For some mothers and daughters, quality time together could be cooking or baking or going out for brunch. For others it’s picking up a chainsaw to clear out debris after a tornado.
Their first step, their first taste of solid food, the first day of school, these are some of a mother’s fondest memories of her child. At Team Rubicon Canada (TRC) it’s something different. For Greyshirt Kim Scanlan it was serving beside her daughter Kelly Scanlan at Operation Algonquin Trade for the first time. “Kelly’s naturally a leader. She knows what she’s doing, she has that experience. When it was sawyer work, even though she wasn’t a sawyer yet, she knew how to be a second (the sawyer’s partner looking for debris and hazards)” said Kim. “She knew what TRC stood for—you know GSD, that was her.”
Kim and Kelly are one of a number of Greyshirt pairs who serve together as a family at Team Rubicon Canada. Daughter Kelly, an army veteran and firefighter, has been with TRC since the very beginning. She joined upon returning from Afghanistan in 2016 searching for a way she could help after seeing the wildfires that swept across Fort McMurray. “I’ve been lucky enough, alongside a lot of other super dedicated Greyshirts, to grow up with TR Canada and see what it was meant to be right from the beginning. Working with all these dedicated people and we still have so much more to do,” said Kelly. Over the past five years, Kelly has served on seven operations with TRC and has become a volunteer leader. After deploying to Louisiana to respond to flooding in 2016, and to Uganda for refugee work in 2017, Kelly knew it was time to start recruiting her mom and family members into the TRibe. Five are now active Greyshirts in Ontario.
This type of volunteer work comes naturally to the Scanlan family, all of whom are very service oriented. Many Scanlan family members are either retired or currently serving as firefighters, police officers, RCMP officers or in the military. “We were always influenced by seeing our family in uniform and serving our community, I think that strongly influenced me to join the military and to eventually become a firefighter,” said Kelly.
Mom Kim, a retired police officer, joined TRC in 2018 and, on her very first deployment, joined daughter Kelly to respond to the tornadoes that tore through Ottawa. When she saw the devastation and heard that the number of Greyshirts able to respond was two-thirds of what was needed, Kim stepped up. “And I said ‘well you know what you’re getting because mom’s in her fifties now. But if there’s something I can do to help, I’m game to go.’ And it worked out,” said Kim.
When asked what it was like to serve with her daughter on their first operation together she laughed at how the tables had turned. “It’s funny, it was kind of a role reversal. Being Kelly’s mom, I’m used to being direct and saying direct things. Now, Kelly, with her experience, she’s taking the lead and I’m following,” said Kim.
Kelly has a bit of a different perspective, saying it was in fact her mom who was taking charge and stepping into the arena. “We got there and it was a lot of chainsaw work and heavy lifting. She got right in there and was pulling logs left, right and center.”
But if mom excelled at GSD physically, where Kelly says she really shone was in leading, and especially managing spontaneous volunteers. “We had a ton of people who wanted to help but had no idea what to do, so mom kind of became the wrangler of volunteers. They (TRC leadership) brought her a crowd of people and said ‘take care of these people, tell them what to do, make sure no one gets hurt. Go,” explained Kelly.
While Kim’s ability to take charge and lead may have come naturally as a result of her training as a police officer, which required expertise in managing people and building relationships, she credits Kelly with showing her how it was done TRC style.
“Kelly not so much led me as she mentored me. She got me organized and I never missed a beer flag,” chuckles Kim.
Since that first tornado response deployment, Kim has served on four more operations, three of which were with Kelly.
Today Kelly is a volunteer leader, an Administrator for South West Ontario Division and has already deployed on two operations this year. She is currently leading an operation supporting COVID-19 vaccination sites in Ontario, where she and mom are serving side by side, directing site traffic, managing site logistics, and checking on community members after they receive their shot. It’s an operation dear to Kim’s heart. “It is really important to me because we need it so badly,” said Kim. “Yesterday, I was working very closely with the people waiting in line to get their shot. Usually I’m used to dealing with the community as a police officer and today I’m wearing a grey shirt and people are coming up to me and generally thanking me and thanking us for being there,” said Kim.
Kelly seconded her mother’s thoughts. “In our job as first responders we send someone off in an ambulance, walk away, and we really don’t know what happens after. There are so many people you feel so deeply for and you’re thinking I don’t know what else I can do for them. TRC is a great way of knowing that there’s someone on that other side.”
Kim and Kelly encourage all families to step up to serve their communities with TRC, which to them is like a new family. “When you all wear that same uniform together you become this unique team. You become the kind of people who may not see each other for many years and suddenly you’re serving together again in a totally different environment and because you both have that grey shirt on, it’s like no time has passed and like you never missed each other,” said Kelly.