A Lifetime of Giving
Growing up in a serene neighbourhood with a supportive family might not prepare some children for the harsh realities of life, but for Rob and Laura Tedham, it was the perfect foundation that gave them the resolve and dedication to help others.
Life-long volunteers, Rob and Laura have seen the other side of life from a local and international perspective.
“I began volunteering with a youth organization in a rough Calgary neighbourhood,” says Rob. “My childhood was peaches and cream so it was hard to see kids who hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch and would be going home to a turbulent household or an empty home.”
Rob established careers in real estate development, the airline industry and investment business, while his wife Laura was a home-maker and proprietor of a ladies’ apparel retail store. Despite their busy schedules, the couple has always been actively involved in supporting a number of charitable and volunteer organizations.
“We have been blessed to be born in this country and in this part of the country.
With that comes a strong responsibility to give time and money to help those in need and to teach our children about these things,” says Rob. In addition to raising two daughters and a son, the Tedhams cared for many ‘bonus’ children.
“We were the house in the neighbourhood that had the open door. At any given time we would have one or two extra kids. Their parents cared, but couldn’t cope or just needed some space. We were the time-out zone for the parents and the kids,” says Rob.
Some of the youth stayed with the Tedhams for years and are still part of their lives. One girl moved in at age 11, and now grown, is part of the family to this day.
“It was a blessing to us,” says Laura. “We enjoyed them and having them part of the family.”
In 2008, Rob and Laura travelled with friends and clients to Liberia, to help install water filtration systems in a country which had suffered the ravages of civil war.
“It turned out to be the best of any travel experience we have ever had,” says Rob. “We saw how this could literally be the difference between a tortured life and a sustainable life. The people were always sick with constant ‘runny tummy,’ headaches, lower back pain, and bacterial and viral infections.”
Laura adds, “What happens is you go over with a preconceived notion that you are going to give to people in need and bless their lives. But then you find that you have been humbled, you have been blessed, and you realize how much excess we accumulate compared to how little they have.”
The Tedhams, who frequently visited the Okanagan for more than 45 years, permanently relocated to Vernon in 2012.
“It was always the plan to move here when we retired,” says Laura. “It was just like coming home. Everything here is beautiful; the climate, scenery, activities and the people.”
Not long after officially making the move, Rob became involved in with the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation when he was invited to join the Building a Tower of Care, Phase II Campaign Team.
“I wanted to be involved in something that would add to the well-being of the community at large,” he says.
In addition to Rob’s volunteer commitment to the campaign, the Tedhams have generously contributed a $6,000 gift that will help furnish and equip the top two floors of Polson Tower at VJH.
“We need services and facilities that tax revenue doesn’t pay for. We have to supplement tax money with community giving and what could be more important than health care?” says Rob.
“We are all one doctor’s appointment away from bad news. We have a responsibility to contribute if the money is cared for with great stewardship as is the case with VJH Foundation.”
The Tedhams’ example of voluntarism and philanthropy demonstrates the importance of community giving. Although sometimes the need seems greater
than the ability to give, Laura recalls a valuable lesson learned from her experience in Africa.
“I met a Liberian woman who had returned to reclaim what was left of her property before the war. I felt that we had done so little to help. But the woman said to me, ‘it takes one drop of water at a time to fill a bucket. If everyone contributes a little bit, eventually the bucket gets full.’”