(The following talk was delivered by PAL Ottawa member Denise J. Killick during a January 30 gathering at the Ottawa Art Gallery to discuss the role Supporting Cast played in her recovery.)

Good Afternoon Everyone/Bonne Après Midi à Tous,

Left go right, Anne Maheux, Jerry Grey (Founding PAL Ottawa Board Member), Jeremiah Bartram (Supporting Cast Volunteer), Julie Hodgson (Supporting Cast Coordinator), Laura Astwood (Supporting Cast Volunteer), Denise Killick (Supporting Cast Client), Jim McNabb (Founding PAL Ottawa Board Member) at the Ottawa Art Gallery discussion on Supporting Cast, January 30, 2019

This is a first for me. I’m usually addressing an audience as a character of one sort or another. I promise I won’t bore you for too long. For those of you don’t know me, my name is Denise J. Killick.

Why the J you ask? Well, there is another Denise Killick in Canada, and she lives in B.C. She is a flautist, and was in the orchestra at a show I went to in Vancouver. When I looked at the program I saw my name. My companion ran down to the orchestra pit and called out for Denise Killick. When she replied, he said, “No, this is Denise Killick!” (pointing at me). An instant friendship was struck.

Also, being from a British background, using one’s initial in your signature is preferred. Plus I like it. I’m an actress here in Ottawa. As a little girl I was quite shy, quiet, and a daydreamer, as my mother called me. But I loved reading out loud at any given opportunity. My parents encouraged me to tell a story from memory called “Hum the Singing Hamster” for a parent/teacher meeting at my public school in Stittsville. I was in Grade One and six years old.

Thus began my career on stage as a storyteller and an actress. I went on to study Drama for four years at South Carleton High School in Richmond, where I won the award for “Most Contribution to Drama-Acting” in my senior year. By the time I was sixteen my father was quite concerned and said, “Oh my God, I’ve created a monster.” I’m afraid he wasn’t too happy that I wanted to be an actress as a career choice.

I was accepted to audition for the National Theatre School in Montreal but that didn’t happen. When I graduated in 1976 I was accepted into the Fine Arts Program at York University, but that didn’t happen either. I then went to college when I was twenty three and graduated with a certificate in Library Technology. I started working for the Department of National Defence, but the idea of working with guns and tanks for warfare “really wasn’t my cup of tea,” and my creativity was being stifled. It felt as if I had lost my lost my right arm but could still feel it, much like a veteran does when they lose a limb.

So, in 1983 I returned to my first love, the stage, at the Ottawa Little Theatre. From there I joined ACTRA, Canada’s union for professional media performers. I’ve been a member now for 35 years. I’ve performed in both semi-professional and professional productions on stage, TV and film. I’ve served on the Ottawa board of ACTRA for two terms and I’m now serving for a third time.

I first learned about PAL Supporting Cast when my roommate, Brian, happened by chance to answer a phone call from Chris Cornish, the ACTRA branch representative, here in Ottawa. At that particular time I was at the Acquired Brain Injury Unit at the Ottawa Rehabilitation Centre through August and September of 2015. I’d had a very bad accident and sustained a brain injury in a small area of the frontal lobe. Most people think when I say accident that it was a car accident. But it wasn’t; however that’s a whole other story for a different time and place.

When Chris heard the news he immediately gave Brian the information to get in touch with Supporting Cast, and that got the proverbial ball rolling. My social worker then contacted Michael Namer, and together they set up a meeting with me so we could discuss my needs and have the help I required once I was discharged on October the 8th, 2015, so I could successfully reintegrate to living back at home. Julie was there too.

My needs were many, or so it seemed:  getting to various necessary doctors’ appointments, assistance with light household chores, groceries, and laundry (the laundry room in my apartment building is in the basement, which is two flights of steep stairs down). At that point in time I was barely able to go up or down stairs very well at all. I was working very hard in Rehab to gain my balance and walk, and could barely navigate six stairs up and down – and certainly not with a basket full of laundry in my arms. Had I tried I probably would have ended up in along with the laundry at the bottom of the stairs, wearing the basket on the top of my head.

Getting to doctors’ appointments would prove very challenging if |I were to take Para Transpo. Many of you may know that Para Transpo is at best unreliable and can be bit of a nightmare to use. Julie Hodgson signed on to help me with my chores and errands I needed done, and so began our journey together. She came to my home once a week. She would often remark on how well I was doing on my journey to recovery with every week that passed. I can honestly say that without her support I wouldn’t be baking my favourite banana bread, let alone doing most of my household chores. I say most, as it seems to take a lot longer to get anything accomplished, or is it that I’m just getting older? Yikes!!!

I’ve had to accept that I can’t do it as perfectly as I’d like to, though. Being a perfectionist by nature, that’s been a bit tough to accept. But I’ve have to, otherwise I’d go crazy. And I’m already pretty crazy as it is! In the spring of 2016 I ventured outside for the first time with Julie’s assistance and my steed, “Stella the Walker”. You didn’t know I’d given her a name, eh Julie?

I’ll never forget crossing that busy intersection of Rideau and Friel streets on that beautiful, sunny spring afternoon on our way to Loblaws. It was such an amazing and exhilarating feeling to be outside after the six long months I had spent inside various hospital environments during my recovery. I recall I actually cried and gave a little shout with joy! I think Julie shed a tear or two too. It was that feeling of being completely alive, present and well, back in my old neighbourhood of Sandy Hill. It had been far too long.

“Hope” certainly does “Spring Eternal”. Julie stayed my constant companion for another year until she and Supporting Cast were confident that I could manage on my own. I have also gained a friend. During my time accessing the services which Supporting Cast provides, I have met the most wonderful, kind, considerate and amazingly artistically talented people who put up with my often wacky sense of humour and my sometimes maudlin personality. I think today they call it bi-polar.

Today I want to make my gratitude public by saying “Thank You Everyone/Merci Beaucoup Tous from the bottom of my heart for all you’ve done for me and still do. I wouldn’t be standing in front of you today, alive, well and strong if it weren’t for you and the gracious support you provide as members of Supporting Cast. Encore, Thank You, Merci.”