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Volunteer profiles

Volunteer profiles

The contributions of our volunteers are essential to the success of the Arthritis Society. And the ways that volunteers can help serve people with arthritis are as diverse as their own stories. Explore a few of them here!

  • Dr. Sarah Campillo – Quebec – Advisory Board Chair and Camp Director

    Her own experience living with arthritis inspired this doctor to create a camp for kids

    Dr. Sarah CampilloWhen Dr. Sarah Campillo was a child growing up with arthritis in Montreal, she was fortunate enough to attend a special summer camp for kids with arthritis in the US. Nothing like that existed close to home. Years later, when she was completing her residency as a pediatric rheumatologist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, she hatched her own plan to create a special camp where French and English-speaking children with arthritis could also experience a sense of belonging.

    Together with her team nurse, she approached the Arthritis Society with her idea and in 2004, Camp Kids on the Move hosted its first summer session with 17 campers from Montreal. Now in its 15th year, the camp will welcome 40 overnight campers from all parts of the province. “Many people think arthritis is an older person’s disease. It’s not true,” says Dr. Campillo. “A lot of kids with arthritis feel they are the only ones suffering from the disease. They may be the only child in school with arthritis so they tend to feel socially isolated.”

    Giving them the opportunity to interact in a safe and fun environment is the reason she takes a week of holiday time every summer to volunteer at Camp Kids on the Move. The rest of the year, she is busy co-chairing the planning committee that coordinates all aspects of running the camp including developing a councillor-in-training program, reviewing medical files, liaising with parents, developing schedules, recruiting specialized nurses, and arranging for the necessary medications and special equipment. “I keep coming back for the kids,” says Dr. Campillo, “hearing them say how they wish they could come back for two weeks, not just one. And listening to all the positive comments from parents who witness such a huge change in their kids in terms of making new friendships and how they learn to accept their disease.“

    In addition to her involvement running Camp Kids on the Move, attending events, and giving media interviews to promote the cause, Dr. Campillo has taken a leadership role as Chair of the Quebec Divisional Advisory Board since 2010. Not everyone is willing or able to devote as many hours to volunteering as she does, but Dr. Campillo urges anyone thinking about volunteer work to jump right in. “It makes me feel part of a wonderful community, and I see what a difference the camp makes in kids’ lives, and what a difference the Arthritis Society is making in terms of research investment and education and awareness about arthritis,” she explains.

    Volunteering also gives her the chance to be a role model for young trainees at the hospital, and demonstrates to families in her care that members of their healthcare team are engaged by participating in fundraising events organized by the Arthritis Society like the annual Walk. One thing is certain speaking with Dr. Campillo; the positive impact of volunteering can be far-reaching and deeply rewarding.

  • Eileen Davidson – British Columbia – Ambassador

    Influential blogger wears her arthritis journey on her (tattooed) sleeve

    Eileen DavidsonTo some people, Eileen Davidson is better-known by her blog name, “Chronic Eileen”. To others, such as those who saw her appearance on Breakfast Television in Vancouver last year to promote the Walk for Arthritis, she is “the tattooed girl with arthritis.” In fact, one of the latest images she had tattooed on her wrist is a ribbon symbolizing arthritis alongside the word “fighter” to remind herself to keep going – despite the chronic pain and the knowledge that there is no cure. When people ask if it hurts to get a tattoo, she is quick to reply, “Yes, but that pain goes away.”

    Today, Eileen is a 32-year-old single mom on long-term disability living with three forms of arthritis: rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. It hasn’t been easy to stay positive and energized since her diagnosis three years ago. She gave up her career as an esthetician – a career she loved – because it became impossible for her to stand for long periods of time and perform routine treatments that required precision and dexterity.

    Volunteering as an Ambassador with the Arthritis Society and writing her blog helps Eileen find purpose outside of her role as a mother. She has become a passionate advocate for people like her living with the stigma and damage caused by arthritis. “Arthritis is an invisible and misunderstood disease. I have a ton of determination and a big dream to take every opportunity I can to raise awareness,” explains Eileen.

    She says she appreciates the role of the Arthritis Society as both a community, and a place you can go for reliable information. “When you first get diagnosed and you research online, you can read some pretty crazy stuff. The Arthritis Society is a place you can trust, with tips and tools to help people with arthritis care for themselves.”

    In addition to promoting the Walk for Arthritis through social and mainstream media, Eileen raises funds to support research on her personal Walk fundraising page. She has also been gathering signatures online to petition for federal government support, and writing letters to provincial premiers across Canada to spread her message.

    “I’d probably go crazy if I didn’t have this volunteer work,” says Eileen. “There’s so much you can gain from volunteering even if you only have time to do it just once a year. My volunteer work with the Arthritis Society helps me fight the feeling of isolation. It gives me goals, hope for a better future, and a chance to give back to society.”

    Eileen wants to show her young son that arthritis isn't going to stop his mom. And she looks forward to the day when she can get a new tattoo – one to symbolize the victory when arthritis is finally cured.

  • Savanna Farber – Saskatchewan – Ambassador

    University student overcame shyness to become an outspoken ambassador

    SavannaSavanna was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) when she was only six years old. Now in her early 20’s, she is studying animal bioscience at the University of Saskatchewan with the hope of eventually applying her education to work with therapy dogs. Living with arthritis since childhood has helped her develop a heightened awareness of how much good people bring to the world when they offer to reach out.

    For the past two years, Savanna has been volunteering with the Arthritis Society as a way to give back. “I love to help others who struggle,” she says. “It helps me make something positive out of something negative. I make it a priority because it means a lot to me and I meet the most wonderful people along the way.”

    Savanna began volunteering at the 2016 Walk for Arthritis. The first year, she helped out the day of the event, registering participants, serving food, tallying up donations, and assisting with various kids’ activities. She enjoyed everything about the work, but the highlight was the chance to find her own voice by promoting the event in a radio interview.

    Savanna admits she is shy by nature so speaking publicly made her nervous at first. When she announced to her mom that she had agreed to the interview her mum couldn’t believe it, but overcoming her fear was made easier when she thought about all the kids with arthritis attending the Walk facing chronic pain, stigma and isolation as a result of their disease.

    In 2017, Savanna was given another opportunity to raise awareness about living with childhood arthritis when she was asked to make a presentation to parents at a Family Day hosted by the Arthritis Society in Saskatoon. Even as a child attending the annual event with her own parents, Savanna had secretly hoped she would be able to share her story. “One day I’m going to give my talk. It’s on my bucket list,” she recalls thinking to herself. She understood early on the value of shared lived experiences in helping people come to terms with a diagnosis like JIA, and she wanted to transform her own suffering into something meaningful, so participating at Family Day was doubly rewarding.

    Savanna says that one of the best things about volunteering is that even a small commitment matters. “No amount of time is too little,” she says. “Even if you have a few hours to give, you can make a difference. You’ll connect with people to have a positive impact and that will definitely leave you feeling good about what you are doing with your time.”

     

  • Bobby Faulds – Ontario – Operations

    Facing a life with chronic disease, he turned to volunteering to help raise his spirits

    Bobby FauldsAnkylosing spondylitis is a rare form of arthritis that affects the spine. Bobby Faulds has lived with this disease for more than a decade. He manages chronic pain as well as discomfort caused by inflammation of the eyes and dry mouth that make it hard to swallow. Bobby was also born with cerebral palsy. When he had to leave his full-time government job to go on permanent disability in 2006, he felt crushed.

    “I was getting depressed,” says Bobby. “I had to shake my head and tell myself I needed to find something to do that would make me feel good.” Bobby had worked with several other non-profit organizations in the past, but when he accepted a role with the Arthritis Society in 2011, he knew he had found the right match.

    Twice a week, Bobby volunteers in the Toronto head office of the Arthritis Society. He supports the donor services team with administrative tasks including tax receipting, scanning files to help with the transition to a paperless system, and assembling and shipping specially-designed backpacks filled with information and tools to families of children who have arthritis. Bobby says he feels valued and appreciated.

    Bobby was particularly touched when he was presented with a special award for his volunteerism at a 2013 event he calls “the Oscars of the Arthritis Society.” The plaque he was given is proudly displayed at home as a reminder of his connection to the organization. “I work with good people,” he says. “Everyone cooperates. Everyone works as a team.” Occasionally, he too, likes to show his appreciation so he arrives at the office with his famous zucchini bread to share with the staff.

    Despite his physical challenges, Bobby has tremendous energy and positivity. In addition to his office hours, he raises money for the Walk for Arthritis every year to help fund arthritis research. Attending the Walk is one more way Bobby feels connected to the cause. “It’s a great way to give back. There’s just one thing,” he adds with a chuckle, “I like the 5km Walk – but I wish they would increase it to 10 kilometres!”

  • Bill Stewart – New Brunswick – Event Chair and Advisory Board

    Seeing the difference research can make, he jumped in with both feet

    Bill StewartBill Stewart woke up one morning in 2002 to find he couldn’t put any weight on his left knee. He calls this his “welcome to arthritis” moment. With knee surgery and two hip replacements behind him, he admits “arthritis has really done a number on me.” Bill didn’t seriously consider volunteering with the Arthritis Society until 2012, when he was approached to join the New Brunswick Divisional Advisory Board which he now chairs.

    Today, Bill is semi-retired from working at the investment firm he started in Moncton, New Brunswick, so he has more free time to devote to his leadership role in the organization. With the help of his wife Donna, he is also keen to try his hand at fundraising which he considers a high priority and an exciting challenge.

    “One of the things I always tell people is that they probably have someone in their family or close circle who is affected by arthritis. Sure enough, they always agree,” says Bill, who looks at the tremendous advances in treatment over the years as clear evidence of the importance of continuing to invest in research, so we can better understand what causes the disease and how we can improve the quality of life of people living with arthritis.

    Confronting his own challenges with osteoarthritis triggered a vivid memory from Bill’s younger days that influenced his decision to become a volunteer. Years ago, he remembers speaking to the parents of a young child with rheumatoid arthritis who was confined to a wheelchair. The parents told Bill there was very little the doctors could do to help. Nowadays, Bill says, “I see a huge difference in the treatments available to help children suffering from arthritis. It’s unbelievable, the progress we’ve made. I want to do what I can to help.”

    Bill is the kind person who likes to make things happen. After participating in the Walk in Fredericton in 2012, he launched one in Moncton the next year with a few friends and family. The event is still growing, with 100 participants last year and a list of new corporate sponsors to offset some of the costs. Bill is particularly moved by the fact that 30 children and their friends attended the 2017 Walk, many of them suffering from arthritis. “It was so great to see them raising money and connecting in their community,” says Bill. “Every person can make a difference – really make a difference. Everyone is here for a different reason but we can all do something. That’s the bottom line in my mind.”