Meet the McWilliams family

All for one and one for all 

By KEVIN THORNTON, Connect Contributor

The McWilliams family, (left-to-right) Ryan and Brandon with parents Paul and Jody, have been calling Fort McMurray home for a decade. PHOTO: Christina Baker.

The McWilliams family, (left-to-right) Ryan and Brandon with parents Paul and Jody, have been calling Fort McMurray home for a decade. PHOTO: Christina Bruce of Precious Memories.

There are a lot of people in this city who volunteer. Fort McMurray is known as a giving community and rightly so. Many families become involved in many things, and sometimes the lines are blurred as to who does what, and where the credit would go if such things were important.

The McWilliams family takes that blurred line and makes it downright murky. It’s almost impossible to know which family member does the most as no one seems eager to take the credit. When one of them starts something, the rest all pitch in.

Meet Paul, Jody, Brandon and Ryan McWilliams. They’ve been here for ten years and – like so many people – it was initially a career move for Paul. Jody’s career at the time was the family, putting her other life on hold.
A former medical secretary, Jody describes her life like this, “I have spent the past twenty-one years being a wife and mother and have loved every minute of it. We have raised our sons and they have become wonderful young men. Brandon is now enrolled in the EMT program at Keyano (so we are going to school together) and Ryan is applying to the RCMP.”

Wait, what? After all those years of watching over her three men, she’s back at school? Yes, you read that right. Jody is studying at Keyano College.

“Now, it is also my turn to go to school,” she said, “and fulfill a dream I have always had: to become a nurse.”
Both Jody and Paul make light of all that they have done as part of the community. Paul has been on the boards of the Wood Buffalo Food Bank, The Mayor’s Committee on Aging, the Health Advisory Council, the Multicultural Association, The Baseball Trust – Minor Association and Baseball Association, Leadership Wood Buffalo, the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Hockey, Athletics and numerous health initiatives. All of these were where his name was on the letter-head, yet he credits Jody for being the driving force.

Meanwhile, Jody has been the manager of the boys sports teams pretty much all of the last ten years, as well as being on the Oil Barons board and, perhaps most importantly, the safe grad team of parents for the 2015 high school graduates. Yet, she credits Paul for being the volunteer inspiration in the family.

And it gets better still. Ask Jody what she likes to do in her spare time and she answers, “Having the family together. Sitting down to eat, watching sport together, playing board games, joking with each other, movies.”

Now ask Paul. “Most of our spare time,” he says,” has been dedicated to just being together as a family, doing normal family stuff, watching our boys play sports, traveling with the team when they played out of town, family movie nights, fun together.”

It sounds tame until you realize that with all the sports and volunteering they have done, it makes them cherish their time together as a family even more. Married for 22 years, since June 1993 – together for 25, and having lived enough for two lifetimes in the one they’ve already had, they’re embarking on a whole new chapter in their family life. But there is one guarantee, they won’t slow down.

“The more we became involved, the more we fell in love with Fort McMurray. When the time came to decide if we were going to stay or move back home it was an easy choice. We had worked out that this was where we wanted to be and where we wanted to raise our family.”

Paul again: “The more we became involved, the more we fell in love with Fort McMurray. When the time came to decide if we were going to stay or move back home it was an easy choice. We had worked out that this was where we wanted to be and where we wanted to raise our family. Over the years, we have had the absolute pleasure to be involved in many wonderful organizations and meet so many incredible people, and it’s safe to say that we have got far more out of it than what our family put in.

And to round it off, here’s Jody again. “Paul and I met when I volunteered with St. John Ambulance in Saint John, NB. We were both taking the training course. I was only 17 and still in high school. Now life has come full circle and I’m going back to finish off my medical training, here in Fort McMurray. Our home.”

– Connect Weekly –