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The gratitude for volunteering

After making the choice to begin volunteering to make friends in a new town, Susan Sloan can’t imagine what her life would be like without giving back to her community

Shannon Coulter
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April 18, 2024
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Susan Sloan can’t imagine her life without volunteering. In fact, she feels her life would be the complete opposite of what it is now if she hadn’t started donating her time.

Throughout her life, Sloan has had a variety of different jobs, from working in a bakery to an IT specialist and a fitness instructor at the YMCA. After moving to Orleans, Ontario—a community in the east end of Ottawa—in the early 2000s, Sloan took a one-year contact with Volunteer Canada that would change the course of her life.

“I thought since I’m working as their membership manager, I probably should know a little bit more about this volunteering thing,” she says. “But I had already decided that volunteering was the route that I wanted to take, really just to start making friends because I literally had none.”

Her first volunteer position was with Canadian Heritage to help with their Winter Lights Across Canada event. From there, she learned about Winterlude in Ottawa and decided to volunteer for it as well. By then she was on a roll, so she signed up to help with the Canada Day festivities.

“Those were my signature events—every year, with the exception of COVID, you would find me at all three of those events come hell or high water,” she says. “That was my core, and they are still my core to this day: 22 years later, I’m still volunteering with Canadian Heritage.”

Susan Sloan lies down in front to pose with a group of volunteers at a Canadian Heritage event in Ottawa

Interspersed between her three core events, Sloan got involved in “little adventures” to explore new volunteer experiences in areas she was interested in.

“I loved sports, so I would pretty much put myself into any event that needed volunteers,” she explains. “In Ottawa, it’s like a laundry list of opportunities; you could be busy every weekend starting on Thursday.”

She began with a volleyball tournament, then taught Zumba at Relay for Life. Soon her volunteer experiences began snowballing into more new opportunities in sports.

“Sports has always been my happy place,” she says. “Being in a small community and in Ottawa, once you are known and you’re affiliated with certain events, you start to get asked to work other events and help out.

“I’ve had some amazing opportunities that I would never have had anything to do with had I not been a volunteer.”

When Canada��s National Women’s Team came to Ottawa in 2021 for the Rivalry Series, Sloan volunteered to help with the Olympic jersey reveal and managed guests coming into the game.

“It was really delightful working with Hockey Canada,” she says. “I really appreciated and respected the respect that we received, and the gratefulness for just doing something that was so minor.”

Later this year, the 2025 IIHF World Junior Championship will be hosted in Ottawa. Through her connections gained from volunteering and her reputation in the community, Sloan was presented with a new opportunity: to become the volunteer co-chair for World Juniors. And coming from a family that loves hockey and watches the tournament every year, she agreed.

“The fact that I was asked to do [World Juniors] … they chose me. That was a choice and to be that choice is probably one of the most rewarding things in the world. And none of this would have happened had it not been for volunteering.”

Susan Sloan poses beside a Hockey Canada welcome sign

When the puck drops in December, Sloan is most excited for the tourists and guests to experience what Ottawa has to offer.

“It’s so amazing because as volunteers, you’re in the chaos of everything,” she says. “I love the diversity it brings to the city. It brings a certain energy that the only way you’re going to know what it’s like is if you’re there. It’s amazing to be a part of something.

“People are coming in from all over the world, and you get a chance to mingle with them. You get a chance to show up for your city.”

With her experience in so many volunteer positions, Sloan has a thorough understanding of the value every volunteer brings to the table.

“The synergy that’s created when you are with like-minded people is magical. You have volunteers who, without them, no event would happen,” she says. “IIHF wouldn’t run without their volunteers. Canada Day would not run without its volunteers.”

As her experience allowed her to help others begin their volunteer journeys, Sloan has seen people blossom in ways they never thought was possible. And for Sloan, there are no words to describe the gratitude she has for making the decision to begin volunteering 22 years ago.

“Everything that I am, everything that I will be, is because of volunteering,” she says. “There are not many things in our lives that we put this much effort into that the rewards are amplified upon receipt. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without volunteering.”

Interested in volunteering when the world comes back to Ottawa this winter? Registration for the TELUS World Juniors Volunteer Program is now open!

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

emadziya@hockeycanada.ca 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

ssharkey@hockeycanada.ca

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

jknight@hockeycanada.ca

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