National Volunteer Week takes place from April 24-30, 2022, as organizations across the country celebrate those who generously donate their time and talents to their community.
The National Volunteer Week theme for 2022 is Volunteering Is Empathy in Action, affirming the strong connection between volunteerism and empathy. The theme also emphasizes that Volunteers Bring Heart to Canada’s Communities and that this profoundly human connection is at the heart of healthier individuals and stronger communities.
JDRF’s volunteers are unquestionably the heart and soul of what we do. Some of our dedicated volunteers share why they devote their time to JDRF and what being a volunteer means to them.
Why I volunteer
Ariane Archambault, Montreal QC
Diagnosed age 11
I started volunteering in different organizations 4-5 years ago, because I felt that I needed to get involved, to be around people with different realities than mine, to understand different points of view and especially to try to be useful somewhere in society.
For a long time, I wanted to get involved with other young people with type 1 diabetes, but I didn’t feel mentally strong enough to reassure, advise and equip people who face the same difficulties as I do every day. I needed detachment, perspective, experience and most of all to work on accepting the disease first before trying to inspire others to do the same.
After 14 years of living with type 1 diabetes, experiencing the ups and downs, I decided to seek help from JDRF’s Peer Support Program, as I was going through a little discouragement. It felt so good to talk to someone who was going through the same issues as I was, that I immediately wanted to get involved!
Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to help a few newly diagnosed people get through the emotional roller coaster that comes with a diagnosis. I realize that I wish someone had been there to answer all my questions and concerns when I was diagnosed at age 11. It’s not easy to see your daily life take a 180 degree turn and to feel alone in this new reality, so it’s great if I could contribute, in a small way, to breaking the isolation. We should all listen to each other more and be really interested in what others may be going through, even if it is miles away from our reality.
Being asked how you’re doing, for real, and being listened to, changes everything.
I am also involved in JDRF Marketing in Quebec, and I am also part of the JDRF Mental Health Advisory Board, which aims to develop a mental health strategy to better support people with type 1 diabetes.
I try to raise awareness as much as possible with those around me, because over the years I have come to realize that type 1 diabetes is not well known, and therefore not well understood, which contributes to the isolation of people with the disease. Every time I can help someone who is going through the same thing as I am, I always feel a little more confident.
Motria Iwan, Victoria BC
Diagnosed age 14
Motria is a JDRF volunteer in Victoria, BC who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 14 years old. She has participated in multiple JDRF fundraising events since being diagnosed and she currently volunteers as a graphic designer at JDRF.
In November 2021, with the help of the JDRF team, Motria organized her own National Diabetes Awareness Month fundraising initiative which raised over $10,000 for JDRF. Motria also initiated Langford City Hall in BC to proclaim November as National Diabetes Awareness Month and she organized the Royal BC Museum, Victoria City Hall, and the BC Parliament Building to light up blue on November 14th in honour of World Diabetes Day and 100 years since the discovery of insulin.
Motria loves contributing her abilities as a user experience and interface designer to benefit the diabetic community and she aims to inspire people with type 1 diabetes.
Raj Huitin, Thornhill, ON
Diagnosed age 2
My name is Raj and I have type 1 diabetes. I’ve been living with this condition for almost 14 years now, and it has become a part of my daily routine. I was diagnosed as a 2 year old toddler, which was extremely overwhelming for my parents. While the hospital provided great support, my parents leaned on the JDRF right away for mentorship from other parents, attending informational sessions, and participating in family events such as the ride and the walk for the cure.
Seeing this journey made my decide that I would like to contribute as well. Volunteering helps me give back to the community that has helped me and so many others. The most fulfilling part of volunteering is that I know I am helping others with their conditions learn just like I did. Diabetes isn’t a weakness; I would actually say it has certain benefits as well. It has helped me build my resilience with school and sports. Without fail the JDRF has helped numerous kids like me and my family countless times and I love volunteering for them.
Ruby Pilatzke, Petawawa, ON
Diagnosed age 9
School was out for the summer June of 2013. I was 9 and looking forward to spending time with friends, taking in all the fun and wonderment the break typically had to offer. That summer was anything but typical. It started with me wetting the bed again. I had long outgrown that. At this time too, I was so thirsty. One weekend I drank water bottle after water bottle only to have my thirst never quenched.
The thing that couldn’t be ignored though was my sudden weight loss. It happened without warning, really overnight. It was drastic to say the least. So pronounced, my looks changed making me barely recognizable to those who knew me well. My mom had helped me have a bath just prior and she couldn’t believe how thin I was. Mom is a nurse and knew what diabetes was, I know. She even said to me one night “mommy doesn’t know Ruby. Maybe you have diabetes.”
Almost a week later though the weight loss couldn’t be ignored. That was the tipping point which triggered the trip to the emergency department. Along with my vital signs, my blood sugar was assessed. The reading was high, confirming my mom’s suspicions. July 29, 2013 brought the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes and a world none of us was prepared for.
I learned of JDRF early on in my diagnosis, when it was suggested I sign up for their Bag of Hope. A welcome package so to speak for those with Type 1 diabetes. It has useful resources for the person with diabetes and their caregivers. I got it and among other things it had resources to help explain this complex disease, information about an annual walk and a stuffed animal with patches to help with injections, ironically it’s name was Ruby.
My mom accessed resources from the organization to help prepare those at my school for my return in September. I was interested in the Walk and invited some friends and family to join me. We went and I wasn’t prepared for the number of people there. I was overwhelmed at the support I saw and felt. So many people all there with one common interest. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone.
Since then I have been an annual JDRF walk participant and have become more involved. I attended the Dia-beat-it Gala twice and enjoyed having an avenue there to tell my story. Seeing donors contribute to the fight against Type 1 diabetes was empowering.
From there, I was asked to be a youth ambassador. Valuing JDRF’s mission, “Improving lives today and tomorrow by accelerating life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat type one diabetes and it’s complications”, this designation was such an honour.
I have enjoyed composing social media videos and articles to raise awareness of this disease. Even with the pandemic when the Walk plans had to change, I changed with them. I did a virtual fundraiser talking my brothers into shaving their heads which helped raise $7000.
Once again, the following year, the walk was forced to pivot from what it traditionally had been. With insulin’s discovery 100 years prior it got me thinking. The idea to walk 100 km was born and came to fruition. I trekked for 22 hours straight, gaining lots of attention by media coverage and kind folks driving by honking in their cars.
I was able to use my voice to bring exposure to the realities and struggles that comprise Type 1 diabetes. I also blew my $10,000 fundraising goal out of the water. At the finish line it was announced that I raised a total of just over $28,000. I know those in my community know more about the disease because of me and that is a good feeling. Knowledge is power. That can only make things better for myself and others that live with this disease and until there is a cure that’s what I can ask for.
Celebrating our JDRF National Youth Champions (NYCs)
A very special group of JDRF volunteers consists of amazing teenagers who champion leadership in their communities. Residing across Canada, our 11 JDRF NYCs were selected to spread awareness, advocate on behalf of all Canadians, and empower young people who have been newly diagnosed with T1D.
These deeply motivated volunteers created a T1D myth busting campaign, participated in JDRF events, and launched their own project titled The 100 Project which raised $9,497.00 in just a few short months. These volunteers have been featured on local radio stations, in schools and in numerous local newspapers. They are strong advocates for change, and for a cure. A big thank you to the 2021 NYC volunteers who have created pathways for young people living with T1D across Canada.
“Volunteering as an NYC allowed me the opportunity to meet people with the same goals. I enjoyed being part of the group to fundraise and share my common story with others!” – Miranda DeFazio, NYC
“Being an NYC has been an amazing opportunity. Hearing all the ideas from other type ones on how we can raise awareness and raise money for JDRF has been something I have always wanted to do! I love being able to use my voice for other people in the same situations as me!” – Anika Dyck, NYC
“For me, being a young national champion means getting involved on a larger scale for the cause. It is to take a bigger step, not only by taming my disease, but also by fighting to make known the reality of life with T1D with young people from all across Canada.” – Juliette Benoît, NYC
“Being able to volunteer with JDRF in this role has been nothing but rewarding and empowering! I have so enjoyed having the opportunity to make a difference for type one diabetics in Canada through the fundraising and advocacy work I have gotten to do as a JDRF National Youth Champion. JDRF is helping to change the world, and I am incredibly thankful to have gotten a chance to be a part of that.” – Anne Pettigrew NYC
“Being an NYC means that I can educate and learn from others about T1D! It allows me to raise both funds AND awareness for a cause that I am passionate about and connects me with others who feel the same.”- Aaliyah
To learn more about the 100 Project visit: https://jdrf.akaraisin.com/ui/pc/p/The100Project?Lang=en-CA
Thank you to our National Youth Champions
Sophia Orth, 18
Tora Yacey, 17
Anne Pettigrew, 16
Miranda DeFazio, 14
Juliette Benoît, 18
Ruby Pilatzke, 18
Anika Dyck, 18
Kurtis Samagalski, 17
Édouard Chatigny, 17
Vanessa Galluchon, 16
Aaliyah Cook, 16
L’ Assomption, QC
Sherwood Park, AB
Quebec City, QC
And thank you to all our dedicated and passionate volunteers. While we acknowledge our volunteers during this week, we our thankful and grateful for all they do each and every day. They are truly at the heart of JDRF and together will get us closer to a world free from type 1 diabetes.