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2024 Volunteer of Distinction Award – Stu Rawlings 

  April 15, 2024


Calgary, Alta.


Virtual Support Group Volunteer

Stu Rawlings had been through three years of doctor’s appointments and tests, knowing something wasn’t quite right, when he was finally diagnosed with an ependymoma brain tumour.

Following his surgery in December 2016, Stu was unable to swallow or speak. He had a feeding tube for 10 months, which kept him mostly confined to his home in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. It was his in-home nurse who mentioned Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada’s virtual support groups to Stu, during one of his bi-weekly visits.

“Due to my own shyness, given my ‘new me’ challenges, I would not have attended an in-person group meeting at that time, even if there had been an active group in my area,” Stu says.

At a pre-surgery medical appointment in London, Ont., Stu had been given an Adult Brain Tumour Handbook by his doctor. That spurred Stu and his wife, Mary, to stop in at Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada’s office and inquire about the programs and services offered by the organization.

Still, it wasn’t until Stu’s nurse mentioned the support groups that Stu decided to see what they were all about.

“He said, ‘Why don’t you reach out for some support?’” Stu recalls. “‘Support? I don’t need support,’ I told him. And then I found the support, which gave me the confidence to speak to people again. The online group in Eastern Canada was so impactful for me that I volunteered to become a co-facilitator for that group from 2018 to 2023.”

Volunteering in the support group gave Stu a purpose in his journey, even if he—jokingly—won’t admit to it.

“I always had a purpose, and it was to bug my Mary,” he laughs. “I didn’t lose that. But volunteering gives you a different purpose. I would recommend for anyone to volunteer at any level, even if only for a few hours a month. Not only does it help others, but it helps you, too.”

With Stu’s efforts to give back and support others, he’s achieved a 2024 Volunteer of Distinction Award. This award recognizes a volunteer’s commitment to going above and beyond, devoting their time and energy to reaching Canadians affected by a brain tumour.

“Even with our many acquired challenges and a more acute awareness of our own mortality, we can gain strength from learning about others’ journeys,” Stu says, speaking to this year’s National Volunteer Week theme, Every Moment Matters.

Embracing the positive things in life can also help, according to Stu.

“Recognize and embrace something positive every single day, even when a day might include MRIs, chemo, radiation, or surgery,” says Stu. “Even the ability to look outside at the sky or merely wake up is a positive thing that can be embraced.”

Stu’s appreciation for those who have inspired him along the way kindly extends to the staff and fellow volunteers at BTFC.

“I don’t think of you folks as an organization,” he says. “You’re my friends, and you gave me opportunities to realize I should still communicate and be effective in some way.”

We’re grateful for you too, Stu—and our many wonderful volunteers who have made a difference in so many lives. From all of us at Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, thank you!