Northwestern Ontario is far removed from most people’s experience. In fact, not only is it far removed – over 15 hours to drive in a straight shot from Toronto to Thunder Bay – but even the distances between local town and homes can be significant. For the over 100,000 people who call northwestern Ontario home, going a long way to chat with your neighbour is just par for the course.
Which may be why, for many years now, the Knights of Columbus have had such success as canvassers for The Arthritis Society in these communities. From Keewatin to Nipigon, Red Rock to Sioux Lookout, Terrace Bay, Kenora, Fort Frances, Marathon, and of course Thunder Bay, most of the Northwest is served by members of the Knights of Columbus. Formed in 1900, the Knights represent one of the longest standing service clubs in Ontario, and one that has a long and proud history in this remote region.
Since 1973, the Knights of Columbus have been partners of The Arthritis Society, devoting their members’ time and energy to raise awareness about this debilitating disease – and to bring in funds that are urgently needed to improve quality of life for people with arthritis today, and fuel the research that will lead to a cure.
Many of their members have been canvassers for The Arthritis Society for a decade or more, bringing in thousands of dollars over their tenure. And while each has their own distinctive approach, there are some things they share in common: dedication, hard work, and a sense of humour. A visit from one of the Knights’ canvassers puts a smile on people’s faces, and warmth in their heart.
“Being able to tell a joke or spin a good yarn puts people at their ease, gets them comfortable with you, and looking forward to your next visit,” explains Knight of Columbus member, Denis Gagnon. “You don’t always have to convince someone to give the first time you talk to them – if you’re good with your follow-up, you can build to it over time.”
There’s one other secret the Knights’ canvassers share: a deep and abiding interest in people.
“If you get people talking about themselves,” says Gagnon, “and sharing what’s going on in their lives, you’ll find the connections to the cause. Because we all know somebody who is living in pain from this disease, whether we realize it or not.”
We can’t thank the Knights of Columbus enough – the councils of Northwestern Ontario, and all across this province – for their years of hard work and commitment to Arthritis!