Pikwakanagan rallies to support young widow, child

Pikwakanagan – Family friends, community and local businesses have rallied to support the family of the late Keith McGuire who was killed tragically on January 4 when his tractor trailer caught fire in a parking lot at Madoc while he was sleeping the bunkee.

“I want people to understand Mandy is in her early 40s and she is now a young widow with an 11-year-old to raise,” family friend Nicole Bernard said on Tuesday morning. “I want people to be sympathetic to what she will require.”

The community of Pikwakanagan is a tightly knit one and people have rallied to support Mrs. McGuire (Amanda/Mandy) and her daughter, Sandi, she noted. The fundraising drive, with donation jars at local businesses, is a chance for them to give her some financial support as they not only deal with the loss of a loved father and husband but the sole family breadwinner.

Donation jars are spread throughout the community. At the drive-thru smoke shop where she works, Ms. Bernard said the response has been good, with many people who don’t even know the family supporting the fundraising.

“There are also truckers who have come through who knew Keith,” she noted.

Her own connection to Mr. McGuire’s family is strong. His mother-in-law, Valerie Smith, lived with Nicole many years ago.

“So when Mandy and Keith started dating, I met him,” she said. “He was a great guy. He always had a joke. I would get my joke fix from him.”

A devoted dad to daughter Sandi, he was a man who brought a smile to the faces of those who encountered him, she said. He also worked hard to provide for his family as a long-haul trucker, often gone for the week for work.

“He was such a helpful person. He gave of himself to other people,” she said.

The connection between the two families remained strong and when she heard of Mr. McGuire’s death, she wanted to reach out to help and encourage others to do what they can. She has also had her own experience with losing a loved one in a tragic accident as a young woman. Her fiancé was killed on a February day almost 26-years-ago and the pain of that loss is something she will never forget.

“It hurts to see her going through this,” she said.

The suddenness of the death is a reminder of how fragile life can be, she added.

“This could happen to any of our lives,” she said. “I can happen and it did.”

The financial support raised will go to help Mrs. McGuire with ongoing costs following the loss of her husband. He was the sole wage earner in the family since she is on a disability because of M.S. The family lives in Pikwakanagan with her mother.

“The bills are going to keep coming,” Ms. Bernard noted.

With strong community support for the family, she added she is glad to live in a community like Pikwakanagan where people care for each other, especially at a time of loss.

“Most people are so sympathetic and giving. They come with food, money, to sit with you and hold your hand,” she said. “In a city that would not happen, but they have the support of family and friends in this community. Even people in Eganville have been so good reaching out.”

The fundraising has been going well and about $5,500 has been raised through various initiatives, including the donation jars and Rhonda Commando has done two 50/50 draws raising over $1,000 alone. As the donations continue to come in, Ms. Bernard is also challenging people to do more.

“I would love to see chief and council match the donations we have received,” she said. “We need to give her a good start.”

In her own experience with dealing with loss, she knows it makes a tremendous difference to know people are supporting you. In some ways the financial donations are just a symbol of how people care, she pointed out.

“You don’t need to try to save the world,” she said. “Just show up and be there. This fundraising is a key component of healing and I am just asking for empathy for Mandy and Sandi.”

Donation jars are set up at: Golden Lake Smoke Shop; Smoke Signals; Mashkiki Medicinals; Rez Meds; Pikwakanagan Fuels; Golden Lake Variety Store; Kokomish Care; Whiteduck Smokes; Whiteduck Wellness and Madashk (Sherry Lees).

“We are going to keep this going for another month,” she said. “We want to do what we can to support Mandy and Sandi.”

As Ms. Bernard looked on a picture of Mr. McGuire and his family, she said she is still coming to terms with the sudden loss.

“He was a lovely soul,” she said. “I like to think God is rewarding him for everything good he did here.”

Donations can also be made by e-transfer directly to the family using the following email address: amandamcguire23@gmail.com or be mailed to Mandy McGuire, 14C Shigwak Inamo, Pikwakanagan, ON, K0J1X0.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader