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Portrait of a volunteer with a heart of gold

Mme Rioux pictured in a headshotAfter 45 years of volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross, Gaétane Rioux is still as caring as ever when she arrives at the scene of a fire.

Whether the year is 1975 or 2020, people who are impacted by a disaster all experience a range of strong emotions when their homes are on fire. Gaétane and her fellow volunteers are there to provide compassion and a shoulder to lean on through such challenging times. As the mother of several children herself, she sees herself in these families whose lives are suddenly turned upside down.

Ready to respond day or night, Gaétane has been woken up on countless occasions so she can provide comfort to families who are going through an incredibly difficult time.

People who experience house fires not only lose their homes and belongings; their memories also go up in smoke, and no amount of money can buy those back. After such a tragedy, families need the support of a volunteer like Gaétane, who knows from experience that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. She has witnessed the resilience of dozens of families who have made themselves another home after a fire, and she knows how to be there for them so that they, too, can rebuild their life.

All the years spent volunteering with the Red Cross has given Gaétane a second family that brings her immense fulfillment, support and joy. She knows that she is surrounded by people with their hearts in the right place, and is part of a group that welcomes everyone with open arms.

This adoptive family reminds her of her own: her father, a farmer, who gave endlessly to the less fortunate; her 11 children, all of whom she is so proud; and her grandchildren, who bring her great happiness.

Clearly, Gaétane’s commitment to volunteerism could not go unnoticed. Her dedication earned her the Prix Hommage bénévolat-Québec in 1999, then the Order of the Red Cross in 2007, as well as the Ordre de la Gaspésie in 2017. This year, 45 years after joining the organization, she will receive another Order of the Red Cross (the highest distinction in Canada), a Loyalty Award, and two Distinguished Service Awards (the highest distinction in the province).

On behalf of all your colleagues at the Canadian Red Cross, and everyone that you have helped through their darkest moments, thank you, Gaétane, from the bottom of our hearts!

Inspired by Gaétane’s story? Find out more about volunteering with us.

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