Carolyn Karle turns her grief into power

March 2023

Carolyn Karle has an indomitable spirit.

In September of 2021, Carolyn lost her daughter to a drug overdose. She was devastated. Her daughter, Dayna, was only 31 years old when she died. 

Dayna had so much going for her: she was vibrant, funny, athletic and beautiful, and she was an incredible hairstylist. She had accomplished a lot in her very short life but it all changed when her mental health challenges became unmanageable and she couldn’t find the resources she needed. 

“The thing about drug addiction,” Carolyn says, “is it can happen to anyone. Mental health and addiction don’t discriminate between young or old, rich or poor, or what neighbourhood you’re from. No one says they want to grow up to be a drug addict with a substance misuse disorder. It happens before a person knows it, and it’s a vicious downward spiral that takes over your life. Nothing else matters but getting that next hit.” 

Carolyn’s pain turned to anger and then the want – the need – to stop this from happening to others. She turned her grief into power.

She founded the DEK foundation, named after her daughter, and dedicated her life to improving the lives of people in the Thunder Bay area who battle addiction.

Carolyn and her group of volunteers provide everything from meals and basic necessities to support for families of people with addictions. They also campaign for governments to increase the funding and resources necessary to bring people with addictions back to where they can be happy and lead fulfilling lives.

“When a person becomes addicted to a substance, they hurt those around them and burn a lot of bridges. When I hear of a person who is struggling, breaking into a friend or parent’s place, and stealing things, I’m so sad. I know they did it because the drugs have hijacked their body and they need to feed that addiction. It’s because they are extremely sick and society doesn’t offer options to get well – simply because there is a lack of resources.”

That’s why the DEK Foundation does what it does.

“Often these people have no one else to turn to and things as simple as a bag of toiletries, a warm blanket or a meal, will help them get to the next day, They realize someone cares for them and they’re not alone.”

What sustains Carolyn the most as she helps others, is working one on one with people and giving them a leg up. Many times, people don’t know of the resources and programs that are available to them, and many times the system is overwhelmed and doesn’t have the means to reach out to addicts.

The stigma behind mental health and drug addiction also needs to be removed.

“Often people are embarrassed to talk about their drug addiction. They think it’s a reflection of them – that they’re a bad person. But they aren’t bad people, just people who are going through difficult times. But if they don’t talk about their illness, they stay sick. We need to let people know we don’t judge them. We only want to help them.”

When asked what future goals she has, Carolyn sighs and then smiles. “Thunder Bay needs a home for women who have gone through the rehab program and need a safe place away from the drug scene where they can get their feet back under them and move forward. I would like to create this home and make it a loving and accepting place for women who want to have their lives back.”

With such an indomitable spirit, Carolyn will make this happen. And it will honour Dayna and all of the other loved ones who have been lost.  

Carolyn also steers people with mental health and addiction problems – who possess a phone – to the Lifeguard app, as it has all the information in it to direct them to the agencies and resources needed to put their life back on track. 

To learn more about the DEK Foundation and get or provide support, you can visit their website at

Donna White is an accomplished author and Jubilee Medal winner for her volunteer work with World Vision. Visit her website at

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