Circle of Champions

Last fall, the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada (JGI Canada) announced the creation of its very own Circle of Champions.  This new group, which is comprised of prominent Canadians, will “act as a network of high-profile advocates for JGI Canada, and will support the organization’s Board in its efforts to leverage the expertise and resources of Canadians in support of JGI Canada’s mission to protect habitat for chimpanzees and other wildlife, and to engage young Canadians in taking action on local and global environmental and humanitarian initiatives.”

For some crazy reason, this concept of a circle of champions made me think of the Ottawa Race Weekend that takes place here each May. Thousands of participants sign up to run the races (5K, 10K, half-marathon, and full marathon), and—here’s the amazing part—thousands of people show up just to cheer the runners on. It’s actually pretty incredible. I’ve run the 5K and the 10K races a few times, and there really are people lined up all along the race routes (especially as you get closer to the finish line) to watch and encourage you. Sure, they might be there because they know someone in the race, but total strangers have yelled “you can do it” or “way to go” or “you’re almost there” to me as I’m running (which could partly be for encouragement….or could partly be out of genuine concern since I usually turn the colour of an eggplant when I run in the heat!), and when you’re running along and see homemade signs that say things like “You can do it, Mom!” or “Sandy is our SUPERSTAR!” or “I’m SO proud of my Daddy!”…it’s strangely touching, even when you have no idea who Sandy is or whose mom/dad is with you in the race and making their kid(s) proud. You just ride that wave of enthusiasm all the way to the finish line.

I have said (many, many times) that I would be a much better runner if there were people cheering for me every time I went out for a run—and I don’t just mean a few encouraging words from my husband; I mean people lining the streets to clap and cheer. This is never going to happen, of course, but just joking about it has made me realize how important it is to have your own network of support (your own circle of champions!) when you’re tackling a challenge, whether it be personal, professional, or as a volunteer.

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I’ve actually been exceptionally lucky in this department, especially since I moved to Ottawa. Volunteering (in-person) locally gave me the opportunity to make friends with people who care about the same causes that I support, and tagging along to join clubs and attend parties led me to meet even more people who have some pretty cool causes of their own. In my little “circle” now, I can count my fellow eco-lovers, an avid supporter of the arts, an exceptionally creative feminist, a community-based health guru, an elephant protector, and a cycling/bike lane enthusiast. We aren’t all interested in dedicating time to the same issues or projects, but that’s okay because we do give each other shout-outs and bounce ideas off of one another. We diversify our own networks by supporting each other. Bottom line: I’d stand on the sidelines and hold up a sign of encouragement for any one of them. It would even have glitter.

So, if you’re on the fence about whether or not you want to join Roots & Shoots (or if you want to volunteer anywhere, really), consider this: Getting involved in a cause that you care about could be the best way to find your own circle of champions.

Do you have a great story about how your friends, family, or fellow volunteers have supported your work? How have you supported them? We’d love to hear from you!

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