Our Stories

Keeping It Together

The concept of wellness encompasses mental health and a sense of dignity and autonomy as well as physical fitness. Calgary Foundation recognizes the value of supporting organizations that address wellness in all its forms, including this agency that helps Albertans live healthier and happier lives.

Legacy Place Society

Many workplaces have their daily stresses and challenges, and most of us can share a few work-related grumbles. But for first responders and military personnel, job-related stress can be much more complex—and it often affects their home lives and families.

“It becomes a family job,” says Jenn Widney, whose husband is an officer with the Calgary Police Service. “When you’re a first responder, your entire family is in it, for better or for worse.”

This dangerous and often traumatizing work can lead to psychological strain that may manifest as domestic strife and can go as far as suicidal feelings. While many workplaces offer mental health support to address these challenges, some first responders and military personnel prefer not to share their struggles this way for fear of being stigmatized.

That’s where Calgary’s Legacy Place Society comes in. Legacy Place Society operates a crisis phone line that peace officers, EMS workers,911 dispatchers, firefighters and military personnel from Alberta and beyond can call if they need someone to talk to. It also offers three safe houses for those who need to remove themselves from their homes in crisis situations.

In addition to these vital services, the society also offers workshops for both the first responders and their families, supporting family mental wellness and focusing on topics such as suicide awareness.

“When a first responder has a buildup of stress, it can be quite agitating on the home front,” says Diana Festejo, executive director of the Legacy Place Society. “It can inhibit quality of life, quality of relationships, and potentially include nightmares, panic attacks and increased worry. We’re here to help.”

Legacy Place also holds an annual summer camp for military and first responders and their families to relax with others who understand the lifestyle. These services are meant not just to protect people when they are in trouble, but also to alleviate the sense of isolation and bottled-up anxiety those on the front lines may face.

“Thankfully, we have not had to access Legacy in a time of crisis,” Widney says. “But that may be because they do so much preventive work that many participating families don’t reach the crisis point. And I’m really grateful for that.”


photo by Jared Sych