Remembering Kerry Anderson-Gillman

Kerry Anderson-Gillman thrived at being a mom and creating a comfortable loving home for her family.

“Kerry was very serene and had a great sense of love,” remembers her mom, Ann. “She always wanted to have a family and a home and they were the most important things to her.”

So much so that even when this young mother of 4 was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 2015, Kerry was determined to keep the disruptions to a minimum.

“It was a year of one bit of bad news after another,” says Ann. “But Kerry taught us it was crucial to try and maintain normalcy for the children. She’d have treatment one day, and then be out for one of the kids’ birthday parties the next.”

For Kerry, no summer would be complete without a visit to the Teddy Bear’s Picnic. Her love affair with the picnic began years earlier. Kerry’s father Chris is the former Director of Operations at the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, and it was a family affair right from the start.

“Remember that Teddy Bear’s Picnic has been going on for 29 years,” recalls Chris. “So Kerry was there as a youngster, as she grew older she volunteered there, and then once her own children arrived she brought them each year. It’s amazing that the Teddy Bear’s Picnic was part of her life as a child, a volunteer and as a mom.”

Sadly, one year and one day after her diagnosis, 39 year old mother of 4, Kerry Anderson-Gillman, died peacefully in the home she loved.

Kerry’s life-long love of the Teddy Bear’s Picnic inspired her husband Lawrence to establish an endowment fund in Kerry’s name to help finance the picnic for years to come.

“I wanted to do something, and Children’s Hospital has always been meaningful to us,” says Lawrence. “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic was a huge thing for Kerry’s family, and once we had kids it became a huge thing for our family too.”

For Lawrence and Kerry’s young children, the family sees the endowment fund as a way to provide 6 year old Sophie, 5 year old Michael, 3 year old Jack and 1 year old Claire a lifelong opportunity to remember and celebrate their Mom.

“The endowment fund provides an opportunity to have something good come out of all of this,” says Lawrence. “I am hoping this will be something the kids can fundraise for years from now. It’s something that in the future they can be a part of and continue to move forward as a way of remembering their Mom.”

Kerry having been a nurse, and Lawrence a trauma surgeon, this medically minded family saw a unique benefit to the annual event.

“We always believed the Teddy Bear’s Picnic as not only a fun event for families, but it’s also quite valuable,” explains Lawrence. “It exposes children to the hospital system which is very important for those kids who haven’t experienced it but will have to one day. It gives them some insight into the hospital not being a scary place, but rather a safe place where people will take care of you.”

Long-time monthly donors to the Children’s Hospital, it’s fitting that Kerry’s legacy will continue to help Manitoba children. At such a sorrowful time the creation of the endowment fund has given Kerry’s parents a touch of comfort.

“I am so very proud that Lawrence decided to do this for our daughter,” says Ann. “This beautiful endowment does bring me some comfort knowing that she’ll be remembered in all the right ways. Kerry would have loved it.”

It’s especially moving for Kerry’s father Chris, who enjoyed a 30 year career at the Children’s Hospital.

“It’s very special. I would never have brought this up as my agenda, but Lawrence brought it up and it’s come together in a very special and meaningful way,” says Chris. “There are so many options where people can donate their money, but I think when you are blessed with 4 healthy children the overwhelming gratitude of that makes you want to support Children’s Hospital. It’s a really big deal to have healthy children.”

The loss of their own young daughter has Kerry’s parents bound and determined to uphold the life that Kerry loved and maintained throughout the harrowing past year.

“It’s pointless to be angry about losing her,” says Ann, “because there is absolutely no rhyme or reason why we had to lose her. She deserves to have us carry on the way she would want, and that is normalcy and taking care of the children. It’s very hard to do, but we’re trying our best to be positive with our energy because the children need us.”

The deep love for Kerry and her beautiful young family ensures that they will always know just how special their devoted Mother was.

“I know how important the Teddy Bear’s Picnic was to Kerry, so I would definitely always bring the kids any way,” says Lawrence. “But it’s nice to know that the fund will have a hand in the picnic continuing to happen for years to come. I will be sure my kids know that Kerry was an amazing Mom that loved them very much. She would have done anything for them.”

The Kerry Anderson-Gillman Endowment Fund will be used to purchase supplies and support the Dr. Goodbear Clinic tent and the Teddy Bears’ Picnic in perpetuity. Memorial donations may be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, CE501 – 840 Sherbrook St. Winnipeg, MB R3A 1S1 or online.