To volunteer is to give freely and to expect nothing in return
I feel that I never truly volunteered before becoming involved with the cause of ALS. When I was younger, I joined social clubs in my town and took part in community activities, but once I starting working, my contribution to community life essentially consisted in making cash donations to various causes. Whenever I was solicited, I would give money instead of my precious time.
That said, I never went searching for a cause, but a cause found me. In 2010, my long-time friend and colleague Robert Michaud was diagnosed with ALS. And while ALS is in no way contagious, let’s just say that Robert’s positive energy in the face of adversity was infectious—his dedication spread like wildfire among friends and family, and effectively led to an outpouring of active compassion.
Robert quickly became involved on the ALS Society of Québec’s Board of Directors and proposed putting together a Ride for ALS team. My cyclist buddies (Marc, Philippe, and Marco) jumped at the opportunity and now represent the main core of the Pédaleux à Bob team. I was onboard with providing financial assistance, but a challenge issued by my sister-in-law Isabelle, Robert’s occupational therapist, was the real driving force behind my commitment to this avalanche of mutual aid. People with ALS, particularly the bulbar form of the disease, have a great need for communication aids. The waiting lists are long and the devices provided by the government are heavy and sometimes outdated. As a computer specialist at a high‑tech firm, I was intrigued by this issue; so, armed with my professional experience and technical knowledge, I rolled up my sleeves, and, together with my Pédaleux friends, suggested creating a team of volunteers to provide the occupational and speech therapists with technical assistance on the use of tablet PCs in patients’ homes. This initiative materialized after ALS Society officials approved a budget for the project.
Without giving it too much thought and by following my professional instincts, I simply found myself immersed in a real volunteer role. As a first experience, I must admit that the ALS Society of Québec has made it very easy for me to fulfil this task. The Society oversees many initiatives that provide services to their members, and while we might have expected to end up under their supervision, the exact opposite happened—they allowed us to manage our own project and to strive for our own goals. The Society’s permanent members are a little like the people posted at the various stations during a marathon: they help quench our thirst, they feed us, and they cheer us on. We run the race, but at our own pace, and our initiative is successful thanks to their unwavering, behind-the-scenes support. These steadfast supporters offer guidance, making us feel confident and empowered.
To volunteer is to give freely and to expect nothing in return. As a truly committed volunteer, I expect nothing in return, but I get so much more than I give. The boundless passion of the volunteers, the compassion of an organization dedicated to serving its members, and the determination of therapists in the field are all key drivers behind this feeling of making a difference. But the most satisfying aspect by far is the personal contact with ALS sufferers—these people who somehow fill us with the special energy that can only come from those who understand the urgency of living life to the fullest. It’s a privilege to be able to give them a voice, in more ways than one.
Thank you, Bob, your dedication and commitment has touched us all. We wholeheartedly hope that the research funds will help to find a cure for ALS once and for all, but, in the meantime, the passion you’ve infected us with is incurable.