By Maddie Keenlyside/Journal Pioneer
SUMMERSIDE - Marilla Millar, an 83-year-old volunteer from Ellerslie, burst into tears of joy on Monday when she received both the national and provincial Senior Volunteer Awards at the Parkview Senior Citizens Club in Summerside.
© Maddie Keenlyside/Journal Pioneer
Marilla Millar, second from right, may be 83, but it has never slowed her down, according to Shirley MacQuarrie, who nominated her for a senior volunteer award. Beth Gauthier of the Children’s Wish Foundation, to her left, was deeply moved by the awards ceremony, MCed by Chelsea Green, left, and Heather Blouin of Home Instead Inc.
"I never thought for a moment I would win. It was just a big, wonderful surprise."
Millar, who has fostered 139 children since 1974, has been a volunteer for most of her life. She began taking in foster children as her own children began to grow up and leave home, she said.
"Looking after babies, and kids in general, is so rewarding. You make your own light, and you always need to see the funny side."
Always, by the end of the day, she would find something to laugh about, she said.
"A lot of them come back. That's the reward. They just need that extra little bit of love."
Home Instead Senior Care, the company that hosted the awards, provided the prize funds of $5,500. Millar was selected from nearly 90 national nominees.
Shirley MacQuarrie and her husband Chester nominated Millar, who had her final foster baby leave her care only a few short weeks ago.
"In my heart, Marilla is an Earth angel," said Shirley MacQuarrie.
Millar was the first president for the Tyne Valley Community School, and volunteered there for 30 years. She recently committed to reading to school-aged children at the Lennox Island First Nations School.
"If everyone in the world had the compassion to care about everyone the way Marilla and her late husband Peter have, there would be more peace on Earth," MacQuarrie said.
Millar decided to split her prize money of $5,500 between the Children's Wish Foundation, the oncology department at Prince County Hospital, and the Tyne Valley Fire Department.
Beth Gauthier, director of the P.E.I. chapter of the Children's Wish Foundation, said she was completely awe-inspired and emotionally moved by Monday's awards presentation.
"Today was an example of the many beautiful things that happen in our world. These individuals are angels in our midst."
Gauthier said the organization is honoured by the recognition and Millar's donation.
The money will go towards one of the 11 wishes the foundation is currently working on, she said.
"We have had two children and their families travel to Disney in the past week, and one very special little boy, who is very sick, his most heartfelt wish was to meet Willie Nelson. In the last eight days, we have granted the most heartfelt wishes of three Island children."
Thirteen Island seniors from Summerside, Tyne Valley, Ellerslie, Stratford and more were nominated for the provincial senior awards.
Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart, who attended the event, said this city has been designated as a senior-friendly one.
"I'm proud of that, and we certainly want to congratulate the nominees."
Gerard Greenan, Summerside MLA, was also present. He said volunteer opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, and vary in season, commitment and skills, as do the people who volunteer.
"Volunteers learn early how important it is to give back to their communities. The volunteer experience can be inherited, and that is a legacy of which many of you can be proud of."