Bereaved Families of Ontario - Ottawa

BFO Ottawa Banner

This profile originally appeared in the 2019-20 Giving Guide. Read the full magazine here.

We offer bereavement support for many different types of losses: for adults, youth (high school age) and families; for perinatal loss, loss of a child, spouse, parent, sibling or friend; or for loss by suicide, by substance abuse/use, or by medical assistance in dying (MAiD). We are getting ready to offer a new francophone group in Orléans.

Each year, we run about 120 support groups attended by approximately 2,000 participants, in addition to holding two memorial events and offering educational workshops. 

We follow a peer support model in which participants share their stories, provide support and help each other through their experiences with grief. Our trained facilitators have lived through similar losses. Suggested donations are appreciated. Everyone is welcome.

Community Builder Award
Mayor Jim Watson and Somerset Ward Councillor Catherine McKenney present the Mayor’s City Builder Award to Mary Ellen Henniger and Barb Hayduk, two volunteer representatives of Bereaved Families of Ontario – Ottawa Region. CREDIT: Photo courtesy the City of Ottawa

At a glance

Year founded: 1978

Geographic region of focus: National Capital Region

Total revenue for last fiscal year: $87,000

Top funding sources: 

  • Individuals: 100%

Community impact:

  • 2,000 people supported 
  • 6,000 volunteer hours 
  • 120 support groups
  • 2 memorial events

How you can help


We rely exclusively on donations from individuals and organizations in our community to continue to offer our programs and services, and appreciate every donation, large or small.


With the exception of two paid staff members, we are an organization that is entirely run by volunteers. Everyone within BFO Ottawa has experienced grief, and has chosen to dedicate their time to help others in our community. Volunteer positions include trained facilitators, event organizers, digital media experts and professional fundraisers.

Butterfly Release
Releasing a butterfly in Beechwood's botanical gardens, May 2019.

Programming and community outreach

We run one memorial event, the butterfly release, each spring, and a second one, the Tree of Life, in early winter.  

This year, on June 9, 2019, more than 250 people came together to remember their loved ones at BFO Ottawa's eighth annual butterfly release. The ceremony took place inside Beechwood’s non-denominational sacred space. Afterwards, participants released their painted butterflies in the botanical gardens. It was a quiet and peaceful event, followed by a guided walk and reception. 

Tree of Life
Lighting candles in memory of our loved ones at the Tree of Life ceremony.

On Dec. 1, 2019, BFO Ottawa will hold our 27th annual Tree of Life ceremony, which takes place before the holidays begin, at a time when people typically feel grief more acutely. The event includes guest speakers, personalized memory ornaments, music and a candlelight remembrance ceremony, followed by a reception.

Board members and executives

BFO Margaret Lorrie
Program director of the Bereaved Families of Ontario - Ottawa Region, Lorrie Beaton

Antoine Babinsky

Doug Cargo

Elaine Dean

Barb Hayduk

Matthew Keogh

Barrie Marfleet

Sean O’Brien

Executive chair: Vacant

Fundraising priorities

  • We would like to find corporate sponsors for our different support groups and our two memorial events.
  • We would like to find recurring sources of revenues to help us strengthen capacity as an organization.

Get in touch

303-211 Bronson Ave. 
Ottawa, Ont.
K1R 6H5
Facebook: /bfo.ottawa/