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Al Benarroch (JCFS Executive Director) with Blair Kaplan Venables (at the exact moment she was waving to her father, who was in the audience)

Blair Kaplan Venables is a 31-year-old former Winnipegger who has found success as a communications expert in Pemberton, British Columbia, specializing in social media marketing.
But when Blair spoke to the members of the audience at the Jewish Child & Family Service Annual General Meeting on Thursday, June 21, her message had nothing to do with social media marketing.





Instead, it was a story of heartache and tragedy, created by an addiction to cocaine that Blair’s father, Leonard, had, of which she knew nothing until she was much older. Ultimately though, Blair’s story was one of reconciliation and acceptance – punctuated by her father’s willingness to admit his own failures.
Blair began her remarks by saying, “My father is an addict…my parents were divorced when I was eight.”
She told the crowd that her father was constantly disappointing her – by showing up late when he was supposed to pick her up as part of the custody arrangements worked out between him and her mother. He even failed to show up for one of her own birthday parties, she said.
“What did I do?” she said she often asked herself.
“What I didn’t know is he was addicted to cocaine,” Blair revealed.
Later, as she grew older, she began to make bad choices herself, Blair said. “I dated the wrong men,” she admitted.
But – she said, “I had a really great support network”, including grandparents on both sides, aunts, uncles, and many others who were there for her.
It was in 2005 that life began to change for Blair. “I got a job at Lululemon” (in Polo Park). “It was a turning point in my life.”
Blair moved to Edmonton and continued working for Lululemon. It was while she was living in Edmonton that she was offered the opportunity to go to Vancouver to attend something called the Landmark Forum. (According to its website, “The Landmark Forum is designed to bring about positive, permanent shifts in the quality of your life – in just three days.”)
At that conference, Blair said, “something clicked: I’m going to forgive my dad – I went to a grocery store and called him and said: ‘I forgive you, I want to have a relationship with you.’”
“Ever since then, he and I have been different,” Blair continued.
“He started to get involved in our family life, he began the journey to recovery from addiction. I understood he wasn’t a bad man; he was an addict.”
Unfortunately though, the years of cocaine addiction have taken their toll on Leonard Kaplan. “He’s had multiple health challenges,” she revealed. “He had to go on disability.”
And this is where JCFS stepped in and has played such a prominent role in both Blair’s and her father’s life.
“We reached out to JCFS. They’ve helped with gift cards, with food hampers,” she said. In addition, JCFS has provided her father a “support network. It has put my mind at ease.”
It would be nice to write that this story has a happy ending – that Blair and her father have reconciled and that now that he is a recovering addict, Leonard Kaplan is well on the way to returning to a normal life.
That’s not the case though. In December, Blair says, her father found out that he doesn’t have much longer to live. He has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD. According to a CBC story about her father, “Kaplan’s lungs are only at 37 per cent capacity and he requires oxygen daily.” In fact, he requires a lung transplant and, if he doesn’t receive one, he’ll die.
Even more sadly though, and something that was reported in the same CBC story - before Leonard can receive a lung transplant, he has to undergo a test known as an echocardiogram.
As the CBC story notes, however, “About three months ago, he was told he would be waiting 14 months or longer for the test.” But - if he has to wait that long, Leonard Kaplan wil probably be dead.
Still, despite the sad turn this story has taken, Blair Kaplan Venables ended on this note: “Part of my journey has led me to write a book, to inspire others to seek help, to mend relationships. One of the things I’ve learned is ‘you’re not alone’. There are organizations like JCFS here to support you.”


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