Our friend and team member Erik Premont is moving back to Dallas to be with his family. For two years Erik has blessed us all with his presence and his larger-than-life personality. Talk about a culture fit! Erik is a CARE leader in every sense of the word and he has welcomed some incredible franchise partners to the Sunshine Brands family.
I asked Erik to write in his own words the various events that have made it necessary for him to move on. Here they are:
By Erik Premont
June 21 2013
“Happy Canada Day, Daddy!” said my daughter Gabrielle on a hot Texas morning.
“You remembered, Baby Girl!”
“Yes, Daddy, and I put my Canadian flag up in my room.”
That radiant smile very seldom leaves Gabby’s face. My Morning Sunshine woke me up that Friday, July 1, 2011. As I was brewing my morning coffee I felt compelled to pick up my BlackBerry and to listen one more time to a voice mail message that I had saved from the day before. I had to hear that soft, comforting, inviting yet assertive voice once again: “Bonjour Erik, my name is Peter van Stralen from Sunshine Brands in Orangeville, Ontario …” The rest is history. I knew then that I was going to pursue my journey in life and finally bring my children back to their dad’s home and native land.
As we were making plans for the move, many questions were left unanswered. Our biggest concern was Erik Christian, our now 16 year-old son with dual diagnosis: Down syndrome and Autism. After being on a waiting list for 5 years in Texas, we had finally been awarded a “diversion slot” for residential living services. Those long-awaited services were only available to us provided that our family – at least our son resided in Texas. We also had concerns about Tatiana, our little girl adopted from Russia into the United States back in 2007. Questions about immigration, healthcare eligibility and special needs services such as speech therapy were also left unanswered. “I don’t know yet but we’ll figure it out” was my answer.
With hope and faith that we would soon be reunited in Canada, we left Erik Christian in a group home in Arlington and left our home empty in Texas on Friday, November 11, 2011. It was Veteran’s Day in the States and Remembrance Day in Canada, and I felt there was something meaningful about embracing an exciting new chapter in our lives on 11/11/11. Canada was waiting with open arms: my parents and brother had driven from Québec City to help us in the transition, there was a beautiful poinsettia with a “Welcome to Canada” card on my new desk at home office, team members helped us move into our new house in Palgrave, the whole experience was nothing short of remarkable. This new chapter had begun.
As things started falling into place, the girls registered in school and we were settling in. I kept hoping that soon there would be a group home available for Erik Christian. I had just joined the Sunshine family and truly felt that it was one of the greatest things I had accomplished in my professional life so far. I had never enjoyed so much, being in a working environment, surrounded by an incredible group of people, led by a leader who not only personally cared for me and for my family, but who also trusted in my abilities and gave me the freedom and the responsibility to operate according to my skills and aptitude. I had never lived that reality before; no matter how successful I had been in my previous careers, I never had so much fun and loved so much what I do every day. I also found that I never knew how much I loved our Mother Earth. Things had to fall into place, so we continued to grow as a family and stayed hopeful that we would soon bring Erik Christian home with us, as we walked by an empty bedroom painted in blue for him every day in Palgrave.
Celebrating our first Christmas without Erik Christian was hard. When his caregivers brought him to us for a 10-day visit in February 2012, we registered him at Parkholme School in Brampton. We were in awe of the services available to him at Parkholme; unfortunately those services only lasted during school hours. That meant that my work day was over at 2:45 PM. I would occasionally bring him to the office – which allowed for our home office staff to learn something new every day through interacting with him (ask Ben about it!), however it still caused major distractions. We spent hours filling out paperwork in the Peel Region Social Services office in Mississauga and received discouraging news that validated the fact that Erik Christian could not stay. The caregivers flew him back to Texas a few days later.
When Erik Christian turned 15 on May 9, 2012, and I could only see pictures of him unwrapping his birthday presents with the group home staff from 3000 kilometers away. Emotions ran very high. Feelings of guilt of abandoning our child were overwhelming. Those feelings never went away.
On Tuesday, April 9, 2013, Peter and I are about to get on stage at the CFA Convention in Montréal to deliver our presentation on Brand Passion. The moment anticipated for so long in my French Canadian heart is about to become reality: we are about to share our Culture of CARE with my people! It is just a matter of months before we are franchising in La Belle Province! As I am about to put on Too Tall Tim’s head, I receive an email from Immigration Canada. Tatiana’s application for Canadian citizenship has been denied. The wind in my face has to dry my tears really fast as we take pictures with Dina Dwyer-Owens before the presentation; however at that time I knew that my family’s days in Canada were numbered.
When I brought my family back to Texas, I was reminded of the most important values in life. These pictures say it all:
I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to the home office staff at Sunshine Brands: Peter, Scott, Michael, Joyce to the World (<3), Katelyn, Frank, Iva, Candice, Carol, Kaare and so many people who have touched my life beyond words.
I am also grateful to our wonderful franchisees who have entrusted their goals, hopes and dreams to us. I will eternally be grateful for having been invited to share two of the best years of my life with an amazing organisation and journeyed with extraordinary people. The Culture of CARE is not just comprised of words on a wall; it permeates in everyone's entire persona.
Please enjoy this video as our parting gift:
God bless you all.