Thousands of Heart & Stroke volunteers are at the heart of research that saves lives. Their gift of time helps fund breakthroughs that provide hope to millions. What inspires them to give so generously? Here are the stories of just a few.
Fahad Al Islam, Halifax
Promotes healthy living information
I'm studying psychology at St. Mary's University but I became a Heart & Stroke volunteer last year because I really want to learn more about heart disease and stroke and expand it to my community. South Asians are at higher risk of dying from heart disease and stroke but the awareness is low. On a personal level, I've been interested in raising awareness for some time. My grandmother had three strokes and one of my uncles also died of stroke. Volunteering, especially in health promotion, is really about listening and understanding what the other person wants to know. Then you'll be able to help them. I've learned that people want to learn more about heart disease and stroke and what they can do lower their risk.
Yosefyah Williams, Halifax
Raises awareness on campus
My interest in Heart & Stroke was spiked when I read this year’s report on women’s health. I'm in my last year of Dalhousie's Health Promotion program and I was surprised by the information in that report, like women are five times more likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer. Around the same time, I realized that university students tend to be a population that gets missed. I wanted to get the message out there to students so I started giving presentations on campus to help other young women and men know their risks and take action. I've really enjoyed the open-arm welcome I've been given at Heart & Stroke. I'm a student but people have accepted me and valued my opinions. I’ve felt my voice was heard.
Mark Miller, Victoria
Facilitates Living with Stroke support group
Nine years ago, I was volunteering in Tanzania when I had a stroke. I was 46. Recovery hasn’t been easy. I lost the use of my left side and had to fight through the haziness in my brain for several years. But I’ve learned how to cope with the physical and mental challenges caused by stroke. To me, it’s all about attitude and perception. After a stroke you feel so lost, but one of the keys to a successful recovery is having a good attitude. Now I’m a volunteer facilitator with Heart & Stroke’s Living with Stroke program. I want to help stroke survivors make positive changes and move forward with their lives. I hope that my story can help other survivors and their families find the help they need so they can adjust to life after stroke too.
Charlene Bomberry, Six Nations of the Grand River, Ont.
Organizes family’s annual Big Bike fundraiser
We lost our grandmother to a stroke in 1969. Some of the grandkids never got to meet her. More recently my cousin, aunt, uncle and a few friends have all had bypass surgery. It's because of research done by Heart & Stroke that we get to keep our family a lot longer than we would have otherwise. So I sent an email to my cousins to see if they wanted to create a Big Bike team to support Heart & Stroke. For the last four years, we've filled a bike — 29 people! Our team, Sky Cuzzies, is named after our grandparents’ surname. Everybody comes out and if they're not on the bike they're cheering us on. It's a really good cause, a way to pay tribute to our family and we have fun doing it.
Annie Dulude, Montreal
Provincial board member, fundraiser, speaker
One morning in 2010, I woke up and my sight was blurred and I couldn’t put weight on my left side. Several days later, I found out that I’d had a stroke caused by a blood-related genetic mutation. I was 30 years old. I didn’t smoke, I was active in sports – I was flabbergasted. Three years later, I participated in les Exploits du Coeur, a 232 km bike ride through Death Valley in California, in which I raised nearly $10,000 for Heart & Stroke. And today I sit on the provincial advisory board in Quebec and sometimes do speaking engagements on behalf of the foundation. I volunteer because I was lucky, plain and simple. As a provincial board member, I’m the only one at the table who speaks from personal experience of a stroke. I’m in a position to help improve the experience of others who are going through the same thing happened to me.
Tobey Lawson, Toronto
Canvasses during Heart Month
I think it’s really important that everyone puts in an effort to help people in need. I volunteer because I want to help other families who are affected by heart disease. I was born prematurely with a heart defect. I had surgery when I was a baby, and today I’m healthy. I’m 13 and I love playing hockey, baseball and soccer. It’s thanks to research that more kids like me survive and live normal, active lives. By raising money I’m helping to make more research possible. I think all kids should try to canvass, not only for Heart & Stroke, but for other charities too.
Emily Ross, Vancouver
I’m interested in chronic diseases because they affect so many Canadians, yet we can do a lot to prevent them through lifestyle factors. For my PhD, I’ve been working with a Heart & Stroke-funded researcher looking at how people can use text messages to manage conditions such as heart disease. Getting involved with Heart & Stroke’s Wellness Ambassador program was a great opportunity to share some of what I’ve learned. Once a week I volunteer on the Infoline, a phone line where patients, family members and others in BC can ask questions. We connect them to information they need, whether that’s help getting transit for a doctor’s appointment, information about our support program for stroke survivors or something else. Sometimes we get unexpected questions. The other day, someone asked me where to find a weighted pencil, a technological adaptation for stroke patients I wasn’t familiar with! We might have to do some research to find the information, but people are so thankful for the time and resources we give them.