The founder of a Kelowna charity says she has a new lease on life and is vowing to move full steam ahead with her organization, aimed at helping mothers and children overcome the impacts of poverty.
Shannon Christensen of Mamas for Mamas will return from a trip to Ixtapa, Mexico with her husband this week, with memories of a tragedy averted, after she was pulled into the ocean by a rogue wave as she walked along the beach, ankle deep in the surf.
“I just can’t wait to hold my kids again,” she told the Capital News in a message from Mexico today. “I’m still feeling really shaken up but ironically incredibly positive and like I have a new perspective on life.”
Christensen, 31, and her husband Dylan have two boys aged four and seven. On a trip to Mexico, the couple are still recovering from a scary incident that saw Christensen pulled into the water and forced to fight through waves for at least an hour, before finally reaching solid ground, four resorts down from where they were staying.
Once pulled into the water, Christensen says she first tried to swim back but then focussed on staying afloat. She was eventually found by her husband about an hour later.
“I swam for the first few minutes but I started getting tired really fast,” she said. “I’m so grateful my mom taught me swimming as a kid. We were always taught if you think you’re in danger in the water stop fighting or you’ll cramp up. Fill your lungs with air when you can and hold it, and you’ll float.
“I couldn’t tell which way I was facing, I couldn’t find sand or anything to anchor myself to push back to shore. I honestly don’t know how I got back to shore through those waves.”
Christensen is no stranger to losing a parent. At the age of 22, a day after her wedding, her father died suddenly. Keeping her kids from having to go through something similar, kept her fighting for life, she said.
“I just knew I had to keep my head up and get home for everyone there waiting for me,” she said. “I’m taking a full day when I get home to hold my kids and my family, and then truly live each moment like it’s the best one yet.”
Christensen’s Mamas for Mamas is a registered charity that began as a grassroots organization in Kelowna and West Kelowna and has taken off, connecting mothers who share items, with no money exchanging hands.
Mamas for Mamas has expanded to more than 30 chapters across Canada and was moving forward with plans to move into the USA at the time of Christensen’s vacation.
Her experiences in Mexico, beyond her ocean survival, have made her think more about the possibility of helping moms suffering in poverty in Mexico. On a shopping trip the day after the incident, she was shopping when three kids came up to her selling trinkets.
“I saw their mama sitting behind them breast feeding her baby, none of them were wearing shoes and their mama looked so tired. I chatted with the kids for a moment and they were just so sweet, I couldn’t help drawing a parallel and wondering how we may be able to give back here as well,” she said.
Regardless of the future plans, there will be a happy reunion when Christensen returns to Kelowna.
“We are so thankful she is OK and can’t wait to give her a big hug once she’s back,” said Shevaune Battiston, Mamas for Mamas chief operations officer.
“I feel like I want to hug each of my mama teammates for about an hour when I get home,” Christensen said.
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