Raising the Children

Parenting website launch honours Lorraine Kenny

THE March 25 launch of the Raising the Children website was not just an unveiling of a site, but also a dedication to a well-known, influential local woman, Lorraine Kenny.

Kenny, who passed away earlier this year, was the developer and author of the Raising the Children Program. The program offers a manual for Aboriginal parents, which stemmed from the discussions of a group of concerned citizens in the 1990s.

Their goal, according to the Raising the Children website, was to secure support to de- Parenting website launch honours Lorraine Kenny velop resources that were relevant to Aboriginal parents who had suffered through residential school, and whose children were being raised in an atmosphere where racism and other negative attitudes were common.

With support from the Donner Canadian Foundation and the Catholic Church, a Native Advisory Committee was formed, and Kenny was hired to develop the new program.

The website features a letter from Sister Maria Lanthier, who worked with Kenny in founding the project, which details the effort to get the program started.

"The day Loraine Kenny- Beaton walked into my office at Patricia Centre in Sioux Lookout turned out to be one of the happiest days of my life," Lanthier wrote. "She was answering our ad requiring a First Nation parent who could create a native parenting skills program as a tool to be used by and in the First Nation communities of not only Sioux Lookout but those located in far flung Northwestern Ontario."

Kenny's background was instrumental in securing her position with Raising the Children. She spent her early childhood in Lac Seul, but was separated from her family for boarding school in Kenora. After her marriage and birth of her fourth child, she moved to Sudbury with her husband to obtain her university degree.

"While in Sudbury, Lorraine had the opportunity to absorb deeply the sacred teaching of the elders, to regain her roots," Lanthier wrote. "In her calm, steady voice she explained to us how gifted she felt, as she was now on the point of returning with her family to reside in Sioux Lookout. She had always hoped that some day she would become involved in helping native parents with the strengths they needed to raise children equipped to live in the two cultures at the same time, but still able to hold dear their own native roots."

Joining the program, Kenny jumped into creating the training materials. For two years the team conducted a needs assessment survey in several communities and studied existing literature. Kenny researched, attended and facilitated workshops, and publicized the project. Once the written materials were completed, accompanying videos were produced and a pilot program was run in Lac Seul.

Now, through the revamped website, the manual is available for download to any interested party. It is simply asked that people work with other members of the website and share their experiences in order to keep working to address the unique issues and challenges facing Aboriginal parents.

At the launch, the community took the opportunity to honour Kenny, and witness the dedication of the site in her name.

"We had about 100 people who came over a two hour period," said Florence Woolner, who helped organize the event. "The main event was looking at the new website, and there were people who kind of gave testimonies."

Margaret Kenequanash, Executive Director of Shibogama Tribal Council, spoke about how Shibogama has used the Raising the Children program over the years. Brian Beaton, Kenny's husband, spoke about his wife's vision for helping young Aboriginal parents. Woolner also spoke about Kenny, detailing her ongoing efforts with an annual women's canoe- a-thon.

"We had written a song for her about that," she said. "We sang that song at the reception."

The lyrics of the song, written to the tune of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, speak to Kenny's dedication to leading the women in their canoe trips.

"In the downpour, the endless downpour, there's never a complaint," the women sang. "Muscles aching and back is breaking, her strength was never faint."

The song ended with a dedication to keeping Kenny's work going, with the women singing, "In her honour - today and always, we raise our paddles high, in her honour, Lorraine, our leader, raise our paddles to the sky."

Woolner said another canoe-a-thon is planned for this September, with the proceeds going to Raising the Children.

The Sioux Lookout Women's Aboriginal Circle drum group played an honour song for Kenny, and a moment of silence was observed. Terry Lynne Jewell of the Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee (SLARC) also gave a tribute to Kenny.

"Lorraine Kenny was one of the people who made SLARC what it is today," she said. "She made Sioux Lookout her home for many years and we all are the benefactors of having had her amongst us in this community. She was our conscience, our advisor, and the person who asked the questions which kept us on track about the work needing to be done in Sioux Lookout. She personified our mandate, educating, building bridges, confronting and challenging racism, discrimination and stereotyping.

"Two-time winner of the Mary Carpenter People Making Changes award, Lorraine will continue to be the voice in our heads that gives us the courage to continue the work that needs to be done: to build bridges, end racism and discrimination in our community... Lorraine has made the future better for us all.

Kenny's daughter Serena will take on the role of contact person for Raising the Children, and her other daughters Leilani and Stefanie will help. Some of Kenny's grandchildren were present at the launch, something Woolner said was fitting.

"She was always very interested in kids, especially them," she said.

Having the website relaunched was a team effort. Garnet Angeconeb wanted to get the site up and running again as a way to honour Kenny's work, said Woolner, and the Sioux Lookout Anti- Racism Committee wanted to acknlowedge all of Kenny's efforts during Race Relations Week.

"The real hero of the hour was Kanina Terry," Woolner said.

Terry, who designed the Raising the Children website, had to work quickly and diligently to get the site ready to re-launch.

"It was just a wonderful event," Woolner said. "Really very sad, but also kind of good and exciting."