THUNDER BAY – Pride celebrations aren’t making the mark they normally would on Thunder Bay, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Children’s Centre Thunder Bay CEO Diane Walker says it’s as important as ever for those who'd normally participate to keep the spirit of pride alive.
The organization has joined in Thunder Pride since its inception in 2011, Walker said, and felt the need to mark the occasion this year despite pandemic restrictions. The result was a small ceremony at the city’s waterfront for the centre’s employees.
About two dozen people gathered to take part in a smudge, a walk around the Marina Park spirit garden, and to share words. Thunder Pride's new program manager, Abhi Rao, was also on hand for the event.
A pride-themed bench unveiled at the ceremony will find a permanent – and prominent – place at the centre. Walker said while there are deeper ways the values of pride are incorporated at the children’s centre, visual symbols also play an important role.
“It’s a symbol of who we are and what we believe,” she said. “What we’ve learned about diversity is when you have things that are part of your organization that recognize difference, people feel more welcome.”
Marinna Read, a manager of adolescent mental health programs at the centre, agreed.
“I think as soon as you walk into the centre and see the bench, it’s welcoming,” she said. “It says we want you here.”
Read and her husband donated the bench after asking local artist Pia Sharpe to paint it with a rainbow design. It had been a treasured wedding present signed by guests at the ceremony, but as those began to wear after years of use, the couple asked themselves how it could be revitalized.
“It was a symbol of our relationship, coming together – love,” she said. “We thought about how could we give new meaning to it, and still represent love and unity. With pride month coming up, it just made sense.”