Celebrating our volunteers

Volunteer Appreciation Week at Parkinson Canada

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No one knows the impact of volunteers better than a nonprofit serving a community of people who so graciously show up for others despite maneuvering through their own challenges. The countless volunteers within the Parkinson’s community across Canada commit their time where they can when their fellow Canadians impacted by Parkinson’s need them.

Below, you’ll hear first-hand from 10 volunteers who have dedicated much of their time raising the spirits of Canadians with Parkinson’s, raising the voices of Canadians with Parkinson’s and raising money to fund critical Parkinson’s research.

You begin to hear some common threads when you ask our volunteers about why they lend their time towards a cause they’re personally impacted by. It’s about seeing time itself as a gift to be appreciated more and more every day. It’s about understanding that receiving a Parkinson’s diagnosis is scary and oftentimes isolating, and helping others through that emotional time is time well spent. Lastly, these volunteers share that volunteering is one of the ways they can help Parkinson Canada forge ahead with our mission to transform the daily lives of Canadians impacted by Parkinson’s and towards our vision of a future without Parkinson’s altogether.

Supporting others and facilitating personal growth

Many volunteers speak about how the community once helped them come to terms with the diagnosis and rediscover a beautiful and rich life filled with a purpose of helping others do the same.

Meet Paula Reed

Woman smiling

“I volunteer because I feel you get from life what you give, and I get just as much, if not more encouragement, and support from my community because of the time I spend with so many others that I wouldn’t normally have had the opportunity to meet. It’s an exchange of encouragement. Parkinson’s Canada is incredibly supportive of my endeavours, and I feel supported in this community.” 

Meet Zoha Khan

“Thank you, Parkinson Canada, for taking the time to be so supportive and reaching out with this opportunity to be featured. I am a Support Group Facilitator for Durham Region. 

I am extremely grateful to grow in terms of helping others through the guidance of hardworking, knowledgeable staff and training events at Parkinson Canada. To see the relief and comfort that the members of the support group experience knowing they can be heard in a safe space inspires me to do my best.” 

Meet Janet McGonigle

Woman with glasses smiling

“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease eighteen years ago. It took me seven years to come to terms with my diagnosis and I credit the Saskatoon Parkinson Support Group for helping me complete that journey. 

Six years ago, I agreed to act as Co-Chair of the support group. The affiliation with and support of this group gives me the strength to assist new members in learning about the disease and finding answers to the many questions that arise along the way. Knowledge empowers them, and leads them to acceptance, allowing them to make the most of what they have and to cope with what they lack.” 

Meet Jeannine Alain

Woman smiling

“I saw that our support group needed more volunteers to share the load. Being a social person made it easy for me to offer to fill in wherever necessary. The PD diagnosis was fairly traumatic for me; I want to help newly diagnosed patients to see that the journey isn’t going to be as bleak as what we first thought, and it can even be fun when meeting new people and sharing our road ahead together.”

Meet Jennifer Masters

“I have dedicated my entire life to being in service to others. The work makes me feel happy and fulfilled. Volunteering with Parkinson Canada as a group facilitator, is an honour, and a role that I perform with great kindness, respect and empathy. I know that I am not there to ‘fix’ anyone’s situation, but with great compassion, to hold the space for group members to share their truth about how profoundly hard things are for them.” 

Meet Nora Lea Arcand

Woman with glasses smiling

“Why do I volunteer? Honestly? Because I can. 

Thanks to my generous husband and care-partner, I can give the time it requires. Thanks to my background as a nurse, a secretary, a teacher, a writer of stories, and an organizer, I have some useful skills. Believing that no experience should be wasted, and confident that people are worth it, I volunteer as a group facilitator and secretary. 

Our group has a motto: ‘Parkinson’s is not the nicest thing to bring people together, but it does seem to bring together nice people.’ If my experience can help, I will help.” 

Advocating for themselves and others  

There’s a journey you go on after receiving your diagnosis where you witness the effects of the lack of awareness around Parkinson’s. For some, it’s a swift realization, and for others it takes years. But at some point, seeing the need for more awareness about Parkinson’s and seeing that there are ways to genuinely contribute to that awareness, is what draws many people to volunteer with Parkinson Canada. 

Meet Caroline Thornton

“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a year ago and the people at Parkinson Canada were truly a Godsend. I call one of the members on the Information and Referral team my Guardian Angel! I am taking on the role of Ambassador as a way to contribute to this great organization and a way to raise awareness of ‘the Parkinson World’ in my community.” 

Meet Frank Sgarlata

Three individuals holding large cheque

Left to right: Marion Carroll (Resident and fundraiser Parkland on the Glen,) MPP Sheref Sabawy, Frank Sgarlata (Parkinson Canada Ambassador). 

“On May 3, 2021, my life changed. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. 

I became a Parkinson Canada Ambassador because I wanted to advocate on behalf of the entire Parkinson’s community – the people living with Parkinson’s, the people who care for them every day, the people who treat those of us with the disease and the people working hard to find a cure. 

As an advocate for Parkinson’s, I believe my first job is to educate the decision makers and the public about the challenges facing our community. That is why I went to Parkland on the Glen Retirement Residence in Mississauga, Ontario to receive a cheque on behalf of Parkinson Canada from the residents and staff. I invited Mr. Sheref Sabawy, MPP for Erin Mills Mississauga, to attend and learn about Parkinson’s disease in Canada. 

Education creates awareness. Awareness increases the opportunity for action by elected officials to pass legislation and, in my case, find funding for earlier diagnosis, better access to care and, of course, research. My goal is that in my lifetime there will be a cure for Parkinson’s.” 

Meet Brock Carlton

“One of the challenges with PD is building the personal resilience to face this disease. Parkinson Canada provides the ways to build that resilience through their focus on knowledge, community and ways of making a contribution. Thanks to Parkinson Canada I have been involved in Tai Chi; I have joined a PD choir for help with voice projection and social connection and have joined Parkinson Canada-led support groups.

Most importantly, Parkinson Canada creates the venue for us to give back to our Parkinson’s community with programs like the Ambassador Program – through which many of us have connected with local civic leaders, MPs and Senators to increase awareness and hopefully encourage their action in support of PD and Parkinson Canada; we’ve done TV interviews and written letters to the editors on local newspapers – all in the spirit of making a tangible contribution to the PD community and in support of the work of Parkinson Canada.” 

Event volunteers ensure future Parkinson’s research 

Volunteers who lend their time to event organization and fundraising are ensuring that Parkinson’s research continues here in Canada. While events play a key role in this funding, they also provide an opportunity for local Parkinson’s communities to invite the general public to learn more about Parkinson’s and join them in a day of exercise and great conversation.  

Meet Dan Steele

Three individuals smiling in bike riding apparel

Left to right: Dan Steele (PAC volunteer), and Bruce MacPherson (Pedaling for Parkinson’s planning committee member), Steven Iseman (PAC volunteer).

“I participate as a volunteer because I want to help my family. That is how I view the friends that I have made over the years who are touched by this disease, as family. Whether a person is newly diagnosed or in the late stages of Parkinson’s Disease, I feel that if my lived experience can help, I want to share it. PD can be pretty scary and lonely sometimes. I urge anyone who needs answers about Parkinson’s or personal support to reach out to Parkinson Canada or your local support group to join a family that cares.” 

Watch: Finding freedom from Parkinson’s (CBC video)

Celebrating volunteers today and every day 

Volunteers are the lifeblood of Parkinson Canada. Without their continued support, we wouldn’t be reaching Canadians living with Parkinson’s across this beautiful country.  

Hundreds of volunteers are gifting their time to support those impacted by Parkinson’s. Everything from events to support groups, from webinar guests to advocacy ambassadors and everyone in between. 

This is a community of impact. Because each volunteer chooses to support their fellow Canadians impacted by Parkinson’s, this community has access to more resources, more events, more support groups, and more community members to share their experiences with. 

To say Parkinson Canada is grateful for our volunteers is an understatement. 

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