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Retiring agency champion leaving big shoes to fill

Published on

Cathy Dobson

The Kidney Foundation of Canada has long regarded the Sarnia-Lambton chapter as a Centre of Excellence.

That’s due in large part to the work of Elaine Hayter, who is retiring June 10 after 31 years as senior development manager.

“Elaine is a dynamo and will be difficult to replace,” says Tony Tirone, executive director of the Kidney Foundation’s Ontario Branch.

“She is such an asset to her community, very persuasive, not afraid to ask for help,” he said.  “The Sarnia-Lambton chapter does innovative and highly successful fundraising events and Elaine drives the bus on that.”

Hayter and her mom joined the local chapter in 1986 as volunteers. Both women had been diagnosed with kidney disease and wanted to raise money for research.

“Then I joined the board, became VP of fundraising, and the first part-time employee in 1991,” said Hayter. Six months later she was hired her full-time.

The job has always been a family affair. When her three daughters came along, they grew up knowing the meaning of volunteering.

“We joke that from birth they were volun-told,” Hayter said with a laugh.

Whether at the highly successful annual walks, Celebrity Men Fashion Event, golf tournaments or pasta dinners, Hayter, her husband John and their three daughters – Joanna, Sarah and Nikki – were always the last to leave.

Hayter also excelled at networking and assembling a strong volunteer base to help the Kidney Foundation raise $250,000 to $300,000 annually.

“We just seem to get the right people around us to help,” said Hayter.  “We really do have a lot of fun. I have just loved my work and never thought I’d retire any time soon.”

But turning 65 and dealing with the challenges created by the pandemic convinced Hayter it was time to pass the torch.

“I’ve really missed the face-to-face events, and it got me to think about being able to come and go as I please. Maybe someday we’ll even get to travel.”

For now, though, travel will be close to home. Hayter herself lives with kidney disease and has had two transplants – one lasted 10 years and the second 19 years. She’s been back on dialysis for five years now and hoping for another transplant.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has limited the locations where dialysis is available, precluding long-distance travel for now.

Hayter said some of her best work occurred when the local chapter was invited to help develop the dialysis unit at Sarnia’s new hospital.

“They felt what we had to say was valuable,” she said.

Her greatest challenge was daughter Joanna being diagnosed with kidney disease at age 32. “But she got a transplant and came through it and is doing very well,” she said.

The job is about building relationships to help people, she said. “The people, the volunteers, made it fun. We’d have a few laughs and get the work done.”

The quality of life for local kidney patients has improved considerably over the past three decades, with 15 dialysis units now at Bluewater Health, nine more than in 1991.

Both the local chapter and Hayter have won numerous awards, and in 2021 she was named to the Mayor’s Honour List for her tireless advocacy and fundraising.

That dedication won’t stop in retirement. You will find her volunteering at this year’s golf tournament and the Celebrity Men Fashion Event.


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