Saturday, April 27, 2013

MS Society of Canada Sudbury Chapter - Northern Ontario Development Day

Sandy's and my involvement with the Sudbury Chapter of the MS Society of Canada began gradually. First we started attending meetings of the chapter self help group, then called Hope Seekers and now renamed Trailblazers, at the Rona Ramsey MS Centre of Hope. Then we began going to the Thursday lunches held by the chapter members. The next thing you know, I had volunteered us to take the aluminum pop cans they collected to the salvage yard and bring back the funds this generated. Finally, an off hand comment resulted in me being recruited last December to fill the vacant Treasurer position on the chapter Board.

Rona Ramsey MS Centre of Hope - Sudbury Ontario

The Northern Ontario Development Day (NODD) was an idea that had been percolating for several years and now the Board was about to make it happen. The plan was two-fold. First we would have a morning working session with the Northern Ontario chapters to share ideas and best practices regarding fundraising, as well as to discuss chapter issues common to the north. Second, we would host an open afternoon seminar where speakers would talk about the possibility of developing a  neurological clinic in Sudbury to service the north. Recognizing that there are not enough MS patients to warrant a dedicated MS clinic, the invitations went out to other organizations representing neurological disorders which could also benefit from such an institution.

Finally, under the leadership of Director at Large Paul B., aided by new Director of Public Relations Lori, chapter staff person Sheila and other Board members, the vision imparted by Chapter Chair Laurel was about to become a reality.

The weather was amazing this morning. It was almost as if spring finally realized it had been waiting in the wings too long and finally burst upon us in one amazing day. Sandy and I got to the Centre about 8:00 AM. Most of the setup for the morning session had been completed Friday afternoon, so it was a fairly relaxed atmosphere as we waited for the attendees to arrive.

Sandy, Lori and Cyndi prepare to greet the guests

There was a nice continental breakfast laid out and the coffee was on, so everyone fixed plates of fruit, yogurt, breakfast bars and homemade muffins. Sudbury members arrived as did Peter and Lionel from Timmins and Sandy from Thunder Bay. Last in was Sylvia Leonard, MS Ontario Division President and National VP, who had driven up from Toronto yesterday to observe.

At 9:15 sharp, we set aside the breakfast dishes, got one more cup of coffee and got down to business.

The chapters attending shared the strategies they used to make the main fundraising activities successful. Timmins is renowned for their Carnation campaign while Sudbury's Walk is successful. Chapters also shared other means of fundraising. Everyone agreed that what works in one place may not work in another due to local dynamics but that there were also some commonalities. After the break, we talked about these issues and Sylvia shared some thoughts on changes she would like to see as the new Division president.

Sheila, Laurel, Rona and Gilles from Sudbury

 Sandy from Thunder Bay and Division President Sylvia

Sandy, Sylvia, Lionel (Timmins), Cyndi, Dr. Shawn and Paul B (all Sudbury)

Gilles (Sudbury), Peter (Timmins), Sandy (T Bay) and Sylvia (Toronto)

Sandy, Rose, Lori, Paul H and Sheila (all Sudbury)

All in all, as we broke for a lunch provided by the Trailblazers, everyone agreed that the morning had been worthwhile and would like to see it done again. It was one workshop where I was engaged all the way through, an unusual and positive thing. It was particularly nice that Sylvia made the effort to come and listen to what the northern chapters had to say.

Yours truly and  Paul Brokenshire, rated one of the 75 most interesting people in Canada

After lunch, the chapter people, aided by our guests, sprang into action to convert the workshop space into the layout for the afternoon seminar. Tables were folded and put away while chairs were set up for the expected fifty plus attendees. the podium, sound system and projector were put in place. We managed to get everything in order as the afternoon guests started to arrive.

MC Paul B giving some opening remarks

First to speak was Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas. She gave a talk on how to organize a campaign to get what we needed from government, followed by a question and answer session. Some of her points were ones I was already familiar with, while a few provided insight into additional methods and considerations. Her asides about how politicians operate were both informative and humourous.

MPP France Gelinas addressing the assembled multitudes

Dr. Melanie Ursell was the next up to the podium. A neurologist specializing in MS who moved her practice from Toronto to Bracebridge, Dr. Ursell used a Powerpoint presentation to impart facts about MS as well as new advances in drugs and treatment regimens that were on the horizon. She was extremely well versed in her subject and took questions from the floor as she went along. It seems that some new drugs and well as the idea that aggressive treatment be commenced right after the first exacerbation are yielding very positive downstream results in slowing the progress of the disease.

Dr. Melanie Ursell from Bracebridge

Dr. Ursell was followed by Sherry Frizzell, who described the workings of the Northeast Local Health Integration Network, which is responsible for providing most of the local health care services and would be involved with any potential new neurological clinic. She was followed by closing speaker Dr. Shawn Rossi, Sudbury MS Chapter Director of Client Services and coordinator the neurological clinic project.

During the afternoon break, cake and coffee were served to the attendees. At then end of the session, Sudbury Chair Laurel gave some closing remarks to tie the seminar together. As the guests departed, the chapter people restored to building to its everyday layout in short order and most of us headed out for supper.

Paul B. had arranged a private room at Curious Thyme's Bistro, located at Science North. The company was excellent, the service was good but the food was just OK. I will say they know how to make asparagus taste good to me (and I usually hate asparagus).

Lionel (Timmins), Gilles and Paul H (both Sudbury)

Cyndi (Sudbury), Sandy (Thunder Bay), Paul B, Rona, Sandy and Rose (All Sudbury)

Sandy (Thunder Bay) and Paul B (Sudbury)

After supper, we left and spent some time talking in the parking lot. Peter from Timmins rides a motorcycle, although he is more of an adventure tour rider and has a Kawasaki KLR 650. Still, it was good to talk a little motorcycle speak on such a pleasant evening.

All in all, it was a good day. We met new friends and learned a lot from each other. I expect we will get together and do it all again next year.


Sherm said...

Sounds like a very worthwhile place to learn and volunteer. Good for you!

Lori Sirkka said...

What a wonderful and well written blog. I truly enjoyed it. Take care. Lori