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Local resident listed among 'top 40 under 40' in her field

Joceyln Leworthy from Gilda's Club Simcoe Muskoka was beside herself when she saw all the other award recipients

Barrie’s Jocelyn Leworthy has been named one of the top 40 under 40 in her field.

Leworthy, who works as a child, youth and family co-ordinator with Gilda’s Club Simcoe Muskoka, was officially awarded a Top 40 Under 40 in Cancer award today, and is one of the few Canadians who made the list, executive director Aaron Lutes said.

Because of their position in the Gilda’s Club Worldwide and Cancer Support Communities affiliate network, Lutes said their location was able to demonstrate the exceptional leadership in program delivery, innovation and excellence.

“So much of our team here give so selflessly. The pandemic has challenged us to be able to maintain those levels and to be empathetic to what is needed. Jocelyn has done that in amazing and deservedly recognized ways,” Lutes told BarrieToday.

Created by the Lynx Group in 2018, '40 Under 40 in Cancer' is an awards program to identify and recognize the contributions being made across the field of cancer by rising stars and emerging leaders under the age of 40 years.

Leworthy always knew she wanted to work with children and considered a career in teaching, pediatric nursing or counselling. It wasn’t until she began the early education program at Georgian College that she learned about the potential career path of being a child life specialist  a role, she admits, most people are unfamiliar with. 

“It really encompassed all the things together. You have the education piece in that you’re providing diagnosis information and helping kids understand what it means when they have a particular medical condition or when somebody they love has one,” she told BarrieToday. “Also the psycho-social support in helping them understand the different emotions they’re going through. And then the play-based and all of the child-focused approaches that are involved with that.”

While the career is a very difficult one to pursue in terms of the educational requirements, Leworthy said all of that is worth it when she gets to help children and families in some of their toughest times. 

“I have a rare genetic condition myself, and recognizing the work child life specialists do, giving kids the space to understand more about themselves, helping them learn to cope with the difficulties  whether it be related with their emotions or coping with limitations and helping them understand their strengths  is something I realized I could have benefited from,” she said. “It really fuelled my motivation to want to get into this career to advocate for other kids and to be a support that I wish I’d had.”

Being named among those rising stars is a huge honour, Leworthy said.

“I had to get one of my friends to read it back to me, and it was really honouring and cool to be recognized,” she said.

Upon first glance of the email, she didn’t realize exactly what the award was.

“I went on their website and (saw) this list of people who’d been previously nominated, and I saw researchers and doctors  and primarily Americans from top-notch facilities like the Cleveland Clinic. I used the reference from Grey’s Anatomy: ‘I feel like I won a Harper Avery!'

“Then there’s 25-year-old me from Barrie, Ont., amongst these people who I look to be really incredible and it’s so rewarding.”

Leworthy said she loves what she does, and while she doesn’t need the recognition, it’s definitely an honour to be on that list.

“I hope being on that list, I can give recognition to my profession and really hope to raise importance and the need for psycho-social support for kids. Yes, we need research, and yes, we have to have good medical care, but psycho-social support is a huge component when we need to talk about holistic well-being in supporting patients, children and families,” she said. 

Anyone interested in recognizing Leworthy's accomplishment is invited to do so with a gift on Giving Tuesday, where all gifts will be matched, doubling the impact of the organization’s award-winning Cancer Support Program that provides free support to anyone impacted by cancer.

Gilda’s Club Simcoe Muskoka, an affiliate of the Cancer Support Community, is dedicated to providing support, education and hope to all people impacted by cancer, family members and friends of those diagnosed, children, and people who have lost someone to cancer.

The local organization also provides a gathering place where people with cancer, as well as their families and friends, or people that have lost someone to cancer, can join with others to actively involve themselves in building social and emotional support as a supplement to regular medical care. Our evidence-based programming includes support groups, healthy lifestyle workshops, mind-body classes, social activities, educational lectures and community resource information.

For more details on the award, click here.