Revisiting the MS Society

As mentioned I’ll be cleaning Stuff and Nonsense up in the coming weeks. Today’s housekeeping included going through (and in most cases deleting) old drafts that I’d left unattended. But a couple were worth keeping–including this one, written mostly in June 2007 after I finished my ten-month contract with the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. I loved working at MS…well, apart from a dress code that forced me to wear a tie Monday through Thursday. Re-reading this entry, which I tidied up a bit before posting, made me nostalgic for those endless trips along Northern Ontario roads, my passenger seat littered with empty Tim Hortons cups and the firm belief that I was making a difference in the world. Check it out!

*****

Blogging about work’s a faux pas–n’est-ce pas? But what if you’ve just left the job you’re blogging about and you’re not saying anything particularly negative? That’s where I’m at after leaving the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada last week. It was difficult to go, but it had to happen: it simply wouldn’t have been fair of me to have extended my contract with all the uncertainty in my life. But that hasn’t made leaving any easier, largely because the last ten months were, quite simply, life-altering.

I couldn’t have imagined that back in late August when I started. And no, it wasn’t all fun and games: some of the office work was mind-numbing, and when a secretary answered the phone with a weary “are you selling something?” last Monday it brought back uncomfortable memories of our brutal three-month fall recruitment blitz. But the road trips were incredible, galvanizing experiences; meanwhile, my co-workers quickly turned into friends [and remain so five years later on…hi, Partner!]. And while the weeks I spent on the road turned into endless blurs of Tim Hortons and Subways and Comfort Inns I got to see a lot of my home province:

  • Toronto
  • Sudbury x2
  • Wikwemikong
  • North Bay x2
  • Kirkland Lake
  • Swastika
  • Utterson
  • Brighton
  • Thunder Bay
  • Schreiber
  • Terrace Bay
  • Marathon
  • Longlac
  • Geraldton
  • Woodstock
  • Caledon
  • Brampton
  • Parry Sound x2
  • Kapuskasing
  • Hornepayne
  • Cochrane
  • Timmins
  • South Porcupine
  • Iroquois Falls
  • Dwight

Clearly the two weeks in Thunder Bay were personal highlights (and the presentation at my old elementary school was a culmination of my being; it might’ve also been the best presentation I did). But they were far from the only ones. How ’bout some numeric high points? Last week I crunched some numbers and came up with the following:

  • # of schools visited: 64, including a special presentation at one of our top fundraising schools
  • # of kick-off assemblies I lead: 77
  • total # of presentations: 78…that works out to about 39 hours of speaking!
  • total # of students I saw: 15,520. That’s a sold out Maple Leaf Gardens–a staggering image for me to fathom.

I didn’t delve deeper into the numbers to find out how much money “my” schools raised, because I don’t think that’s the point. To me, the most important figure is the final one: 15,520. Some of those students (again, I don’t have an exact number) went on to do the MS Read-A-Thon, and helped raise over $1.2-million in the fight against MS [this number still staggers me, by the way: we raised over a million freaking dollars]. Yet I’m hoping the ones who didn’t participate still left the assemblies having learned something about multiple sclerosis, the importance of literacy, or the value of good citizenship. If they did, then I feel as though I did my job.

Working in the not-for-profit sector can be difficult, especially since the ultimate goal is often one’s own unemployment. That’s certainly the goal at the MS Society–and to that effect, I’d like to think the 15,520 students I spoke to brought us 31,040 steps closer to realizing it. My friend Jodi, who ditched me and the rest of the Ontario Fundraising staff earlier this year, posted a beautiful piece on her blog about the people who live with multiple sclerosis. There are currently somewhere between 50,000 to 75,000 Canadians who suffer from this disease; imagine a sold out Rogers Centre and you start to get the idea. And we’ve still got a long ways to go before we find a cure. Helping us get there was everything I could’ve hoped for and more. That sounds corny, and it probably is…but that doesn’t mean it’s not totally true.

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