Support floods in for Sarah’s kids

Doula group, N.L. artists raise funds for fam­ily of Bay Roberts woman who died of chori­o­car­ci­noma


Since Sarah Turpin died in Oc­to­ber, her two-year-old daugh­ter has had many dreams about her.

Rowan Ad­ven­ture Turpin-Rus­sell, who turns three on New Year’s Eve, didn’t like the dreams at first. They scared her, said her fa­ther, Peter Rus­sell.

“But as time went on, she looks for­ward to go­ing to sleep and hav­ing her lit­tle dreams with her mom some­times,” he said.

Rus­sell’s wife died Oct. 3, about a week after she was hos­pi­tal­ized. Chori­o­car­ci­noma, an ex­tremely rare, ag­gres­sive form of can­cer, claimed her life.

Sarah, who lived in Bay Roberts with her hus­band and three chil­dren, was well-known through her work as a teacher and a doula, her vol­un­teer work and her in­volve­ment with Ka­ti­mavik and other groups. Her ab­sence is felt deeply by many - not least of all Rus­sell and their chil­dren, Rowan and twin brothers El­lis and Grant TurpinRus­sell.

The twins, who turn two in Jan­uary, don’t fully un­der­stand the loss, said Rus­sell, but Rowan is quite as­tute, and wise beyond her years.

She feels her mother’s ab­sence in the hours they would spend to­gether do­ing yoga and other ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Rowan says when she misses her mom, she does yoga and it makes her feel bet­ter,” said Rus­sell.

The chil­dren don’t take after Sarah much in looks, he said, but she is very present in their per­son­al­i­ties. Like her, they are funny. Rowan has al­ready come up with her own knock-knock joke.

One of Sarah’s two sis­ters, Jen­nah Turpin, 29, said it’s a re­lief that the chil­dren have re­tained their sense of hu­mour. She has been spend­ing a lot of time with the chil­dren in re­cent weeks, and has found com­fort be­ing with them.

“Rowan is a very wise and very in­tu­itive lit­tle girl. I think she senses a lot of things,” said Turpin. “She al­ways knows just what to say. She’s sort of help­ing us through this in a way.”

Turpin tear­fully told The Tele­gram about her sis­ter this week. She de­scribed her as a well­read, well-trav­elled fem­i­nist who loved her chil­dren and al­ways fought for the un­der­dog.

They were very close and spoke all the time, she said.

“She would be the first per­son I would be lean­ing on through some­thing like this if it was somebody else,” said Turpin.

Ac­cept­ing support

Rus­sell, who of­ten works out of town on con­tracts, gets help from fam­ily and a care­giver - Brittany Broad­bent, who Turpin said has been fab­u­lous - in tak­ing care of his chil­dren. As Sarah, who was 32, did not have life in­surance, the cost of child care could be­come over­whelm­ing.

“It’s one thing if you have one in­come and three chil­dren, and the other par­ent is pro­vid­ing the child care,” said Turpin. “But when you’re one adult and you still have to go to work, and somebody has to look after those kids, it’s a dilemma,” she said.

Turpin’s youngest sis­ter, Claire Turpin, 26, is mov­ing home from Nova Sco­tia in the new year to be closer to the chil­dren, and their mother is in New­found­land tem­po­rar­ily.

For Sarah’s Kids

The fam­ily has also re­ceived some un­ex­pected support from a group of birth doulas - peo­ple who pro­vide support to a mother dur­ing preg­nancy, labour and after child­birth.

Most of the doulas in the group, which is based in South­ern On­tario, have never met Sarah or her fam­ily. Only one mem­ber - Mélissa Cowl, who trained Sarah to be a doula in New­found­land - knew her.

But when The Doula Group heard about Sarah’s death, they were moved to support her fam­ily, said De­bra Bowser, a doula from Bar­rie, Ont.

“Even though there are doulas world­wide, it is a small com­mu­nity. Be­cause she’s a fel­low doula, and Mélissa had met her, re­ally we were truly touched by Sarah and Peter’s story,” said Bowser. “Our hearts are big, and we just wanted to spread the word to as many peo­ple as we could.”

The idea be­hind the fundraiser, called For Sarah’s Kids, is to pro­vide the fam­ily with the fi­nan­cial means for child care, ac­tiv­i­ties and other un­ex­pected ex­penses, in­clud­ing Sarah’s fu­neral.

“We just want to make sure he and the kids are fully taken care of fi­nan­cially,” Bowser said.

Rus­sell said at first, he felt un­com­fort­able with the idea of ac­cept­ing money. Be­ing a proud per­son, he did not want to be the re­cip­i­ent of char­ity. But after talk­ing about it with friends, he re­al­ized a lot of peo­ple wanted to help, and weren’t sure how they could. The fundraiser pro­vides them with a way to do some­thing pos­i­tive.

Look­ing at the fundraiser web­site one day, he was blown away by the gen­eros­ity of donors. He was sur­prised to see that sev­eral peo­ple have made anony­mous do­na­tions.

“I’m so ap­pre­cia­tive of it, and I re­ally don’t have any way of con­vey­ing my ap­pre­ci­a­tion for it. So that’s when I turned a cor­ner and said you know, I don’t mind do­ing this.”

Turpin said the money raised will go a long way to­ward help­ing to give the chil­dren op­por­tu­ni­ties their mother would have wanted them to have. She said her sis­ter would be touched by the gen­eros­ity.

“She’d be dev­as­tated if this hap­pened to some other fam­ily, for sure. It would break her heart to think of three lit­tle chil­dren with­out a mom,” Turpin said.

Christ­mas Cards for Sarah

A sep­a­rate, home-grown fund-

Peter Rus­sell and Sarah Turpin with their chil­dren, Rowan Ad­ven­ture, Grant and El­lis Turpin-Rus­sell.

rais­ing ef­fort for Sarah Turpin’s fam­ily, called Christ­mas Cards for Sarah, also aims to help the fam­ily.

Five artists from this prov­ince - Hi­lary Win­ter, Mike Gough, Jil­lian Waite, Can­dace Ful­ford and Anne Downton - cre­ated their own Christ­mas card de­signs.

The cards are for sale on­line, and will be sold at the Ra­mada St. John’s ho­tel and The Guv’nor Pub in St. John’s. Other busi­nesses have asked for cards to sell, too, Turpin said.

All the pro­ceeds from the card sales will go to Rus­sell and the chil­dren.

— The Tele­gram We­blinks For Sarah’s Kids:­car­­bor/for-sarah-skids/257670

Christ­mas Cards for Sarah: https://christ­mas­cards­for­sarah.wor

Photo sub­mit­ted by Peter Rus­sell

Sub­mit­ted photo

Th­ese Christ­mas cards by lo­cal artists are for sale on­line and at some lo­cal busi­nesses. Pro­ceeds from the sales will help support Sarah Turpin’s fam­ily.

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