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Volunteer Spotlight: “Be friendly to one another”

April 20, 2020

 “No matter what, Nina shows up with her bubbly, positive personality. You can’t help but feel happy when she’s around!”
-Kayla Ungaro, CAN Regional Coordinator in Kelowna

This National Volunteer Week, the spotlight is on our incredible BC-wide team in green. What motivates them to give back? What are their favourite memories supporting our participants and families?

We have seen their impact every day in our programs and events ever since we began in 2008. We can’t wait to share their stories with you all week on social media!

Today, we are excited to celebrate Nina Gaspari in Kelowna.

Outside of her busy schedule working at a restaurant and studying biochemistry at UBCO, Nina has dedicated countless week nights and summer days to CAN. In two years, she has volunteered in Gymnastics, Active, Multisport, Weekly Youth & Adult Programs and Summer Day Camps.

Learn more about becoming a CAN volunteer!

“I remember checking in with Nina after her first couple of weeks volunteering,” recalled Kayla Ungaro, CAN Regional Coordinator in Kelowna. “She beamed with excitement that volunteering at CAN was the highlight of her week!”

“Some individuals have an innate ability to connect with participants and be that positive part of their week – that is definitely Nina.”

You’d think it was enough that Nina was finding time to support our program every week. But despite her busy schedule, she went above and beyond last summer. Joining up with fellow CAN volunteer and personal friend Morgan Painchaud, the duo helped organize a benefit concert at the OK Corral. Featuring local Okanagan talents like Ben Klick, Hillside Outlaws and Michael Daniels, Country For CAN raised over $2,500!

We are so lucky to have such enthusiastic volunteers who support our programs with such passion. What drives Nina to dedicate so much time for our participants and families?

“My intention is to demonstrate how to be friendly to one another. I want to help create an environment where CAN participants feel they can try something that they wouldn’t normally do.”

“So any time a child, youth or adult is able to interact with another one confidently, it puts such a big smile on my face.”

In just two years, Nina has volunteered in over 30 weekly sessions at CAN. Among her many hours supporting our participants, she shared with us one of her favourite memories from our Multisport program.

“During the basketball lesson, we were playing pass. The kids were originally paired up with staff and volunteers. But part way through the lesson, one of the kids asked another if he would play pass with him instead,” Nina recalled.

“Although this seems like a very small thing to do, it made me so happy that he had developed the social skills to reach out to a fellow peer.”

This past Winter, Nina took her skills for building social connections among participants to our Weekly Youth & Adult Program.

“I absolutely love playing games and chatting with them,” Nina said. “They are always challenging my perceptions on many things and I always find myself looking forward to the next one.”

The world needs more people like Nina. Lucky for CAN, we have hundreds who share her genuine passion for supporting kids, youth and adults with autism.

While our in-person programs are on hold for the time being, it goes without saying that our CAN volunteers are missing our participants and families immensely.

Learn how we are continuing to support our CAN community during COVID-19 at canucksautism.ca/homeactivities.

“I am so appreciative of what CAN is able to do for so many families,” said Nina. “It is so nice to see how these kids and youth look forward to coming to see us each week — just as much as we look forward to seeing them!”

Additional reading

Former hockey player gives back at CAN skate

Meet Siobhan: CAN participant & part-time employee

Kyle Boyle: Why I volunteer for CAN

Additional info

What kind of training to CAN staff and volunteers receive?

What is each staff and volunteer’s role in CAN programs?

Become a CAN volunteer!

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