by Suzanne Asselin

In July 2023, we interviewed three generations of female volunteers from the same family: Erna Stotland, her daughter Sheryl and her granddaughter Harper. Three women volunteers with hearts of gold, all highly sensitive and devoted to people with cancer and their families, whether in the Hope is Life offices at the hospital or in its Wellness Center.

This is the story of Harper Stotland.

Harper is a third-generation Stotland involved with Hope & Cope. On her very first day, she met a young woman who had no hope of recovery.

“I talked to her, served her tea and she told me she felt at home. I felt useful and happy to be part of this wonderful organization.”

This experience reminded her of the stories her mother and grandmother used to tell her about patients and their families when they volunteered at Hope & Cope. “That’s why I’m here this summer.”

A summer internship in a legacy period

Hope & Cope enjoyed Harper’s many talents during her internship.

“I met with patients in the arts class, and also helped organize three big events: the Soirée Papillon Gala in honor of founder Sheila Kussner; the annual brunch for volunteers; and Survivorship Day with author Bill Brock. I also worked with the social media team, designing posts and updating Instagram.”

For Survivorship Day, the team drew inspiration from lawyer Bill Brock’s book, himself a cancer survivor, in which each person chose a word related to their cancer survivorship. From this book came an idea to share with Survivorship Day participants.

“We invited volunteers and other people with cancer to send us an email in which they indicated their word and the reason for this choice. I compiled everything and we published the results on our social media.”

In doing so, Harper took the time to read all the stories people wrote in their emails.

“It was often very touching to see how people had taken the time to share their experiences, each one different from the next, at different stages of their cancer.”

The importance of youth support

For Harper, the Wellness Centre’s support system is essential—for young people and adults alike.

“With its gym and many support activities, the Wellness Centre often represents an escape from the hospital, a place to socialize and recharge.”

“The Wellness Centre often represents an escape from the hospital, a place to socialize and recharge.”

—Harper Stotland

She is well aware of the important role played by volunteers at Hope & Cope. She believes that to pursue its mission, the organization also needs young volunteers.

“I think it’s important to have a constant presence on social media (Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, etc.) to reach them.”

Hope & Cope for a new generation

If Erna, Sheryl and Harper have all become Hope & Cope volunteers, it’s partly because cancer has touched them so closely. Erna and her husband are cancer survivors. Both Erna’s parents died from it. And it leaves marks that are still present after several generations.

“We can’t ignore this disease that affects so many people. When I finish my studies, I’d like to be one of those working either in research or in the care of people with cancer and their families,” says Harper.

Hope & Cope will always need volunteers of all ages and cultures to continue its social action. What’s more, many high schools require their students to get involved in society.

The Hope & Cope youth volunteer training program helps to meet these needs. And, in the process, it can introduce a male generation to the benefits of volunteering.

“The Hope & Cope youth volunteer training program would be a great way to get boys interested in volunteering with other young people dealing with cancer.”

—Harper Stotland

“There could be sports competitions, for example, between certain schools with the proceeds going to the organization,” explains Harper. “It would be a good way to draw boys, who are often less inclined than girls to get involved in this kind of volunteer work with other young people with cancer. It could even be done online!”

Hope & Cope is always looking for new volunteers. If you have the desire to help people with cancer, we invite you to apply today. We look forward to meeting you!

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