ABOUT THE CANDIDATE: A Special Ed high school teacher heads to the hills to offer challenged children a rare taste of freedom.
Lindsay Willms truly is a volunteer for all seasons: in summer, she gives her time to kids with cancer at Camp Goodtimes, in Maple Ridge, B.C., and in winter she spends every weekend on the slopes helping children with disabilities enjoy snow sports at the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program (WASP).
For Willms, it's a labour of love: she considers her many volunteer hours fun, not work. Her hope is that her volunteer work has an impact: to show people the positive power of giving back to the community. Camp Goodtimes gives children battling cancer a much-needed break from the rigours of treatment and the stress of living life with a devastating disease (it offers them a taste of "normal" childhood).
Watch a profile of Lindsay Willms aired on Connect, CBC News Network, November 22, 2010:
Willms first volunteered at the camp in 2002. She has returned every year since. Cost-free, Camp Goodtimes offers a medically supervised program for children between the ages of six and 15 and their parents and siblings are invited along, too. Like their healthy peers, the camp allows kids with cancer to enjoy activities like hiking, fishing, campfires and crafts in an environment that encourages them to escape from their health worries and enjoy the moment.
When the snow flies, Willms travels up the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler to help kids (and adults) with disabilities learn to ski and snowboard. The program makes accommodations for a wide range of medical challenges. "I've worked with all kinds of people," she says, "from blind and hearing-impaired adults to kids with autism and partial paralysis. WASP is a wonderful program and has helped so many people enjoy winter sports."
Lindsay also joined the 2009 Ascent for Alzheimer's teams, climbing 19,340 feet on Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise over $250,000 for the Alzheimer Society of B.C., each step of their journey honouring the over 70,000 British Columbians whose lives have been impacted by Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
Listen to a profile of Lindsay Willms by CBC Radio reporter Margaret Gallagher:
Devoting her time and energy to all these causes has changed Willms' life - and the course of her career. She had planned to go to law school, but her volunteer experiences have inspired her to instead become a special education teacher.
Currently, Willms is working toward a master's degree in education at the University of British Columbia at night--but she won't stop volunteering. "I recall watching a parent's face as she watched her child--who sits in a wheelchair all day--on the mountain, slicing through powder, screaming with joy and excitement, well, it was beyond words. I've seen parents--who spend nights at the hospital, eating horrible hospital food and watching their child lying in a bed--come to camp and see their child swimming, laughing and having the time of their life in a safe environment. The smiles I have seen, the tears I have seen, they have changed me."
Il y a sept ans, Lindsay Willms était bénévole au Camp Good Times, un camp de vacances pour enfants atteints du cancer accompagnés de leurs frères et sœurs ainsi que de leurs parents. Elle a tellement aimé son expérience que depuis, elle y retourne tous les étés.
La passion que Lindsay nourrit pour les enfants explique sa grande popularité au camp. « On la surnomme "la grande", de dire son mari Jordan, et lorsque j'y suis, je ne la vois jamais… Elle est toujours entourée d'une quinzaine d'enfants qui s'arrachent son attention. Elle a le don d'emmener ces enfants dans un lieu magique où soudainement, le cancer n'existe plus. » Durant l'année scolaire, Lindsay poursuit son travail bénévole auprès du Camp Good Times, en planifiant les activités de l'été suivant.
L'hiver, Lindsay fait aussi du bénévolat pratiquement tous les week-ends pour le programme de ski adapté de Whistler, un programme de ski-luge et de ski-planche à neige adapté pour les personnes souffrant de déficiences physiques ou mentales, de problèmes de développement ou de malvoyance. Elle s'extasie devant la joie et l'ivresse que les participants expriment sur les pentes, libérés pendant quelque temps des contraintes que leur impose leur handicap, en dévalant les pentes sur un ski-luge.