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Volunteerism: Choices That Make a Difference

Encouraging Dialogue: Speaker Series 2017 - Volunteerism: Choices That Make a Difference

The 2017 Encouraging Dialogue speaker series featured an evening on 'VOLUNTEERISM: CHOICES THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE.' We welcomed the community for an informative evening featuring keynote speaker Michael "Pinball" Clemons and a panel of experienced non-profit leaders to discuss how we can help instill lifelong volunteerism in our youth by helping them find their passion.
Our guests included:

CEO, Camp Oochigeas
Alex Robertson is the Chief Executive Officer of Camp Oochigeas, a year-round not-for-profit that provides recreational programs for kids living with and affected by childhood cancer. He joined Ooch in 2005 as the Director of Programs and helped to grow the specialized summer camp into what is now a year-round operation running out of 5 centres in Ontario and serving over 1000 families every year. Currently he serves as past Board Chair of the Canadian Association of Paediatric Oncology Camps, and he is past Board Member of the Ontario Camps Association. Alex cut his teeth running programs at Paul Newman’s charity camps in the United States and abroad including piloting camp programs for kids living with HIV in Africa and Asia. He’s a runner, a piano guy and an avid apple eater.

Executive Director, The Leacock Foundation
Kristine Gaston is the Executive Director at the Leacock Foundation, a registered Canadian charity dedicated to empowering underserved youth in Toronto and South Africa through access to educational programming to support literacy and leadership development. Kristine is a passionate believer in human potential and is proud to work each day on making a difference in the lives of children.  Kristine has been associated with the Leacock Foundation since 2008, as the Event Director for the Foundation’s signature fundraising event, the Leacock Debate. Kristine has held marketing and communications positions of influence with two of Canada’s Best Managed Companies – Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants and the Printing House Limited.

Program Director, Special Olympics Ontario
James is a passionate advocate of volunteerism and the power of sport as a tool for community engagement and development. At Special Olympics James’ areas of focus are school and youth programs, health and research, partnership engagement, diversity and innovation.  During his time at Special Olympics he has served as the District Developer for the Greater Toronto Area and the Manager of Field Services for the Province of Ontario as well as having held leadership roles both nationally and internationally.

Outside of Special Olympics, James volunteers for a variety of causes including Camp Oochigeas, the Hospital for Sick Children, teaches Drama for the City of Toronto and serves as the Youth Director for St. George’s on-the-Hill Anglican Church in Etobicoke. Through the Youth Group at St. George’s, James leads a team of highly energetic youth focused on Volunteerism, Community Service and Social Justice. The Youth Group is involved in projects both at home and abroad ranging from volunteering for Special Olympics and Out of the Cold to Volunteer Exchanges and Mission Trips to areas such as the Leach Lake First Nations Reserve, rural Tanzania and rural Cuba.

Athlete, Special Olympics
Gohulan Rajalingham is a 19 year old student from Scarborough, Ontario who has been a Special Olympics athlete for 7 Years. Gohulan is true competitor. He is disciplined and always driven to improve his skills and performance.  His unwavering commitment to athletic endeavours is demonstrated in his participation as an athlete in the sports of bowling, softball, soccer, floor hockey and swimming.
As part of Special Olympics in Toronto, Gohulan has competed provincially in the sports of Track and Field, Soccer, Basketball and Floor Hockey.  He has also represented his school as part of the Provincial School Championships. Most recently, Gohulan was a member of Team Ontario, representing the province at the National Winter Games in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland.
Gohulan has also represented Special Olympics Canada as a part of the NBA All-Star International Unified Team, where he competed alongside NBA and WNBA stars and was coached by Steve Nash.
As a leader and public speaker in the Special Olympics Ontario Athlete Leadership Program, Gohulan is also an advocate for his fellow athletes, supports the training of other leaders, and is a promoter of health, fitness and well-being.
Gohulan exudes self-confidence and energy in every game. He is a wonderful and dedicated ambassador for Sport.

Provincial Director, The Terry Fox Foundation
Martha McClew has been Provincial Director of The Terry Fox Foundation Ontario Office since 1991.  As a fourteen-year-old, she watched Terry Fox dip his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean and was given the responsibility of tracking his progress for her family at the dinner table each evening. 
Martha graduated from St. Clements in 1985 and went on to Queen’s University where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English/Political studies in 1989.  After working as a summer student at the Foundation, she returned after graduation and worked in various roles in the Ontario Office. She was appointed Provincial Director in 1991. 
Martha manages a staff of nine full-time employees, and oversees a corps of 10,000 volunteers.  The Terry Fox Foundation raised $12 million in Ontario in 2016, and more than $250 million since 1991.
Martha is married with a daughter, Emma (16) and son Declan (11).


    • Keynote Speaker: Michael "Pinball" Clemons

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