Skills and passion unite around ALS Canada’s volunteer leadership table

According to Imagine Canada, a non-profit organization focused on strengthening the charitable sector, charitable and non-profit organizations have a responsibility to be well-governed. This is a responsibility that ALS Canada takes seriously, and that is reflected in the skills and experience of our volunteer Board of Directors, which welcomed a new Chair in April 2017 along with three new members who bring a breadth of professional expertise as well as a passion for the cause.

  • Ron Foerster was appointed Chair after serving as an ALS Canada Board member for two years. A partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, his law practice encompasses matters related to governance from the perspective of for-profit and not-for-profit boards and senior management. He is just one member of the Board who has a personal connection to ALS: he first learned about the disease when a colleague was diagnosed with the disease, but his real introduction to ALS came when his mother became ill and passed away in less than a year during 2013-2014. Although personal experience with ALS is not a requirement to serve on the Board, “it does profoundly affect the way I approach the organization and my dealings with it,” Ron says. “I think it brings a perspective that is very useful to the work we have to do as Board volunteers.”
  • Carol Cottrill brings a unique historical perspective, having previously served as Executive Director of the ALS Society of New Brunswick. The way Carol sees it, “compared with eight or 10 years ago, ALS Canada has matured.” One change she notes is the decision to restructure the organization and move towards a skills-based board with representation from across the country, reflecting ALS Canada’s national mandate in research and advocacy. In addition to her earlier role with the ALS Society of New Brunswick, Carol was the Director of Communications for the Horizon Health Network (the provincial health authority) and continues to work as a public relations consultant. Carol brings nearly 20 years of expertise in communications, public and media relations and fund development to her role with the Board.
  • Laura Gay is a professional chartered accountant with Stern Cohen Accountants where she focuses almost exclusively on not-for-profit organizations and issues related to financial audits and tax guidance. As a newcomer to the cause, she is astonished by the level of commitment that characterizes the ALS Canada Board. “What is different from a lot of boards I’ve worked with is just how passionate everyone seems to be about the cause. How hard everyone is working. That’s refreshing and exciting for me to see, to be involved with a board that is so well run and to see how motivated everyone is despite the fact that progress towards a cure has been slow, and despite that fact that the challenges are so enormous.”
  • Patrick Nelson brings a wealth of senior-level expertise in the healthcare sector with specialized knowledge of government relations, strategic communications, and board governance. Currently a principal and partner at Santis Health, he knows firsthand the pain and suffering that families experience when a family member is diagnosed with ALS. His mother, whose lifelong commitment to helping children with mental illness inspired Patrick to pursue his own volunteerism, passed away in 2014 after a brief time living with ALS.

For board members who are not as familiar with ALS as people like Ron and Patrick, the organization provides many opportunities to spend time face-to-face with people and families affected by ALS in order to understand the challenges and complexities of living with the disease.

Despite the difficulties, there is a feeling of hope in light of some very promising medical discoveries and progress on the advocacy front. Ron knows the feeling of hopelessness that comes with an ALS diagnosis: he describes a horizon filled with storm clouds. Today, however, through his involvement with ALS Canada, he is optimistic about a sunnier future where people living with ALS are better supported and there are viable treatments to help make ALS a more treatable, not terminal disease.

Posted in: Volunteers