Pamela Helmes-Hayes

It was her mother’s 23-year journey with Parkinson’s that ultimately launched Pamela Helmes- Hayes’ journey of volunteering. Sadly, she lost her mother in 2008. Over the years of seeing and supporting her mother through the progression of Parkinson’s, Pamela made the decision to give back to the organization that helped when help was needed.

Pamela began volunteering with Parkinson Society Southwestern Ontario (PSSO) almost five years ago after retiring from a career that kept her travelling and often away from home. Pamela didn’t have a defined role when starting her volunteer duties. She has helped out with various events like A Hair Affair for Parkinson’s and golf tournaments. Within a few months, she accepted the role of co-facilitator for the Evening Kitchener Parkinson Connection Support Group. A few months later the role of facilitator opened up and Pamela was pleased to continue to support the group with whom she had close relationships.

According to Pamela, “Being the facilitator of this support group is a truly special and rewarding opportunity. Here, people share personal stories while strong friendships are built as people connect, learn together and support each other.”

Becoming involved with PSSO opened up a whole world of volunteer opportunities for Pamela, along with showing her a new way of life and a love of giving back to her community. She also supports the Rock Steady Boxing classes at her local YMCA, a program that promotes fitness, flexibility and strength for people with Parkinson’s. Once a week, she makes lunch at a homeless shelter for youth in need and she also teaches fitness classes at a local retirement home. Pamela continues to volunteer regularly because, as she says, “It’s important and worthwhile. It makes a difference in people’s lives. Volunteering improves lives.”

When she’s not taking care of everyone else, this marathon runner continues to remain active – running, cycling and weightlifting. And during her down time, Pamela is an avid reader of Canadian literature where she enjoys learning about people, life and relationships.

A career that began in Toronto and moved to Newfoundland, then to Waterloo and finally landing at the governor general’s office in Ottawa, allowed her to travel the globe. Her eyes were opened to the widely varying needs in communities worldwide. Seeing that need is what sparked her desire to volunteer and to make a difference in the world.

Even her sister is involved in supporting Parkinson’s. She is working with a group that is creating a choir for people with Parkinson’s. It is well-known that in many situations singing is easier than talking. The shared chorale voice helps to strengthen speech muscles and improve overall communication.

Pamela vows to continue with the support group. She says, “I’ve made connections that I have no intention of leaving. This is important and rewarding work.”

Her advice to anyone considering volunteering? “Go with what Nike says, Just Do It!”