Gore Bay teen to speak at seminar being held for first responders and families

Malia Leighton, of Gore Bay, right, with her father Daryl Leighton.

GORE BAY – A Gore Bay student who wrote an essay about what it’s like to be a police officer’s daughter will be one of the featured speakers at a seminar being held for first responders and families being put on by Invisible Wounds.

“Yes, one of our featured speakers will be Malia Leighton of Gore Bay,” stated Deborah MacDonald, BA, RPN, of Invisible Wounds. “We are thrilled about having her come and speak at the seminar for first responders and families. I had first read an article in a Sudbury paper about her story, about her and her father, who is a police officer and her essay “My Keeper.” I was so impressed.” 

Ms. MacDonald explained, “yes, I said after reading this article I need to get her for this seminar and Mike Addison (Gore Bay Fire Chief), who I know, said he knows Malia and made the introductions.”

Mr. Addison told the Recorder, “I do training for fire departments on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and stress and I know Deborah from the work she does. They are putting on a seminar session in May for first responders and families. And this seminar will feature the fire chief of Kitchener and his wife, and the stress his occupation has on the family.”

“Deborah had reached out to me about Malia’s speech as a daughter of a first responder and what it is like,” said Mr. Addison. “The whole idea is that basically she (Malia) will be helping other kids of first responders by making her presentation at the seminar.”  

“Mike had contacted my mom and told her about the group Deborah works with and why she wanted me to speak at this seminar,” Malia told the Recorder. “We got the phone number and called her. When I told her (Ms. MacDonald) I would talk at the seminar she said she was very happy that I would do this.”  

“There will be a lot of speakers at the seminar, but I don’t know if they’ve had a presentation from the point of view of a kid whose father is a police officer,” said Malia. She explained that last October for her high school studies (English class, Grade 12), “I had to pick a personal, meaningful essay. So I wrote an essay about being the daughter of a police officer.” She noted she had done a similar speech when she was in Grade 8 and took some ideas from that speech for her essay.

The essay, titled ‘My Keeper,’ talks about the stress that comes with having a parent who is a police officer, but also the great pride she takes in her father’s role in the community. 

Ms. MacDonald told the Recorder, “I’ve been organizing this type of conference for first responders for five years and this will be the sixth one we have held.”

Invisible Wounds is maintained by Ms. MacDonald, and is a small organization located in the municipality of South Bruce and is dedicated to positively contributing to the lives of first responders, health care professionals and their families. “We do this by organizing and overseeing conferences, seminars and events which decrease stigma associated with mental health challenges, by providing education and skill development, peer support and networking opportunities.

The seminar, which will be held in May, will present topics and speakers to build resiliency, enhance relationships, promote mental wellness and strengthen ties within the family unit. The seminar will facilitate conversations to help break through stigmas which often prevents people from speaking openly about life stressors, occupational stress, occupational injuries or PTSD.

To read Malia’s essay, please see Page 9 of this newspaper.