Stories to Inspire

KIK Picnic features lifelong dedicated volunteers

For some longtime volunteers at the KIK Picnic, it really doesn’t matter whether the day is beautiful and sunny, or grey and windy like it was this year—as long as they get to brighten the lives of the foster children who attend.

The 16th annual Kids in Kare Picnic was held at the Forks National Historic Site on June 15, and close to 500 foster children and their families attended, along with 196 volunteers.

Many of those volunteers have been with the picnic since its inception, 16 years ago.

Heather Van Leusden has been helping out with the picnic since it began and she always works at the popular Fish Pond, where children gleefully fish rubber duckies out of a kiddie pool and then get to pick a free toy to take home.

Why does she do it?

“I love kids,” she says. Van Leusden works in external licensing for Winnipeg CFS and although she says she will retire someday soon, she will continue to volunteer every year at the KIK Picnic— always at the Fish Pond.

She says she loves the joy on the children’s faces when they are choosing toys and playing the games.

“It’s the best one,” she says of her tent. “The kids are just fabulous.”

She says many of the children aren’t that concerned about picking a toy—they just enjoy playing in the water.

“On a nice summer day, all they want to do is fish,” she says.

Van Leusden remembers the picnic starting out much smaller, with only a few tents including food, karaoke and bouncy castles, and that the start of KIK had much to do with Leslie Johnston, who worked for Winnipeg CFS at the time. However, she has seen KIK get bigger and much more popular, with more donations and more guests each year.

Another longtime volunteer, Mario Rojas, a retired protection worker from Winnipeg CFS, says he couldn’t miss a picnic.
“Even if they don’t give me a hot dog, I still come,” he laughs.

“I feel like I still have the commitment of the agency. I’m very thankful. I love my profession and I have a lot of affection for my clients.”

He, too, works at the same tent each year—the lifebooks photo tent. He enjoys taking special photos that each foster child can keep forever in their lifebooks.

And he takes pleasure in the excitement that the children have at the KIK Picnic.

“I get to see some of the children I have worked with. I really enjoy that part.”