Dedicated Volunteers Step-Up


They live in different regions of the province and hail from different walks of life. Men and women. Young and not-so-young. The five volunteers you are about to meet have one thing in common: all have a passion for helping the ALS Society of Quebec and a deep love for someone impacted by the devastating disease. Each is also busily organizing their local Walk for ALS. Along the way, they have raised funds, raised awareness and raised spirits.

Yary Coulombe, a nurse by profession, watched her father succumbed to the terrible disease. Before he died, Yary and her brother Yamil took up the cause, pitching-in to help organize the Gatineau Walk for ALS. Yary, who helped merge the Gatineau walk with the big annual Ottawa walk, focuses much of her attention on finding sponsors. She serves on the committee along with Diane Michaud, another volunteer dedicated to the cause. The annual Gatineau/Ottawa Walk for ALS will be held on June 14.

Gilles Martel also devotes himself to the cause in La Malbaie, in the Charlevoix region. Gilles, who lost a very close friend to ALS, has worked tirelessly for over a decade to organize fundraising activities to benefit the ALS Society of Quebec. Aged 61, Gilles doesn’t think of slowing down. “I find strength in the people who face this disease. People who’ve helped me find beauty in the simplest things.” Like the friend who despite her illness, marvelled at the sight of birds heralding the arrival of spring: the seasonal renewal of life. Gilles is terribly aware there is no renewal for people with ALS, but thanks to his efforts, and to many others like him, those living with ALS do not journey alone. The annual Charlevoix Walk for ALS will be held on June 22.

For the last eight years, Francine Lachance has been volunteering with five others to organize the ALS Walk in Sherbrooke. She feels compelled to get involved, “If I stop people wouldn’t know about this awful disease. ALS imprisons people in their own bodies..  This walk, it is something I just have to do.”  Ms. Lachance worked side-by-side with a woman who retired only to learn a few months later she has ALS and her boyfriend’s cousin recently lost his battle with the disease. Knowing the money raised by the ALS Walk goes towards ALS research and towards finding a cure keeps Francine and the volunteer committee in Sherbrooke energized. Furthermore, the committee also organized other events in the region in support of our mission such as  the Bal en Bleu, a benefit-gala held in Sherbrooke in February. The annual Sherbrooke Walk for ALS will be held on August 24.

Meet Odette Lacroix, a bundle of energy, now aged in her 70’s. Odette says her husband went through a period of despair when he was diagnosed with ALS. The retired nurse refused to abandon her beloved husband to his crushing discouragement. She drew her husband into volunteer work, standing by him to the very end. When the ALS Society of Quebec asked her to organize the annual Quebec City Walk for ALS, Odette didn’t hesitate. “Doing nothing would have made me useless,” she says. This is Odette’s fifth year as a volunteer organizer, and she continues to bounce along, marshalling recruits and sponsors, generating media buzz, crossing t’s and dotting i’s. The annual Quebec City Walk for ALS will be held on July 5.

Further east along the Saint Lawrence, Diane Desrosiers, coordinator of the Walk in Baie-Comeau, makes the rounds of the local media. She whips up interest in the different activities she helps organize. Diane assembled a team through Facebook two years ago. Since then, they have organized a Walk for ALS, a golf tournament, a grocery bagging event and a benefit-dance-show at a local nightclub. “We have a small population here”, says Diane. “Just having a walk wasn’t enough.”

Diane was thrust into her father’s ALS journey in late-2008. “The disease took papa in just six months. It was horrible.” She recalls an encounter with a local TV reporter who broke down on camera and cried when Diane described her father’s rapid decline and his final moments. The annual Baie Comeau Walk for ALS will be held on June 8 and is coordinated by Karine Otis.

Each of these tireless volunteers epitomizes the Society’s call to action: participate, encourage and support.

Walk for ALS held annually all across Quebec.

In addition to being a great opportunity to come together and show solidarity, the numerous Walks for ALS continue to raise public awareness about the lives of people with ALS and their families and to raise funds used to maintain the quality of services offered to members and to support research to find the cause and cure for this terrible disease.

Click here to get involved or to learn more about our Walks.


Top Ten Fundraising Tips

Advice gathered from our four Walk for ALS organizers:

  1. Contact the ALS Society of Quebec. Their experts will suggest a starting point to begin networking with others who share your passion.
  2. Give yourself plenty of time. It will take anywhere from four to six months to organize your event.
  3. Form a committee. You can start by identifying friends, family and colleagues who share your passion. Social media is an excellent rallying tool.
  4. Determine the particular talent or expertise of each committee member so you can assign them tasks at which they will excel.
  5. Delegate! Delegate! Delegate! No man or woman can do it all: you’ll need someone to lead the search for sponsors, another to coordinate media contacts, a treasurer to manage finances, a secretary to take minutes at committee meetings, etc.
  6. Make sure you have someone who can sign-up and organize volunteers to help the day of the fundraiser.
  7. Get permission and permits from local authorities as you seek a venue or route for your activity. Your city hall and police services are generally very helpful. Give them a call.
  8. Devise a detailed logistical plan of action for your event: do you need refreshments? Colourful t-shirts? Security along the walk’s route? Hot dogs? Don’t forget the mustard.
  9. If you hit a snag or have particular concerns or questions at any point in the process, contact the ALS Society of Quebec. They have all kinds of fundraising experts who’ll be delighted to help you or reassure you.
  10. Don’t get so busy you forget to enjoy your reward: helping people with ALS along their journey. Bask in the beauty of what you are doing.