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Inspiration for the Day

We Need Your Help to Colour These Kids Happy!

By 03/04/2014February 4th, 201787 Comments

I asked Irene to write this post about her sister.

 Terreeia and I get a front row seat in hearing updates on her story – it’s far from finished and we decided we wanted to be part of it. But in a way that could really go so much farther with the power of many instead of just a few. 

I’ll let you know right know that I’m doing something I’ve never done before and probably won’t do again (unless I’m really compelled). I’m setting up a fund to raise money for this extraordinary woman to help her get on her feet.  If you have the heart to give a little money to this great cause I want you to know that every penny you give will go right to her and her children.

And then you can be part of this story too. You can make a difference and change the world for the better. Here’s the story from Irene:

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 2.36.35 PM

“Twelve years ago we lost my sister, Aimee. Actually, she started to slide away almost 17 years ago, but after five years of sliding, we really did lose touch completely.

What we didn’t know is that she never wanted to be lost. We didn’t know that the man she married was severely mentally ill and his illness was what was stealing her away from us and away from the rest of her world. When she said she didn’t want to be part of our family we didn’t know it wasn’t her voice we were hearing. We didn’t know that moving away was his agenda to “protect” her and their children.

For ten years we prayed that she was safe and happy and being loved by, and loving her husband and their four little children. We prayed that one day she would remember that she was cherished and missed by her two parents, her five siblings and their spouses, and her 16 nieces and nephews – and that we would never get over the hole her disappearance had left.

Let me tell you the “end” of the story first.

We found her! Two years ago she called and let us know she would be coming to town in order to take two of her children to the Vancouver Children’s Hospital. Would we like to see her? You can imagine the tears of joy and happiness that were shed as we eagerly gathered together to hug her along with her (now) six children.

And that’s when we started to hear how truly lost she had been. Over the next months we learned that her last ten years had been spent virtually imprisoned in a house on the outer limits of the town they had moved to. She was not allowed to answer the door or the phone, speak to any neighbours and was never allowed to go anywhere by herself.

Aimee and the children were locked in the house each night and were kept captive by her paranoid husband. He was certain any planes flying overhead were only there to spy on the family, and sure that anyone approaching the house was an enemy. Not only did he fear attacks from the outside, my sister was viewed as the enemy within and subjected to abuse and torment.

After seven years of living in this state of siege, he decided it was too risky to ever leave the family alone and the only way to make sure everyone was “safe” was to quit work and stay home 24/7.


via pinterest

With no money coming in other than a monthly government family allowance check, an already hard life became grimly hard. Food was in scarce supply and came mostly in the form of vegetables from a backyard garden, chickens and the barest of essentials. Electricity was a luxury to be only used to keep the a freezer, fridge and stove powered.

The catalyst for change came when the landlords of the property announced they were selling the house. A move to a different location meant giving up the vegetable garden that was their primary source of food. In spite of an increase in the assault of threats she faced on a daily basis my sister made the heroic decision to brave the town and search for a job in order to buy food for her children.

And what seemed like a disaster was actually deliverance. Once she began to interact with people from the outside world she began to find herself again and remembered that life before marriage to paranoia had been good. And safe. And full of love. And definitely not as soul-destroyingly difficult.

So began a slow return to life and to family. It took time to fully escape the prison that was their home life, but within a few months she and five of her children fled, first to the haven of a safe house, and later to a small house of their own.

Family 1

(Left) Esther & Joe (Right) Emily, Aimee, Dan & Sam

It’s been two years of radical change. The two children with serious medical conditions began to finally receive the care and attention they so badly needed. All six children had the new experience of going to school and, for the first time in their lives, were relating to people other than their immediate family.

At 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16 these were hard adjustments. Some quickly blossomed and some struggled but they’ve all made great strides.

Emily, now 13, has blossomed at an extraordinary rate. Born with a rare genetic syndrome that impacts almost every part of her little body, as well as a serious heart condition, she has endless challenges. Her intellect is and will always be, that of a little girl. But her “heart” heart, the one that has love and kindness and giggles, is in perfect health and is utterly beautiful.

She lives her life with arms wide open. Literally.

When she meets you, you will automatically get a hug and when you leave you’ll hear, “I miss you. When I see you again?”

She is unendingly grateful for anything she receives and says, “Thank you,” for absolutely everything. Even after hours of needle pokes she will look up at the doctor or nurse with perfect trust and say, “Thank you.”

Whether it’s a little treat or a new picture book or help putting her shoes on, she lives as though the whole world loves her and can’t wait to be her friend. And that’s how it is for her.

I didn’t get to meet Emily until she was 11 but both Kevin and I were instantly smitten. We think she is the closest we’ll get to meeting an angel in this world.

She is never cranky, never mean, never grumpy or complaining. She is filled with, “I love you so much. You so good, Auntie Renee. What Uncle Kevin doing? Oh, he miss me so much. I love you. When I come to see you? Okay, that be good.”

Emily on the Porch

Last summer we were lucky enough to have her to ourselves for an entire week. The picture above is Emily standing by the ramp Uncle Kevin built her outside our renovation project. As you can see, he painted her name on the ramp so she would know it was just for her.

Even though she can’t read she recognized the letters on the ramp. As soon as she saw this, she put her little hand over her heart and squealed, “For me? You think of ME?! Oh, I love you so much.”

pink crocs

At the end of our week together, I was helping pack her bag. We walked towards the front door and she said to me, “Auntie Renee, I go say good-bye to my room first.” Curious to see what that would look like, I followed her at a little distance.

Oblivious to my presence I watched her walk around the room, looking at everything. “Goodbye bed,” she said, “Goodbye pillow, goodbye window.” She then picked up a pair of pink crocs her Auntie Laura had just bought her but which needed to stay behind. She kissed her new shoes and whispered, “Goodbye shoes, I see you soon.”

Mission completed we walked out to the car. As I bent to give her a hug she cupped my face in her two hands and said, “Auntie Renee, you so beautiful. I love you so much and I miss you. I come back to see you.”

Life isn’t easy for Aimee. After two years on the “outside” she is just now starting to move beyond survival. Two of her six children have serious physical and intellectual conditions; the other four have development and relational issues. Ongoing meetings with social services, counsellors and medical staff have to take place. Money is tight. Life is still a challenge but now it’s a challenge with freedom and blessings as the reward.

I am in awe of her courage and strength. Honestly, I am in awe that she gets up every morning and doesn’t stay in bed with the covers over her head. She gets up and she fights to help her kids gain the ground they lost all those years. She fights for herself and is grateful to be found and to be free.

blue and yellow living room

It’s an incredible story and this only scratches the surface of her struggle and survival. The money we raise will go towards helping her furnish their home – as you can imagine there is no budget for anything more than the absolute basics – my sister has never had anything but hand-me-downs and furniture from thrift stores. It would be amazing for her to have a lovely, colourful living room to sit in and for all five children to have a decorated room of their own.”

Here’s the link to the website where you can safely give your donations via paypal:

Our hope is to raise $20,000 in 30 days. I have so many readers that if each of you gave even a small amount, we’d still get beyond our goal. Or, look at it this way, if you gave 1% of the money I’ve saved you by reading this blog, that would be such a huge contribution to this family. The power of numbers is so big! 

Please note that your donation can be completely anonymous, every little bit helps, so if you’ve just got $1 or $5, it all adds up! Even if you just share this using the icons below, that is a huge help too : )

Donate here. Please note that the fund is in the name of Monique Tute, the kind lady who is holding all the monies collected to give to Aimee.

Thank you so much in advance for your generosity!

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  • Lorri says:


  • Tamara says:

    Done, please keep us posted on their progress.

  • Livia says:

    I wish Aimee good luck in her new life. Positive things will come her way. I hope a lot will donate to meet your goal!

  • Cindy and Tom Schoenit says:

    Done. Thank you Lord that she has you guys to support her and the kids. May God provide for them more than they could ever have dreamed , not only in the needs of a home and everything needed for the home, but also the emotional and spiritual needs.

  • Mary says:

    Sorry, not into children!

    • Julie from Downunder says:

      And your point is?

    • Robbin says:

      How rude can someone be? Honestly. Keep it to yourself.

    • Mary Lou Fritz says:

      Were you not one?

      How cruel, why comment at all?

      • Diane G. says:

        Maybe you could just think of them as fellow human beings…in desperate need of a helping hand.

    • Fran says:

      No, thank you. Never been the maternal type – so glad I always was very careful about birth control.

      • Karen J says:

        We are too, Fran, we are too.

        NOTE: Of course it is fine (even admirable) to know that you “aren’t into children”; however, it isn’t fine or admirable to choose this particular time to share your sentiment and self-knowledge.

    • Deb says:

      I’m with you, Mary. I need a new sofa desperately.

    • Diane says:

      Wow! Obviously not into compassion either!

    • Renee says:

      Mary, you don’t need to be “into children” to feel some compassion. They are fellow human beings. Do you think you have it in your heart to spare just $10 to these people in need? Decorating their home is just a small step to bringing them some comfort.

  • Lori says:

    Such a sad and happy story. My heart aches for everyone involved. Will definitely donate!

  • Judy says:

    Wishing them all well now. Wonderful that you and we can help make their life a little brighter. Thanks Maria for arranging this. X

  • Bhavana says:

    Aimee….I hope she finds happiness always. All of her descriptions make her sound like such a precious little one. The saying ‘bye’ to everything sounds like my 3y old son. Oh, the innocence and the idea that the world thinks exactly like you!

    I wish I could say ‘done’ but I have no idea how to make international donations. Anyone has any link/something which wont require a fee equaling the amount I want to give?!

  • Joan says:

    What an inspirational young lady, and a fresh, colorful environment will lift EVERYONE’s spirits.

  • Kim says:

    Aimee, Sending you and the children love and the highest intention for peace, happiness and health.
    God loves you.

  • Patty says:

    This comment is for Mary, who commented earlier by saying “Sorry, not into children”. Obviously you have never experienced the joy of helping others. When you help a family, you help children, parents, the community, the world. Small steps make this world a better place. And finally, we can’t change the way you feel, and not everyone is “into children, but please keep your heartless comments to yourself! Maybe that could be your contribution here- sparing the rest of us from your negative attitude.

    • Deb says:

      Maybe Mary is like me & needs a new sofa. We all can’t contribute to people we don’t know.

      • Maria Killam says:

        Even $5 can’t contribute much to a new sofa but can add up fast if everyone joins the cause. See it as a contribution to me, who you know 🙂 Just sayin’.

      • Heather says:

        Everyone can contribute something, even if it is not monetary! It is what you choose to do with what you have been given… the gift of encouragement is free to share with anyone at any time and will not cost a cent. A positive comment rather than a negative one for example. Or if that is too difficult, no comment at all is better than contributing negativity. Pretty sure this family has had way more than enough of that.

  • There is something wrong with my password on PayPal. I tried to do it on my Visa and it wouldn’t go through. I will try later.
    Irene, you know me, always something.

    • Irene says:

      I have faith in you, Ann, I know you’ll just keep plugging away until you get it! Thanks so much.

  • Maggie S says:

    It is my pleasure to do something to help someone you believe in Maria. After all the “help” you have given me it feels good to give back!
    Don’t tell anyone but that is the “dirty little secret” of giving to others–sometimes you feel like you get more than you give 🙂

  • Agnes Marie says:

    Wishing for a life filled with happiness, health and a warm and colorful home for Aimee and her children. Good luck!

  • Cindy B says:

    Thanks, Maria, for using your blog in such a powerful way!

  • susan says:

    awesome! done and also shared on all my FB pages.

  • Julie from Downunder says:

    Thankyou so much Maria and Irene for the opportunity to pass on a donation to this wonderful family. I wish them to absolute very best for the future.

  • Angela says:

    I will be donating, Maria! This is why we are given gifts and it makes me proud that you are getting involved! I pray you raise double the amount and will create the most nurturing, inspiring interiors to date for this brave, brave woman and her children.

  • Mary Lou Fritz says:

    Just donated,
    Angela is so right: What a brave, brave woman. What strength and love she has. God Bless her and her children.
    Thank you Maria and all,
    Mary in Ohio

  • Done! What a brave story. Happy to give to help this amazing, strong woman and her children!

  • Done! We all need to take care of each other.

  • Kay Perret says:

    I am in PayPal and my donation is going to Monique Tute. Is this the right place?

    • Kay Perret says:

      Never mind. I just decided to hit donate and at the end Aimee and her kids came up.

      • Irene says:

        Hi Kay, Thanks so much for your donation – yes, the right place comes up under the name of Monique Tute. She’s holding the money to give directly to Aimee.

  • Kay says:

    Irene, is child number 6 ok?
    Blessings to all.

  • Eileen says:

    Lean in, people. Lean in.

  • LaJuana says:

    Done! And praying Mary finds whatever is missing in her heart.

  • Beth says:

    Mental illness is often hidden behind closed doors – to the severe detriment of everyone in its path. I correspond with people who live with bipolar spouses all the time, and it is heartbreaking to love someone who has such little touch with reality. This was a criminal case, however. So very sad.

  • Eileen says:

    Went to make donation and it comes up in US$?
    Just saying……..

  • Susijo says:

    I am grateful for this opportunity to think of another family that may be strangers in this life, but we are all connected… beautiful way to start Ash Wednesday. I will keep Aimee and her children, and her husband, in my prayers throughout Lent.

  • Mary--Illinois says:

    This Mary loves kids & I have made my donation.
    Maria, Thank you for bringing this family to our attention.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I married a man with similar tendencies, although they didn’t go as far and we had a dog but no kids. THERE IS LIFE AFTER!!! I (with God’s help) left, worked through my issues (yes, I had some!), married a kind kind man, and now, at 39, just had the child I longed for. It’s a long road…but one so worth travelling. The kindness of strangers touched me more than I can ever say… helped me keep going when I thought I couldn’t… You are not alone, Aimee, and we’re out to prove it!

  • Kay says:

    Thank you, Maria, for bringing this story to our attention and giving us the opportunity to help.

  • Done! Tears in my eyes! What a beautiful family.


  • Maria Killam says:

    Irene and I instantly got teary eyed at all of your generosity when we saw all the donations starting to pour into the fund.
    I love my readers, thank you so much everyone!
    Maria & Irene

    • Linda Fitzgerald says:

      So happy to do this. She is so lucky to have made it out.

      I covered/wrote a 2 page, newspaper (featured) article on the most horrific case of domestic abuse recorded in Ontario at that time. It ended in the murder of the mother and all of her children.

      My own childhood home knew domestic abuse, control, fear, paranoia, brutality and isolation and with the help of some relatives we were lucky to find, we were able to flee for our lives, in the night. That was the 50’s and there wasn’t much in the way of help for women who were the victims of abuse.

      I’m only too happy to contribute towards the liberation of this most courageous family.

  • Gwen DeBruyn says:

    How brave Aimee is and what strength and love she has for those beautiful kids! To survive such a nightmare and to have the courage to battle back so she can give her kids a normal life. She should write a book one day….
    She is blessed to have you as a sister Irene, and friends like Maria and Terreeia with huge hearts. Blessings all around!
    I will give. Please know that Aimee and her family are in my prayers.

  • Stephanie says:

    Done. My pleasure.

  • Kay says:

    For those of us who have donated through Paypal, would you please verify that the listed recipient of moniquetute at hotmail is correct? If it’s not, someone has hacked Paypal.


    • Irene says:

      Yes, the listed recipient is Monique Tute. She’s holding the monies donated for Aimee and will give every penny directly to her. Thanks!

  • Liz says:

    Hi. My husband made a donation thru his Paypal account for me. He said the payment was deemed as being payable to Monique Tute – is this correct? Tx and I hope Aimee and her family continue to heal and find peace

  • Diane says:

    Just made my donation. God bless this family, keep us posted and I hope you reach your goal!

  • Susan says:

    Maria, it is an honour and privilege to donate to this family that I will never meet. Making a donation to a family in need is so much more life affirming then buying a new sofa.

  • Roberta says:

    We are all in this together. God Bless!

  • Deb says:

    I just decided on my new sofa – was more than expected. Sorry I can’t donate.

  • Kim says:

    I am happy to be able to make a donation. Sadly, these families and children with all sorts of serious needs are in our communities, and we don’t need to look far to find them. Roberta just wrote that we are all in this together, and that is true. How can we learn of another’s need and not respond with some form of kindness, even an encouraging word or a prayer.

  • Kathy says:

    He who gives to the poor will never want, but many bad things will happen to the man who shuts his eyes to the poor.

    You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

    Maria, thank you for giving us a chance to help those in need. What a wonderful way to share….

  • Denise Freeman says:

    Thank goodness most people have a heart and are just waiting for the opportunity to give when asked. You have made my day Maria and Irene!

  • shared, and grateful for the opportunity!

  • Suz says:

    I have quietly read, learned from, and appreciated this blog for a long time… Today I feel compelled to comment. I hope the ladies that left the insensitive, cold-hearted comments will never need compassion or generosity from a stranger. Thank you for all you do Maria! Congratulations on your front page cover of “Style at Home.” Most importantly, I hope your sister and her family a find a bright, successful future!

  • Deb says:

    On second thought, is there somewhere I can forward my empty 2-liter Coke bottles instead of taking them to the recycle bid?

  • We all could benefit from more Emilys in our lives – Sweet Spreaders of Sunshine!

  • Gwen Yarbrough says:

    donated…..thank you Maria for sharing Aimme’s
    story…..looking forward to hearing more about their “new life”. My thoughts are with with the family in their time of healing.


  • Kimberly Wright says:

    I’ve gained so much from your website, Maria, & from your workshop, & from being a part of the TCE FB group. I wish I could give more to Aimee, but I did make a small donation. Thank you for the opportunity! Irene, you are one of the most joyful, kind people I’ve ever met and I’m so glad your sister has you and your extended family (and Maria and Terrreeia) to love and support her and her children. May they continue to recover and thrive! We all know what a difference beautiful surroundings can make, what a wonderful way to help!

  • Jen says:

    I am practically speachless that people can be so rude. I mean if you haven’t got anything nice to say, why bother? It’s hurtful.

  • Connie says:

    Wondering if people can also donate time to help this family? I would think that tutors and mentors, transportation help, etc. would be invaluable. Just getting 7 people to doctor and therapy appointments….yikes!
    If you haven’t been systematically robbed of your freedom in a domestic abuse situation, you cannot understand that it is often no possible “to just leave.” This mother’s courage is amazing. Thanks for the opportunity to help.

  • Lisa says:

    I’m in tears and just donated. Thank you for sharing this woman’s story.

  • Ginny says:

    Creating a home that makes people happy, is the goal of most of us who have gained so much from Maria’s posts, courses…This family has been through so much, I think it is such a beautiful idea that Maria has offered to create a space that will bring happiness to them, especially as they heal and put their lives back together. Blessings

  • Loren Snyder says:

    Thank you for writing this. It’s important to help others unconditionally, and reminds us all to be grateful for what we have. Cheers!

  • I usually try to be anonymous about donations but since I consider you a friend I have to tell you! Your sister has been on my mind for a while now and I know that God was tugging at my heartstrings. I send my love to your family too 🙂

  • Heather says:

    I have worked with women and children in similar situations, and the tiny glimpses they allowed me to have into their day to day lives were heart breaking. But Aimee’s spirit is not broken! She is a warrior woman, fighting for a better life for her children and herself. It’s an absolute privilege to come alongside this family and contribute even a little towards their journey to a new life! Thank you for the opportunity to help her build with beauty!

  • Kathi says:

    Thank you Maria for using your forum for helping a family that is truly in need-I gladly donated,if everyone of your blog readers all donated even a dollar, just think of what could be accomplished ( I donated more than that,of course) And for all of you curmudgeons that don’t like kids, or need a new sofa,think of all of the free advice Maria has given all of us-your reading her blog and commenting,so as a goodwill gesture,cough up a buck-it won’t hurt you and it feels fantastic to help those precious children and their mom who has to start a new life.Paint colors are not life and death,instead of bringing life to a room, you are bringing life to humans! Come on people,everyone reading this ,just give $1 or more :)))

  • Jon Anne Winstead says:

    Done!! I, too, am in tears and wish there was more I could do!! I will be praying for them and hopefully I can give more later!! I did subscribe for updates on them. Maria, thank you so much for using your blog to tell us about them. Without you doing that, we would not know and not have had a chance to help in some small way!!

  • MaryPat & Joanna says:

    We are blessed to be a part of this wonderful opportunity to make a difference in Aimee and her children’s lives. May they continue to thrive as they are surrounded by a community filled with love and support and freedom. Maria and Irene, you both are the salt of the earth. Colour those kids happy!

  • DeeAnna says:

    Thank you for sharing this story and for giving me the opportunity to share a small gift to this family in their hour of need. I doubled my meager gift to include a donation from the person who needs a new sofa. Perhaps this person has never experienced someone giving to them just because they cared enough to make a small difference. So the person in need of a sofa has now given to this family in need. I feel so blessed for having the opportunity to give!

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