The Voice of The Salvation Army in Canada and BermudaView RSS Feed
Nov14WedA Santa Claus parade changed Elizabeth Leduke's life. November 14, 2018 by Ken Ramstead
For more than a century, The Salvation Army has taken part in the annual Santa Claus parades held throughout Canada in November and December. It’s a proud way to showcase the Army’s brass bands and timbrel brigades as well as spread Christmas cheer.
- Filed Under:
- Faith & Friends
But for one young girl in 1981, The Salvation Army’s participation did more than that.
A Mother’s Instinct
Elizabeth Leduke grew up in Toronto with her parents and older sister. “We’ve always been a loving, close-knit family,” she says.
When she was 18 months old, however, the youngster suffered a horrific accident due to the negligence of a babysitter. Elizabeth’s feet and legs were terribly burned due to immersion in scalding-hot water.
Worse, her wounds were left unattended for hours. She might have died from dehydration had not her mother had a premonition something was wrong with her daughter and rushed home early from a business engagement.
“The doctor told my mother, ‘If you had taken her to the hospital an hour later, Elizabeth wouldn’t be here now. Your gut instinct tonight saved your daughter.’ ”
Though Elizabeth was alive, she faced a gruelling recuperation. “I was hospitalized,” she says, “and I had to relearn how to walk.” At four, Elizabeth had to undergo skin grafts for her feet and legs at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Because burned skin cannot regrow, she also needed a succession of operations, so that her feet could heal and grow properly.
“It was a stressful time for the family,” Elizabeth states, “and my family were frantic with worry for me.”
Location, Location …
Despite the anxiety and worry, or perhaps in spite of it, Elizabeth’s parents were determined to attend Toronto’s annual Santa Claus Parade as they always had with the children.
“My parents packed up everything in the car, including a wheelchair, and took me and my sister to the parade,” says Elizabeth.
Elizabeth’s parents found a great viewing location just in front of the city hall building. They set their daughters up in the front row, Elizabeth in her wheelchair swaddled in blankets with legs elevated.
“Mom and Dad were right behind, keeping an eye on us,” she recalls.
The family were thoroughly enjoying the floats and festivities when the Salvation Army procession came into view.
Just ahead, four uniformed Salvation Army pastors, two men and two women, worked their way along the parade route, wishing spectators “season’s greetings.”
Two of them noticed Elizabeth in her wheelchair and made a fuss over the little girl.
“One of the pastors asked my sister if we went to Sunday school, but they could tell by the look on her face that she didn’t know what they were talking about,” laughs Elizabeth. “So we pointed out my parents, who came forward, and they chatted with the pastors for a bit.”
“Have you ever thought of Sunday school for the girls?” they asked Elizabeth’s parents. “Do you have a church home?”
“At that point, we did not,” says Elizabeth. “My parents had thought about placing us in Sunday school, but had never gotten around to it. And then of course with everything that had happened, we’d been sidetracked. And so my parents replied that they would be happy to have someone contact them.”
The family left the parade thinking that nothing would come of the exchange, but the next day, they got a telephone call from The Salvation Army’s East Toronto Corps, which was the church situated closest to their home.
“We understand that you might be interested in having your girls come to Sunday school,” they told Elizabeth’s parents. And to sweeten the deal, they offered to pick them up every Sunday.
Both girls loved the experience and, eventually, their mother figured she should check it out herself. She sat in on a few of the Sunday school classes, and soon started attending services. Eventually, Elizabeth’s father joined them.
“And that was how my family came to The Salvation Army and to know God.”
Being a part of The Salvation Army defined the path Elizabeth’s life took.
“God can take anything that happens in your life and turn it into something great,” Elizabeth says. “Having faith in God is what gets you through those hard times. And while some people pull away from God when they’re going through those hard times, for me, I couldn’t have gotten through my surgeries and the loss of my father from cancer without having God in my life.”
Elizabeth met her husband, Neil, through The Salvation Army and they now have two children of their own.
“I’m thankful that The Salvation Army took part in the Santa Claus Parade that day,” says Elizabeth. “It changed the course of my life.”