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Volunteer of the Year Award Finalists 2019

The Stroke Awards, Volunteer of the Year Award has been created to recognise those outstanding volunteers whose dedicated service has made a significant difference.

Proudly sponsored by National Australia Bank 

Volunteer of the Year Award 2019 Finalists

Denise McGaw - QLD 

Denise McGaw

Denise joined her local stroke support group after her husband Max suffered from two strokes. During Denise’s time with the support group she became passionate about educating the public on stroke awareness and prevention. 

What contribution have you made as a volunteer?                                       
During Stroke Week each year, I organised stroke awareness displays in the hospitals as well as speaking to the students at the TAFE college and Impact Community Services. I organised a couple of awareness evenings where we had a specialist as the guest speaker.

Why did you personally get involved in volunteering?
It was in 2016 and I was having "a bad day" when I received an email asking me if I was interested in becoming a StrokeSafe Ambassador and I accepted immediately. At the time there was nowhere locally to learn from or educate the community and I thought by becoming a StrokeSafe Ambassador hopefully I would be able to help make people aware of the warning signs and to make themselves stroke safe.

In my role as StrokeSafe Ambassador I have done many presentations to a wide cross section of the community, be it service clubs, probus clubs, support groups as well as community groups.

I get great satisfaction from my talks and if I have questions asked and then be congratulated by the listeners at the end, I know I have "done my job".  If I can save one person I will be happy.                                                                                                        

Kevin English
- VIC

Kevin and Karen English

Kevin had a stroke while he was living in Singapore with his family working as an electrical engineer specialising in telecommunications. Kevin then moved back to Melbourne for rehabilitation and was not able to return to work.  Kevin has been a volunteer with the Stroke Foundation for six years. He was trained as a StrokeSafe Ambassador in 2013, is a member of the Stroke Foundation Consumer Council as well as assisting Safer Care Victoria and participating actively in his local University of the  Third Age.    
 
What prompted you to become a volunteer at the Stroke Foundation?
Following my stroke, I was not able to return to my previous employment but was seeking other ways to continue making a positive contribution. After responding to a Stroke Foundation advertisement for StrokeSafe Ambassadors, I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to educate others on the important F.A.S.T. message and hopefully minimise the chances of others having to go through my experience. My stroke did not affect my verbal abilities but allows me to describe stroke from a very personal perspective, hopefully making this a much more meaningful message for my audiences.
 
What contribution have you made as a volunteer?
I have been a Strokesafe Ambassador with the Stroke Foundation since 2013, involved in giving presentations to a wide range of workplace and community groups on what stroke is, how to minimise your risks and how to recognise a stroke in yourself or someone else. More recently I have also joined the Stroke Foundation Consumer Council, representing the interests of stroke sufferers Australia-wide. I have also contributed to several stroke videos during the establishment of the EnableMe website and other public stroke videos.

I am also a consumer representative on several Safe Care Victoria Stroke Clinical Council committees, involved in improving stroke treatment for all Victorians.

Other contributions to the Stroke Foundation have included a podcast on “travel after stroke”, ministerial discussions during the Victorian state election and participation on an interview panel for a new Stroke Foundation Victorian manager. 
 
What do you get personally out of volunteering?
I get enormous satisfaction from delivering the FAST message to as many people as possible in the hope that this avoids them going through the traumatic experience of suffering a stroke. Through this and my other activities I am passionate about improving the quality of acute and rehab care for all stroke sufferers throughout Australia.

Nic Stephen - TAS

Nic Stephen

Nic had a stroke at the age of 37, with two young children. At the time he was running his own business and overcame the challenge of recovering from his stroke to return to full time work. He became involved with the Stroke Foundation soon after, raising money for Stride4stroke and then becoming a volunteer. Nic is dedicated to raising awareness of stroke in his state, including playing a key role in Stroke Foundation’s Tasmanian election activities. In 2018 he joined the Stroke Foundation Consumer Council. 

What prompted you to become a volunteer at the Stroke Foundation?
I have a unique skills set, and speak to thousands of people every year, it is with deep purpose that I focus on increasing the awareness of stroke among people around Australia – but particularly Tasmania. Sharing my lived experience with passion, connecting with people, moving them to take action is all linked with the information and services the Stroke Foundation provides.

What contribution have you made as a volunteer?
Initially, I volunteered as a StrokeSafe Ambassador, which involves speaking to local workplaces. I do this in an informal way as part of my speaking on a regular basis. An example of this was at the state-wide ‘employer of choice’ road show, which coincided with Stroke Week where I spoke about stroke to over 300 people. 

In Tasmania we have run a number of events, including: a weekend walk and awareness campaign to Wineglass Bay with a group for Stroke Week, media events, a charity ½ marathon and most recently the highest fundraiser for the Tasmanian Iconic Walks charity. 

In 2018, I joined the Stroke Foundation Consumer Council. Given I work in workplace cultural strategy, it seems like a perfect fit - a group that aims to influence strategy, application of programs and impact from a consumers perspective. 

At the recent state election, I advocated strongly for the Stroke Foundation, in part securing a significant funding boost for the state – which continues to benefit the community.

What do you get personally out of volunteering?
I am deeply passionate about advocating for the Stroke Foundation and raising awareness of people like myself – those in the workforce. My own story continues to impact others, moving people to make changes in their lives and choose healthy options in place of ‘she’ll be right, it won’t happen to me’. 

I speak a lot about ‘purpose’, and making decisions that have a positive impact on you and those around you – speaking about the Stroke Foundation’s work provides a wonderful vehicle for this.

I believe surviving a stroke wasn’t just about me, it is about the impact my lived experience can have on others. 

Tracey Arendse - VIC

Tracey has been volunteering at the Stroke Foundation since July 2016. Tracey is the face of the organisation two days a week, volunteering in reception and bringing everyone that comes through our doors absolute joy. 

What prompted you to become a volunteer at the Stroke Foundation?
After recovering from the strokes I spent a fair bit of time in rehab hospital as an in and out patient, I enjoyed being around and interacting with other stroke survivors and members of the stroke community. 

I was motivated to become a volunteer at the Stroke Foundation because I wanted to reintroduce myself to the workforce and I imagined it would be an opportunity to surround myself with other stroke survivors, volunteers and members of the stroke community. 

What contribution have you made as a volunteer?
This is my third year of volunteering. I volunteer on reception at the national office 2 half days a week and I also volunteer as an admin assistant with the Volunteer Program Coordinators once a week. In both roles I directly and indirectly interact with stroke survivors and other volunteers throughout the country. 

What do you get personally out of volunteering?
As a volunteer at the Stroke Foundation I feel like I’m part of the organisation’s landscape, that I’m working as part of a collaborative team, and I’m contributing to larger goals and feel useful and purposeful. The way I see it, I basically get all the non-financial rewards that most people who enjoy their jobs experience and I look forward to volunteering every week

Shelagh Brennand - QLD 

Shelagh Brennand

Shelagh is a former private investigator turned poet and stroke advocate. Shelagh suffered a stroke at 49, went through a depression phase but during 2014 got her life back on track through exercise and mindfulness (positive thinking). Shelagh self published 'A Stroke of Poetry' in 2015 and spends her time raising awareness of stroke in the community and government, and supporting fellow survivors.

What prompted you to become a volunteer at the Stroke Foundation? 
Engaging in forums and others finding comfort from my poetry, really made me realise I had so much more to give to those suffering through their stroke recovery. Knowing that every stroke is different and everyone deals with it differently means that there is no 'quick fix' answer, but the more I could educate people about stroke, the Stroke Foundation (who were, and are still immensely supportive of me since my stroke) and educate others about the emotional side of stroke, I felt the way forward was becoming a StrokeSafe Ambassador. Sharing our own experiences helps others understand how impactive a stroke can be on your life, whether you are a stroke survivor or not.

What contribution have you made as a volunteer? 

I am passionate about stroke in every sense and more specifically about the emotional side, young stroke survivors and carers who often get caught up in the wash and get neglected. This is where I direct my efforts.

In February 2018 I set up the Living Life After Stroke - Caloundra Young Stroke Survivors Group, who meet monthly here on the Coast.  I have presented at Young Stroke Survivor Forums on behalf of the Stroke Foundation and am regularly asked to present at conferences, groups, media, and radio, aside of my 'normal' role as a StrokeSafe Ambassador

I have also written letters and arranged meetings with local members of parliament to promote Stroke Week and encourage them to raise stroke awareness. 
In addition, I have taken part in many Stroke Week campaigns, Biggest Blood Pressure Checks and My Health for Life events, as well as held fundraisers. 

What do you get personally out of volunteering?
The overall pleasure that I am making a difference. Truly. The Stroke Foundation are the voice of stroke in Australia and I see myself as one of their voices, their messengers, to spread the word and make a difference. I truly love what I do and giving back has been the best thing I have done in my life. I feel grateful for my life and because of that, I have a very happy heart.