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Casey House breaks new ground

When you dream, do not be realistic and fit your dream to what exists and is possible. Fit your dream to what should exist, and should be possible.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne quoted June Callwood at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Casey House. As recounted in the 25 Years of Casey House supplement I had the honour of working on, it has been a long journey and the work has been done by many extraordinary dedicated people. To see the work on the new building begin was an emotional experience.

"Who's going to cry first?" asked Wynne. "This is a bittersweet occasion. After years of struggle and loss we are still dealing with this disease. And there are many who are not here." Wynne paid tribute to times that "demanded great courage from careworkers and the community. They must never be forgotten." She reminded the crowd that, "Casey House rose out of a search for dignity. June Callwood knew the raw pain of losing a child and she felt for all the mothers who were losing children."

Wynne's voice broke but she carried on. "And she was appalled at how they were shunned and ostracized. All of us who have lost people to this disease are thinking about them." And Wynne's question about tears became a fulfilled prediction.

Glenn Murray, MPP Toronto-Centre, remembered being told, "AIDS is a moral issue not a health issue, there will be no federal funding." Left unsaid was that there appeared to be no federal political representation present. Murray recalled the days when we all struggled to make sense of a disease that was claiming our friends and chosen family at a terrifying rate, And how we all felt that, "We had to look after each other, no-one else would do it."

Murray lauded Casey House's new role of "helping people live, instead of helping people die," but it was left to Todd, a client at Casey House to have the final words. Todd recounted surviving the epidemic and the new challenges that aging and HIV present. He expressed his gratitude for a place where, "Explanations are not required and compassion and help are always offered."

The shovels bit into the artfully arranged mound of dirt and everyone applauded. And everyone choked back tears as June Callwood's impossible dream became even more concrete.