Two victims of 2020 Nova Scotia mass tragedy honoured by VON Canada with memorial awards

- September 7, 2022

Heather O’Brien, left, and Kristen Beaton will be honoured by the VON memorial awards. (Photos provided by families)
Heather O’Brien, left, and Kristen Beaton will be honoured by the VON memorial awards. (Photos provided by families)

VON Canada, an organization that delivers compassionate healthcare to Canadians in their own home, is honouring the legacies of two of their colleagues that passed away in Nova Scotia’s mass casualty tragedy in 2020 with the VON Memorial Award series in partnership with Dalhousie University, St. Francis Xavier University and the Nova Scotia Community College.

Two awards have been set up at Dal in Kristen Beaton and Heather O’Brien’s names to celebrate their commitment to home and community care. After consulting with the Beaton and O’Brien families, VON Canada wanted to ensure they recognized the meaningful contributions of Heather and Kristen and their profound impact on both clients and colleagues as compassionate care providers.

“On the second anniversary of this loss, we hope the awards can offer some comfort to those who knew and were impacted by Kristen and Heather, both personally and professionally,” says VON Canada President and CEO Jo-Anne Poirier. “We also hope the awards will inspire and support graduating health care professionals to approach their careers with the integrity, compassion and quality excellence displayed by Heather and Kristen.”

The awards will support graduating students within the CCA, LPN and RN programs, and will be given to students who demonstrate attributes that both Heather and Kristen embodied in their work: caring, compassionate and dedicated to the community.

“These awards will certainly honour the legacies of Heather and Kristen, and will inspire our graduating students to continue to strive for the kind of dedication and care that they both showed in their work and in their personal lives,” says Dr. Brenda Merritt, dean in the Faculty of Health.

About Heather O’Brien and Kristen Beaton

Heather was a warm, caring mother, wife, grandmother and committed community member. A natural born healer, she had a passion for her role and shared her deep caring of others as a VON nurse for nearly 17 years.

"Our mother believed that knowledge is power, and that education, mixed with equal parts of compassion, is what made an incredible nurse. She made an incredible change in the lives of many, and her legacy lives on. Receiving an award in her name would certainly be an honour," say members of the O'Brien family.

Kristen was a devoted wife, mother and CCA — Continuing Care Assistant. She was a beloved member of the VON team by colleagues and clients alike for over six years, always going the extra mile to help make someone’s day.

"My hope is that, out of something truly terrible, we can see something positive. In the future, I want my son to be able to read about the difference his mom made, the change and the good she created. When he searches for her in the future, he won't just see the bad – he'll see the incredible person she was and the impact she made. I hope this inspires others to be like the kind, caring and compassionate person my wife, his momma, was," says Nick Beaton, husband of Kristen.


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