After 20 years as a public servant working for Langley’s Member of Parliament, championing victims’ rights and being the heart of the constituency office, Tanya Tait’s wheels are in motion.
The mother of two, who gave her kidney to save Langley’s Todd Hauptman three years ago, is now working for a Canadian icon — Rick Hansen.
“I work for a true Canadian hero, it’s pretty exciting,” said Tait.
More than a month into the job as director of marketing and communications for the Rick Hansen Foundation, Tait said she is completely inspired working with a “visionary.”
Along with her team, she is responsible for creating a new branding strategy after the Foundation celebrated 25 years last year. There were numerous Canada-wide events and Hansen returned to many of the places in the world he toured, including the Great Wall of China.
One of Tait’s roles will be to help build global relationships and continue to engage youth.
“As we transition from our 25th anniversary activities into the next phase of the Foundation targeting global outreach, as well as youth engagement, we clearly recognized the need for exceptional talent in communications and marketing and are thrilled that Tanya has joined our team as director,” said Hansen.
“She is already helping us reach our next level of impacting the lives of those with spinal cord injury in Canada and around the world, researching for the cures, and realizing our ultimate goal of a healthy, inclusive world.”
Although the Rick Hansen Foundation office is in Richmond, Tait loves Langley too much to move and has opted to commute.
Tait is still involved in the community.
She was involved in Langley’s Relay for Life organizing committee and is still actively involved with the Fraser Valley Organ Transplant Network and volunteers doing PR for the Special Olympics, which is coming to Langley this summer. She is also with the Langley Conservative Electoral District Association. She said it was her 14-year-old daughter’s comments that solidified her decision to apply for the job with Hansen.
“My daughter told me ‘I’d be crazy not to apply.’ If a 14-year-old has that much respect for Rick Hansen, it shows how his legacy has carried on into the younger generations. I wanted to be part of that,” she said. “I told Rick in my interview that I wanted to work with people who value integrity and make a difference.”
It was as a radio reporter that she met retired Abbotsford-Langley MP Randy White.
“He was bringing (then Reform Party leader) Preston Manning to town,” said Tait.
“I wasn’t that keen on politics and I didn’t have a clue what to ask him.”
So Tait called her grandfather who helped lead Canada’s 13th Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s election campaign.
“He gave me a list of questions and I asked them all of Preston,” Tait said. “After, Preston turned to Randy and said ‘who is this woman?’ He was impressed.
“When Randy became Abbotsford-Langley’s MP, he asked me to be on his team.”
Tait said White, who had been secretary-treasurer of the Abbotsford school district, was actually interested in finance, but fell into becoming a tenacious and outspoken advocate for victims’ rights.
With seven federal prisons in his riding, White wanted to open his doors and let his constituents tell him what their concerns were.
“And boy did they come through those doors. There was a team of four of us and Randy and I would accompany people to parole hearings and trials. I developed a huge sense of empathy.”
Tait helped co-write Canada’s National Victim’s Bill of Rights with White.
“I’m really proud of that,” she said.
In 2004, Mark Warawa was elected as MP for Langley, and she began working with him. She calls Warawa “Mr. Integrity.”
When she told him she was leaving to work with Rick Hansen, Warawa got teary and said he was very proud of her, said Tait.
“That’s the kind of guy Mark is,” she said.
On a personal level, March 31 marks three years since she gave her kidney to save the life of Langley’s Todd Hauptman. To some, it may have seemed extra courageous for Tait, a mother of two school-aged kids, to give her kidney to a friend. But she explains it was a life-saving no-brainer.
Tait first met Hauptman as an eager 14-year-old, who walked into White’s campaign office. Tait was White’s campaign manager and was tasked with giving Hauptman jobs to do. The two began a friendship.
But when Hauptman’s kidneys were failing and his life was on the line, Tait knew what was needed to do.
“Todd is doing great,” she said of Hauptman, who is working for Langley MLA Mary Polak while finishing his political science degree. While her recovery took a bit longer than expected, she is feeling great.