Volunteers in Canada are an oft-ignored bunch, and they could care less.
That's because true volunteers, those who selflessly give their time to causes they believe in, don't care about pay or recognition. Behind the scenes they operate soup kitchens, kids' camps and befriend the elderly. They garden, knit, tie shoelaces, sing songs, sell raffle tickets and run errands. Unlike a good majority of folks for whom time equals money, the rewards they seek are intangible.
That is, until CBC and Outpost Magazine introduced Champions of Change, a contest to honour this country's most dedicated volunteers on home soil and abroad.
Nominees can be involved with a wide variety of volunteer efforts, as long as they fall into one of the Champions of Change categories, including education, community and culture; environment; health and wellness; housing and infrastructure; and social justice.
Lindsay Willms, a volunteer with the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program (WASP), has been nominated for her efforts in health and wellness and if she wins she will receive $25,000 for her favourite charities. At the very least she'll secure $10,000 for being one of 10 chosen from close to 25,000 nominees for her work with special needs children. And either way she'll split the money between her two favourite organizations - Camp Good Times and WASP.
A full time special education and English teacher at Sentinel Secondary in West Vancouver, Willms dedicates her summers to Camp Goodtimes, an internationally-recognized summer recreation program for children and teens with cancer. In the snowy season she spends weekends on Whistler Blackcomb teaching kids the joys of skiing and snowboarding through WASP, which gives families the ability to interact with their children on the slopes for the first time.
"Lindsay was Aidan's instructor last spring. She was absolutely amazing with Aidan. She had this very special gift of getting his attention and helping him focus on the task at hand," said Vivian Macdonald of West Vancouver, whose son Aidan has autism.
"We have another son, Connor, who is eight... At the end of the day we all join Aidan and ski together. It is very rewarding to see our family all come together around this activity. Without the help of the adaptive program this special time that we all spend together would not be possible. By the end of this season, with the help of the Whistler Adaptive Ski and Snowboard Program, I believe the four of us will be off skiing independently."
Though Willms was on track for law school, she took a detour after spending some time in the corporate world, realizing her passions lay elsewhere. She volunteered in Brazil for a few months, switched her second degree from law to education and decided to pour her energies into a master's degree in special ed. She got involved with WASP after hearing about the program from a friend. Five years later admits she is hooked on the experience.