Meet three extraordinary volunteers who went the distance
Across the country there are thousands of brave heroes you’ve never heard of.
Heart&Stroke is fortunate to have 125,000 committed volunteers of all ages who provide no shortage of inspiration. Here are just a few incredible volunteers who have gone the extra mile to erase heart disease and stroke from the lives of Canadians.
Susan Robertson, Windsor, Ont.
When Susan was 36, she had a stroke. Recovery took 12 months, as she worked with a physiotherapist to regain her mobility and overcome weakness on her right side. Then, by the time she entered her 40s, Susan started forgetting things.
Research now shows that stroke is closely linked to a type of cognitive impairment called vascular dementia. It can cause memory loss and affect word finding ability, information processing, problem solving and reasoning. After a test confirmed her cognitive impairment, Susan had to give up her full-time nursing job.
“Losing your employment, your job, it’s part of you – especially, as a nurse,” said the mother of two. “That was my identity for a long time. It was really hard to accept that.”
Intense feelings of isolation, she says, were particularly hard to overcome — and a big reason why Susan is more open to talking about her experience today.
“It’s almost like you need someone who has been through it, to talk about it. They’ll understand all the feelings you feel, the frustrations you have.”
In recent months, she has rekindled her passion for nursing and helping people. She volunteers with Heart&Stroke to raise awareness around stroke and the lifestyle changes that can help reduce the risk of stroke and now potentially for dementia. And Susan is hard at work to create a much needed support group for other stroke survivors in her hometown of Windsor.
“If I can give hope to one person then my goal has been fulfilled.”
Paul Morse, Toronto
Paul Morse was very disappointed when delays prevented him from getting to the starting line in time for this year’s Ride for Heart in Toronto. He’s been a dedicated participant since 2013, after a stroke cut short his career as a senior executive in commercial real estate.
Paul and his Ride team, We Paul, raised more than $28,000 this year — bringing their total to $60,000 over the past three years. Besides being a keen fundraiser, Paul volunteers every Wednesday with Heart&Stroke’s fund development team.
To make up for Paul’s missed ride, event organizers invited him to bring his adapted recumbent cycle to his own special ride with Heart&Stroke employees, as part of a Big Bike fundraiser.
Paul hit the road under a blazing June sun outside the Heart&Stroke’s Toronto office, escorted by a police cruiser and an entourage including son Sam, daughter Julia and a group of Heart&Stroke VIP riders led by then-CEO David Sculthorpe. Paul’s wife Lynn looked on as Heart and Stroke employees and supporters thronged the sidewalk to cheer.
Paul said volunteering with Heart&Stroke has helped him deal with the emotional toll of stroke. Raising awareness of stroke and raising money for research is especially important to him. “If there’s anything I can do so someone else doesn’t have to go through what I’ve been through for the past three years, I want to do it.”
Harry Marsh, Pointe-Claire, Que.
Editor’s note: After Harry raised $300 for Heart&Stroke, we asked him why this cause is important to him. Here are his own words.
For my 12th birthday I had decided to collect money for Heart&Stroke in memory of my grandfather John Marsh, who I called “Poppa.” Sadly, he passed away on Feb. 27, 2015, of a heart attack. He was only 71. Poppa’s dad also died from a heart attack at a young age shortly after World War II. Poppa never knew his dad.
Poppa was loved so much by everyone who knew him. He was smart, fun, kind, loving and made me proud to be his grandson and a Marsh. I did not get to see him much because he lived in England with my Granny. But the times we spent together were special.
One of my favourite memories of Poppa was catching cool creatures in the garden together, like snails, stick insects and newts. He also loved to play charades with the family because we laughed a lot. I used to love hearing about Poppa’s memories of his family and his knowledge of the War, especially the planes and battleships.
Even though I had a limited number of years with Poppa, he gave me so much and inspired me. Raising money for Heart&Stroke is my way of giving something back and remembering him. He gave so much love and support to others, so I want to continue this generosity in memory of my Poppa. I think Poppa would be proud of me for what I have done.
Ready to get involved? Volunteer with Heart&Stroke