Marg Stewart remembers being a strong advocate for the community

Tara Jeffrey

Marg Stewart was a rock to everyone around her.

“Everyone knows my mom was strong,” MacKinleigh Stewart said of her mom, a well-known community activist and business owner. “She had a lot of people leaning on her.”

Stewart has dedicated her life to helping those in need, raising money for local charities, and helping others find strength and recovery through fitness.

But his own silent struggle became too much to bear.

Marg Stewart

Stewart took her own life last month, leaving her community, family and friends in shock. She was 57 years old.

“I just feel like there needs to be a conversation about strong people. They’re often the ones who suffer in silence,” MacKinleigh Stewart said. “The strongest often feel unworthy and afraid to ask or to accept help from others.

“Because that role of being ‘strong’ and being ‘the one who holds the strong’ becomes an identity.”

For the past few years, Marg Stewart has led GroupWorks – a small group personal training program focused on strength, body positivity and overall health.

“There were a lot of things that are usually part of the fitness industry that she wouldn’t allow into her practice,” MacKinleigh Stewart said of her mother, who battled a life-threatening eating disorder. growing up. “She recovered by finding her strength and being physically strong.

“She wouldn’t allow things like ‘talking about dieting’ or talking about ‘losing weight’ in her practice. She had no mirrors in her workout space; and she has really done a lot to make people no longer care about their appearance, but about the function and mobility of their bodies, and be fit, not only physically, but spiritually and mentally.

One of Marg’s favorite participants was Noelle Paquette.

“She was right in front with Marg; they had a great relationship,” recalls Lynn Paquette, Noelle’s mother.

The tragic death of Noelle Paquette in 2013 shocked the community and prompted Marg to launch a fundraiser in her honor that spring.

Noelle’s Gift of Fitness has expanded to include area gyms and studios, inviting participants to try new activities while raising funds for Noelle’s Gift, which supports children in Sarnia-Lambton.

“She took it upon herself to generate donations and hundreds of volunteers — she was just an amazing woman,” Paquette said, noting that $250,000 has been raised through fundraising since that first year.

Pandemic restrictions forced the event to move online last year, but that didn’t stop Marg from raising an additional $25,000 on her own, collecting pledges and hosting her virtual classes. from her home.

This month, health and wellness center Ironworks launched a fundraiser in Marg’s honor – encouraging donations to Access Open Minds – a youth mental health facility set to open this summer.

Donations will be accepted at the reception or by electronic transfer to [email protected]

MacKinleigh Stewart, who struggled with her own mental health growing up, said her mother would have been proud to support the cause.

“One of the biggest things for me growing up was that there was nothing local for kids to do, so that’s something she would absolutely support,” she said. “We were blown away by how many people came together to do all of this.”

Every year, Marg would call the Paquettes on New Year’s Eve — the anniversary of Noelle’s death — just to check in and send her love, Lynn Paquette said.

“It was always about us, never about her. Our family loved her. We will all miss her; the community will miss her. Just her energy – she was a badass.

“If you took his class and slack off, you were in trouble,” she laughed. “Watch out, Noelle, because Marg is going to be after you in heaven.”

* To contact Bluewater Health’s Eating Disorder Awareness Program, call 519 464-4400, extension 5217.

* Child and Teen Crisis Line: 1-833-622-1320.

* Lambton Mental Health Crisis Service: 519-336-3445 or 800-307-4319.

* Sarnia-Lambton Distress Line: 519-336-3000 or 1-888-DISTRES (347-8737).

* Crisis text line: text HOME to 686868

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