March Coveted Stone: Aquamarine
Christie Buono brings her passions and values to everything she does. As the Manager of Community Partnerships with the BC Women's Health Foundation, she brings organizations and people together in support of healthy women at every life stage having access to the highest quality healthcare.
Christie's first passion is bringing people together through her love of sports. She is an accomplished athlete with a two-time national and world soccer championship under her belt and worked for the BC Lions Football Club for over ten years. During Christie's time with the BC Lions, she worked in Corporate Partnerships, a role that connected the organization to the corporate community and beyond. She also used her broadcasting experience from working at CTV BC and TSN Radio to host BC Lions TV and the In-Game Panel.
Throughout her career, Christie has worked collaboratively with cross-functional teams, helping organizations to accomplish their goals. Christie looks forward to continuing her drive and passion of connecting communities with organizations to promote causes that are important to her.
Q: Tell us a little about why you became involved with BC Women’s Health Foundation.
Several years ago I was in two major car accidents and my entire life was changed. 5 years later I was diagnosed with Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia. For two years after my diagnosis I was in denial. I kept working through the fatigue and the pain as I climbed the corporate ladder because my career was so important to me. But what I didn’t know was that pushing through was the worst thing I could do for my body. I entered into a completely foreign territory because the athlete way wasn’t the way anymore (I grew up playing high level soccer). My body finally said “if you aren’t going to slow down and listen to your doctors I’m going to make you listen to me”. In fall of 2015 I crashed and burned. My body that I thought I knew so well and pushed to the max all those years stopped working. It literally shut down. Eventually in December I had to sit down with my boss at the BC Lions and make one of the hardest decisions of my life. I had to let go and put me first. I had to get help. I now entered the most difficult 3 years of my life. You see during my time off I was so sick that my team of doctors weren’t sure I’d ever work again. And being a career driven woman who loved to work, that absolutely killed me. Two years ago I hit what was my rock bottom. But those who loved me and believed in me didn’t give up on me. They walked alongside me, encouraged me to keep going, sat with me when life was really hard. Right when I wanted to give up my team of family, friends, doctors, mentors rallied around me. They reminded me that I wasn’t a quitter, they reminded me of all the times growing up that I could have thrown in the towel but I didn’t and amazing things happened. My community saved me and I wouldn’t be here today without them. I’m forever grateful.
I remember the exact moment when I knew I would have to push myself even when my mind and body wasn’t ready. I had to find a way. I had to go back to the basics and make some serious life changes. I started to put myself out there looking for work. I’m a person who needs to have her heart and passion in her job. I never could just work for a pay check or status. I was approached by my friend Jen Murtagh about something totally unrelated and after our conversation I had the courage to ask her if she or anyone she knew was hiring. Turns out she was looking for someone for the BC Women Health Foundation. The more I heard about the direction, the purpose, and the team behind the Foundation, I knew this was an organization I wanted to be a part of. I knew this was something I could be passionate about because of my own story.
Q: What is the best part about working for the organization?
The best part is that I get to bring organizations and people together in community to support healthy women at every stage of life having access to the highest quality healthcare. I get to wake up every day and live with passion and purpose. I have the privilege to work alongside some of the most brilliant women I’ve ever met and some of the most passionate community partners who want to make an impact. I get to fight for women to have equitable health care when, where and how they need it. I have the most amazing team of doctors and it still took me 5 years to get diagnosed and years to figure out what’s the best course of action for me to get back to myself (even if it was a new normal). My heart breaks for the women who have been dismissed, misunderstood, and who are still fighting to be taken seriously. I know for a fact if I didn’t have the doctors I have today I wouldn’t be here. So that fuels my fire. I get to work for an organization that is fighting for real change. I get to be part of a movement!
Q: What has been the biggest change now that you’re not fully immersed in the football world anymore?
Football is in my blood so it will always be a part of me but I’ll admit the transition out of football with changing careers and my dad retiring was a challenge. It was all encompassing and a huge part of who I am and what has made our family who we are today. When that’s all you’ve known your whole life it takes time to find new routines and new traditions. It felt really weird for a time being because life literally revolved around football, and I loved it. However, it’s not all of who we are so it’s been fun to discover new things I love and translate what I’ve experienced to my everyday life now. The fun part though is I have years of stories and memories that I get to share with new people that I meet. I still have a lot of friendships and connections in football and love when our paths cross through community partnerships etc. I’m still a huge football fan so I get my fix during the CFL, NFL, and college seasons. I just may not be calling in sick to work anymore because I’m depressed for a day or two after my team lost a playoff game (true story lol).
Q: Aquamarine is known as the protection stone. Having been diagnosed with a chronic illness, how has that pushed you to protect and advocate for women and their health?
First and foremost I’ve learned that without my health I really have nothing and I’m good to none. I want to help advocate and protect women from making the same mistake I did by not listening to my body. I can tell you as difficult as the past few years have been, I’ve never been more attuned to my body and what it needs and when it needs it. This has helped me get to where I am today because I actually listen now. I am more self-aware than I’ve ever been. I’m able to honour my body by allowing it to lead me. I’m able to trust my gut when I can keep going at a rapid pace or when I really need to slow down and rest while being kind to myself on both occasions. I want women to know that putting their health last won’t only hurt them but will hurt their families, jobs, and the economy. I want them to know that they matter and they are worth fighting for. I also want to equip women to learn how to advocate for themselves when they see the doctor. That’s such a fulfilling part of my job is that I get to put on events or cause marketing campaigns that help them do just that-provide practical tools to educate and advocate for themselves in a fun way. Even though I was pushing through my pain I knew something was wrong. Luckily for me I had doctors who didn’t dismiss me. They helped me, they listened for me, and they equipped me to find ways for me to manage it better than I ever have before. That’s what every woman deserves and that’s exactly what I’m fighting for.
Q: Where, or what, makes you feel most inspired?
Being Italian we have a lot of passion and emotions so I think when I get a front row seat to someone who is living life to its fullest and passionate about what they do and love inspires me. I love how it brings them to life when they are sharing about their mission, vision, or something that gets them up in the morning. I also have to say my parents inspire me every day with how they live their life, love their family and the people around them, and lead with character and integrity. They inspire me to be the best version of myself every day while loving me even when I fail. There’s power and inspiration in that.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
I would say I have a few that stick out:
- Trust your gut to help lead you to the right decision
- If you don't fight for yourself no one will
- Always be true to yourself
- Actions speak louder than words
Q: Tell us about the best thing that’s happened to you so far in 2020!
It’s taken a long and intense journey for me to get to this place but I can finally say that I can now build roots by having a new home in the city of White Rock, BC. A place to call my own. A space where I feel loved and cared for. A permanent place I can find rest, restoration, new dreams, and maybe ignite some old ones. A place for nourishment, strength, courage, and hope. A safe place to come home to. A place where music is always playing and dancing breaks out. A place where there is life. A house that brings friends and family to celebrate, eat and drink with, laugh till we cry, cry till we laugh. A house that is open and life giving to others. A house with community inside and outside of the walls. And a house for adventure, fun, and making new memories. I can tell you that my new home really is where my heart is.
Q: What is your go-to jewelry piece?
Hoop earrings, hands down.
Q: What is your superpower?
Q: 2019 was full of growth and learning for you. What’s next on the horizon?
Growth and learning will always be important to me so that will never stop. My mindset is to always have an open heart and hands in this new phase of life. Be open to conversations, people, and opportunities as you never know where they may lead you. My hope is that I can use my story for good and positive impact in the world whatever form that looks like. I’m excited to see what my future holds for me while having the time of my life experiencing it.