical moment. We all cried that night; tears of joy and happiness and tears for the others who were now back at square one with their treatment options.  I’m actually tearing up remembering it now. With more funding, we could help more people than one recipient each round. With more money, we hope to one day fund all the applicants who apply. With more money, we can help more babies join us earthside. This is why fundraising and charity is so important for us: We give a family hope. We give a family a chance. And hopefully, we will give a family their baby.

Blogging with purpose...We are MWSE.

Photo by deMo Photography

Photo by deMo Photography

Where did September go? It whipped past us like a quick breeze, and just like that the fall air has become ever so present. The leaves changing are sure signs that the summer is in the rear view mirror, and for many of us this equals more daily structure.  My favorite time of the year - I feel so at home with routine. This is particularly true when it comes to school, family activities, and work. We as a women fill our calendars with to-do lists and start to close up our yards and summer wardrobe for the imminent snow (i feel it wont be long...) It is also a new season for the Modern Woman Show and - the MWSE Blog. 

With great excitement and anticipation the show also welcomes a new leader. Kaila King from King's Court Events has taken the wheel and will steer the show into its fifth year and beyond.  Kaila is a dedicated wife and a full time mompreneur.  She is no stranger to hard work and has established and produces six other events yearly under the King's Court name.  She thrives on planning, schedules, and is a lover of lists. Some would call her a one woman show because she does it all - bookkeeper, office manager, and also helps run her husband's company. In her free time she can be found playing with her children - Kali & Owen, volunteering for her son's preschool board, and is currently training to be a doula. Kaila is proud to support numerous charities but has especially focused on donating funds from the Modern Woman Show to the Family Fertility Fund of Sask. We are so excited for her to add her knowledge and experience to the Modern Woman family and know that her interest in supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs of all ages is the perfect addition to the Modern Woman Show.

Photo Courtesy of  Lovestruck Portraits

Photo Courtesy of Lovestruck Portraits

It's full steam ahead with the 2018 event planning and this means some new topics to discuss on the blog. We have some new voices that are sure to connect with our ever growing readership. Without any further adieu I would like to introduce you to our team of fabulous collaborators. These women are all unique with a story to tell. It has always been my advice to our blog team to write with passion and to always blog with purpose.  The team and myself are looking forward to doing just that.

 
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Kelsey Connell

Kelsey is a former journalist turned stay at home mompreneur. She makes all natural skin care products but in February 2017 recommitted herself to her true passion: writing. Her blog, What We Don't Do, went viral in March 2017 after writing about her miscarriages. She focuses on the raw, vulnerable side of infertility, motherhood and trying to find her place in the world as her passionate, authentic self.

 
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Julie Vickaryous

Julie is a new addition to the Modern Woman team this year. Julie specializes in advancing the medical cannabis field right here in Saskatchewan as a senior cannabinoid therapist with National Access Cannabis. When she's not teaching cannabis cooking classes or information seminars, she's writing, ranting and raving about feminism and women's rights. At only 24 years old she is one of Canada's youngest breast cancer survivors, and is constantly doing her part to spread awareness about the disease.

 
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Mandy Gourlay

Proud mama and blogger for Before the Blonde, Mandy has an eye for all things fashion & beauty. She's also been walking the catwalk for the Runway Show since 2015. This year she's joining the MWSE blog to bring you fashion-focused features and a sneak peek of the vendors you'll see at the show!

 
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Katie Martin

Katie is the Fashion Show Co-ordinator for the Modern Woman Show & Expo and has a passion for the job as it allows her to work closely with hardworking local vendors, sponsors, models, and volunteers, providing positive team leadership and a sense of friendship among the woman involved in the event. She is a full-time Esthetician & Makeup Artist, part-time Photographer, dog lover, wine drinker extraordinaire, and self-proclaimed Comedian. Follow along with her often humorous "tell it like it is" style of blog posts this season as she partakes in new and exciting activities focusing primarily on the importance of self care.

 
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Jocelyn deMoissac

meet jocelyn. A professional wedding and documentary lifestyle photographer and mentor. Specializing in the real and raw moments of life. She’s a passionate dreamer and get shit done’er. No stranger to the red wine and always surprised everyday at 4:30pm that dinner has to be made. A proud wife to Steven, blessed momma to Sloan, Harlow and Enver. You can catch this crew having daily dance kitchen dance parties and soaking up all the outside time possible at the lake, on the trails or in the backyard. When the camera batteries are charging you can find Joc making the most of the long days and short years. She is truly honored to document some of life's most incredible and huge moments and is always looking forward to meeting new smiling faces.

 
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Megan Hammond

Megan is the creative force (and hands) behind Elizabeth.lyn jewelry. A self taught jewelry designer with entrepreneurial blood, she has both owned and managed several retail businesses before turning eL from a part time hobby into a full time career. She is currently learning how to balance working from home and momming full time to one year old son Asher... #staytuned. 

 
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and myself, Chantal Schulte

Chantal works as the marketing director and cosmetic laser technician at Midwest Laser Centre. She also spends her extra-curricular time pulling shoes away from her dog Wrigley, hosting dinner parties for her family and friends, and sampling the latest fare at Saskatoon’s up-and-coming restaurants; as the founder of the Modern Woman Show she is INSPIRED daily of every vendor’s road to success and greatly appreciates being apart, in any capacity, of their journey.

Here We Go! Welcome to the 2017 Modern Woman Show

Oh, how i love the holidays! It's a time where we feel the delight in giving - offering love and togetherness and of course, a few beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree.  Some of the most recurring themes of the holidays include family gatherings, overloading on food & beverages, and certainly feeling the fury of crowded malls. It is also a theme among us at Modern Woman that a New Year and SHOW is upon us.

When the team at Modern Woman started to plan the 2017 'season' (back in July....)we wanted to focus on the continued development of the show encompassing our forever motto -"inspire strong, confident women with an appetite for adventure and a passion for life." We have brought back the anticipated spring fashion show, with increased seating for those that were not able to snag a ticket. Our partnerships with local businesses has flourished to include a mentorship opportunity for one lucky winner - Click here for details on Our Modern Hustle.

In keeping with our values as supportive women entrepreneurs, we added new areas to the event including The Marketplace & Learn n' Shop. Local crafters and artisans have a farmer's market style area in the middle of our busy trade-show to showcase the intricate items that they are so passionate to share with us. The Learn n' Shop has already become such a success with interactive class options within the event. *SPOILER ALERT* We are tickled pink about having Paint Nite, Lead Pilates, and Ryde YXE among just a few of the classes that will be offered. New and exciting opportunities for businesses and attendees will continue rolling out over the course of the next couple months. 

As you may have noticed our website and blog has also seen a makeover in the last week.  I'm so excited to have our bloggers write some more 'hot topic' posts, focusing on issues that not only effect each of our personal lives, but often hit the hearts and homes of people in our community.  We will be featuring themed posts in series including The Fabulously Unfit Girl's Guide To Health & Wellness, I'm a Modern Woman - a look at local women entrepreneurs, and we will be sure to keep you updated on all thing Modern Woman.

From all of us at The Modern Woman - may the season find you among those you love, sharing in generosity and gratitude. We hope to see you in April!

Chantal xoxo

Our First Blog Post

Keep your heels and head up. The blog is here.

Several years ago I sat at my kitchen table, or maybe on the couch…Let’s be honest, it was most likely the bathroom floor (My best creative thinking is with a glass of red sitting on the bathroom floor). It was in this exact ‘Ah Ha’ moment that I decided to create a trade show for women. It wasn’t going to be like any other show that I had participated in -this one was going to be different. The Modern Woman Show was going to be full of inspiring women, a focus on local business, and it had to give back to the community we lived in – women helping women. The event was going to evolve into something unique and special. It would become not only a place to find great products but a learning experience.
So there I am, with very minimal entrepreneurial knowledge, I have the understanding of hard work, experience as a vendor, and the knowledge of being a woman (with woman interests, of course). A lot of passion and dedication and a dream was born. Now fast forward to present day -Modern Woman has grown and we couldn’t have done it without the support of so many people. This blog has been added to share more about those special people, the businesses that make this event a success, and it gives us an opportunity to show you a little more about who we are.
I have learned in the last 5 years to travel off the beaten path, cultivate new friendships that inspire you, live life to the absolute fullest, and never stop learning and challenging yourself. I hope this blog and the women and businesses featured will ignite an ‘Ah Ha’ moment for you.
XX Chan

“I choose to surround myself around phenomenal women who are confident and secure enough to know that there is enough room for all of us to make it to the finish line.” -unknown

Our Influencers:

Katie Martin

What does being a Modern Woman mean to you?
The obvious thing that comes to mind is to stay current with trends while embracing your individual style regarding things such as fashion, music, and pop culture in general. I believe it's also incredibly important to stay informed about our world. We have a responsibility to pay attention to current events, to have a basic understanding of politics both locally and globally, and to stay informed about the core issues that face society as a whole. I think it’s also about taking the time to really get to know ourselves, what makes us unique and important, and what inspires us to be confident and purposeful.

 

Mandi Brown

What can we find you doing in your spare time?
Health & Fitness related activities such as Cross Fit, the gym, taking my wiener dog for a walk, yoga with friends etc. I am also a huge fan of supporting local business and fueling our YXE economy by eating at local restaurants, shopping at local shops and following the local fashion and business networks.

 

Jocelyn de Moissac

What do you look forward most to at the Modern Woman Show?
I look forward to another great year at the show watching connections being made and being surrounded by all of these incredibly talented and inspiring woman. I adore the interaction I see on the daily while shooting this show and of course hanging with the guest speakers isn’t horrible. A fun perk that’s for sure. It’s all around such a feel good/warm fuzzies kind of weekend for me.

 

Megan Hammond

What inspires you?

The support and encouragement I receive from friends, family and complete strangers. There is so much good in this world, and it shows up in the cracks and crevices of everyday life. Choosing to be open to learning and growth inspires me in ways that constantly surprise me. Surrounding myself with strong, creative and hardworking people has inspired me to be better, do better and support others in their endeavors. Saskatoon is full of people up to great things!

 

 

All photos courtesy of deMo photography