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Paying it Forward with 40 Years of Love: Interview with Leona Gallagher

There are moments of our lives that pass by in the blink of an eye and are forgotten in mere seconds. But there are others that we dwell on, celebrate and reflect upon for the rest of our lives. On October 2, 2016, Don and Leona Gallagher experienced one of those moments as they celebrated 40 years of marriage and used it as an opportunity to shine a light upon the work of IJM Canada. They shared their day with us, and we connected with Leona that we could share their day with you.

Don, Leona & Family

1) Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Leona Gallagher and I have been married to Don Gallagher for 40 years now. I am a mother of four talented adult children, a mother-in-law, and a grandmother to four beautiful grandchildren - with two more on the way. I have been an RN for 42 years and am presently working in the NICU of a community hospital. My husband has been a hardworking HVAC tech for most of his life.

2) How did you learn about IJM?

I actually heard about IJM through my daughters who are very justice-oriented, and have been very aware of the injustices that are going on in many countries around the world. As a family, we have supported other charitable organizations, but it was important to see the impact of the work that IJM does in developing countries.

3) Why are you passionate about issues of injustice?

I would say that it grew out of an awareness of how vulnerable people become victims in different countries, where children, orphans, women, widows, and minority families are abused, raped, trafficked, enslaved, and robbed of even their own property. And they have no recourse because the government or police force are inept or corrupt. It is unbelievable - we [as Canadians] could not imagine living under such conditions. This has made me passionate about injustice issues.

4) What are you doing to combat injustice?

Because of this passion, I cannot remain silent. I want people to be more aware and to encourage acts of compassion such as donating, as well as increasing personal awareness of organizations such as IJM that are effectively making a difference.

5) What made you decide to use such a significant milestone to raise awareness about IJM?

My husband and I married 40 years ago, a simple wedding on Oct 2, 1976. We had always wanted to celebrate a milestone anniversary with a large group of family and friends with good food at a nice venue. This was on our "List" for life and so while we were both feeling healthy, we decided on this date, Oct 2, 2016. We rented a hall, hired a caterer, and invited about 90 people. We asked people to come dressed up and ready to enjoy a "Date Night" with their spouse. We surmised that people may wonder if bringing a gift would be appropriate, and we did not want any gifts...we have so much! We specifically asked our guests, "Please no gifts, but we urge you to consider bringing a donation to IJM." With our invitations, I sent out a one-paged brochure about IJM so that our guests could research the organization if they wanted to. I had also personally contacted many of these guests to explain our hope for donations to IJM. A total of $2200 was generously contributed by our friends and family.

6) What were some highlights from your 40th anniversary?

Highlights from our 40th... We had an amazing photographer who did a family photoshoot just prior to the event, a daughter who created beautiful centrepieces for each table and an amazing bouquet for me, a daughter who played lovely music with her violin accompanied by a friend on guitar, and my Dad at 92 years of age walking me "down the aisle" just prior to our vow renewal - something he regretted not being able to do 40 years ago. And having so many friends and family pleased to be part of our celebration, and enjoying themselves.

7) What are some challenges you faced in the process?

It appeared that the weather was going to be against us as the family pictures and vow renewal were to happen outdoors. We were very grateful when our prayers were answered because the rain ceased and then restarted with a vengeance, just in time for the outdoor activities to be completed.

8) What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to do more but isn’t sure what that should be?

Find out more about IJM, read their blog, get ideas as to what you could do. I was inspired by what others did, whether small or big, every effort does us good as well as doing good for those in need. Even something small like an anniversary party.

9) Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

I was pleased with the positive feedback from many of our guests regarding our making them aware of IJM and allowing them this occasion to contribute. It was heartwarming.

10) Some personal questions:

How did you and Don meet?
Don and I met around 42 years ago in a Church in downtown Toronto. I noticed his great smile and a passion for God and truth.

What's your favourite memory from 40 years of marriage?

I have many favourite memories - the birth of each precious child, the opportunity to homeschool them all, travelling together with them, sitting around the fire pit whether in our backyard or at the cottage, Easter and Christmas dinners, and now our enlarging family... I've become a mother-in-law, a grandmother, and the list goes on! I can't really give you just one. Life is very busy but very rich!

What's an item off of your bucket list?

Well, this 40th Wedding Anniversary Party was one, and then we went on a hot air balloon ride just days after.

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