Celebrating our volunteers

We mark National Volunteer Week with a tribute to the people who help make things better for others.

Clockwise from top left: Leslie O'Reilly, Aditya Sapru, Gillian Riley, Wes McComb, Rummy Chaudhary, Gregory Belton

Clockwise from top left: Leslie O'Reilly, Aditya Sapru, Gillian Riley, Wes McComb, Rummy Chaudhary, Gregory Belton

April 14-20, 2024 is National Volunteer Week in Canada. It’s a time to celebrate those who give so much of their time and talent giving back. Volunteers make their communities stronger and healthier, but very often, they go unnoticed. At St. Michael’s Foundation, we notice. And we are deeply grateful.

Here, we ask six people why they volunteer.

Leslie O’Reilly
Volunteer since 1997

For Leslie O’Reilly, the volunteering he does–organizing curling bonspiels to raise money for Providence Healthcare–comes from the heart. It combines his love of the sport with his gratitude to Providence for the care that his mother received in her last stages of life. Since her death in 1996, he has organized 23 of these fundraisers.

“I’ll never forget the palliative care volunteers at Providence–it takes a strong, highly empathetic person to do that work,” says Leslie. “They took such great care of my family. And after my mother passed, I wanted to honour their support, finding a way to volunteer in a different way.”

The O’Reilly Bonspiel has raised approximately $250,000 for Providence over the years. Leslie says it’s worth the effort every single year. It’s a kind of tribute to his mother. It helps a place that was extremely good to her. And it does a great deal for him, as well.

“Volunteers know a great secret: it feels good to give. I’ll never stop.”

Aditya Sapru
Volunteer since 2023

The way Aditya Sapru sees it, volunteering in support of a good cause is the very best way of paying it forward.

“I feel hugely privileged, given how life has treated me, but my mother continues to remind me to always remember my roots and think about those around me who aren’t as blessed,” says Aditya. “Giving back to the community is a key part of my upbringing and DNA.”

Aditya is on the fundraising committee for the Urban Angel Soirée, which is held every three years in support of St. Michael’s Hospital and Providence Healthcare. When presented with the opportunity to volunteer with St. Michael’s Foundation, he jumped at the chance.

“Volunteering is a lot of fun. It doesn’t matter if you are helping out at a hospital near you or working on a massive fundraiser–helping others will give you a lot of satisfaction and put a smile on your face. It certainly puts a smile on mine.”

Gillian Riley
Volunteer since 2017

In her time serving on the St. Michael’s Foundation Board of Directors, Gillian Riley says the work that she is most proud of is co-chairing the signature gala, now called the Urban Angel Soirée. The President & CEO of Tangerine says helping raise money for St. Michael’s Hospital and Providence Healthcare is just a logical extension of the way she was raised.

"When I was growing up, there was a real sense of commitment to giving back to the community in my household. So, volunteering to help fundraise for St. Michael’s and Providence was sort of instinctual for me."

Gillian says supporting the Foundation is a particularly good fit for her. Healthcare has become one of her passions, given how much support the system needs in order to properly care for patients.

“Every person will need healthcare, in one form or another, in their lifetime. Our healthcare system is in urgent need of help. That’s why I think this is a really important space for people to get involved in.”

Gregory Belton
Volunteer since 2009

If you ask Gregory Belton why he volunteers, he’ll tell you that it’s because he gets more out of volunteering than he puts in.

“Every night when I lay my head on the pillow, I do so knowing that I have contributed to the greater good, particularly by helping those who find themselves in challenging circumstances.”

It was the idea of helping those in need that first impressed Gregory about St. Michael’s Hospital, the Urban Angel whose commitment to its vulnerable inner-city population is legendary. Gregory has served on the board of St. Michael’s Foundation since 2009, during which time he has raised funds for the BARLO MS Centre. He has also fundraised for Providence Healthcare, where his mother underwent palliative care.

“When I reflect on my life, I can say that as proud as I am of any business success I have enjoyed, I am equally proud that I have been able to use my time, energy and whatever gifts I possess to improve the lives of others.”

Rummy Chaudhary
Volunteer since 2022

Rummy Chaudhary was a patient of St. Michael’s Hospital a few years ago. She describes the experience—the quality of care that she received––as life-changing.

“I am forever grateful to have received such exceptional care. As a way to express my gratitude, I joined St. Michael’s Young Leaders to get involved and give back in any way that I can.”

As part of SMYL, Rummy has worked with other young professionals on events and activities to raise funds for research and programs that may lead to new medical treatments. She says that volunteering at St Michael's is more than just giving your time or raising money.

“You meet brilliant people who widen your perspective on the world. You see and learn about the incredibly interesting things happening at the hospital, and the best part is, you are doing it for a good cause.”

Wes McComb
Volunteer since 2017

During her battle with breast cancer, Wes McComb’s wife Sarah was a patient at St. Michael’s Hospital. Before she passed away, she had said of the hospital, “Angels who walk on earth work here, taking care of people.” Since her death, Wes and family and friends have organized the annual Rock With Love concert in her honour, in support of cancer research at St. Michael’s.

“Sarah loved music, so it made sense to bring people together with a concert,” says Wes. “And giving back like this can channel grief or other negative emotions into something positive—and with a purpose. It has certainly done that for our family.”

The Sarah McComb Award for Cancer Research is now featured at Angels Den, Canada’s biggest medical research competition, hosted by St. Michael’s Foundation. Wes has volunteered on the Angels Den committee for the past eight years. Even before Sarah’s death, he had been someone who believes that when you volunteer, you get back much more than you give.

“I would encourage people to volunteer for several reasons. First, many of us have been given so much, and this is a chance to give back. Also, it can be very rewarding. The people you meet and the positive dynamics of giving offer volunteers so many benefits in so many aspects of their lives.”

Want to do something great, make a real difference in support of St. Michael’s Hospital and Providence Healthcare—and have fun doing it? Be creative and design your own fundraiser.

Donate to St. Michael's Foundation.

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