Gemma Hickey is a local activist who most recently made headlines for walking across the island this summer as a fundraiser for Pathways Foundation – an organization she founded to support victims of clergy sexual abuse.
Tell us something about you that anyone who knows you knows.
I’m a hopeful romantic.
Tell us something about you maybe no one knows.
My nan taught me how to fish when I was little. I can still remember the sound of the line whipping through the air like a wind gust. Her in hip rubbers smiling as she cast her line. I try to go when I can.
Name something you’ve done in your life you’re really happy with, and why.
I completed a 930-kilometre journey across this glorious island of ours! My walk raised funds and awareness for The Pathways Foundation. It began in Port aux Basques on July 2nd and ended in St. John’s on August 2nd at the Mount Cashel Memorial.
Share an experience that changed your view on the world.
I’m a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. My case, like so many others, was settled outside of court. As part of that agreement, the church is financially responsible for my therapy. Roughly four years ago, I received a call from a representative of the Archdiocese of St. John’s and it triggered me. I felt hate in my heart for the bishop who instructed his assistant to contact me because I had to face again what I thought I had put behind me. As a gay activist I’ve been spit on, my property has been damaged, and my life has been threatened. I often wondered how people could hate me so much when they didn’t know me. Once I reflected on that, I had compassion for the bishop and requested to meet with him.
Tell us a wild or random memory from your childhood.
I was ten. There was a girl at my school who I had a crush on. She told me she wanted a teddy bear, but her mother couldn’t afford it. On Sundays my mother would give me money for collection at church. Each time the man would come round I’d put my hand in the basket and pretend to drop the change. No one was the wiser. I saved up and proudly brought her the cutest teddy bear I could find.
She loved it. I figured God would give me a pass.
What do you do right before bed?
Read or depending on how intense my day was, go for a stroll or swim.
What qualities do you admire most in a romantic partner?
See Shannon Webb-Campbell.
What is your fatal flaw?
Nan’s homemade bread. It gets me every time!
Who is your real life hero?
My pop. Before he died of bowel cancer I walked with him arm-in-arm back to his room on the hospital ward. We were travelling at a snail’s pace when he said to me, “I’m not going to win the race Gem, but I’ll get there.” I thought about that a lot when I was out on the highway alone, getting pounded by high winds and heavy rain and my feet were so blistered I could barely walk, but I got there.