Celebrating our volunteers: Marsha Pearlstein's story

Marsha Pearlstein (right) standing next to our Research Grants Specialist, Emily Cordeaux (left)

This week is all about our volunteers! From British Columbia to Newfoundland, these are the people at the very heart of our organization who enable us to make advancements in Crohn’s and colitis research and awareness. For this year’s Volunteer Appreciation Week, we want to make sure they get the recognition they deserve by shining a spotlight on their work.

Marsha Pearlstein has become a regular face at the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada head office in Ontario over the past two years. Every Monday, she comes in with an enthusiastic, can-do attitude, offering to lighten the workload of anyone who could benefit from her help.

When she first began volunteering with us, Marsha worked closely with the Toronto team to plan and promote local fundraising events. Sometimes, this meant distributing brochures for events like the Gutsy Walk and Toronto Comedy Night; other times, this meant contacting businesses for gift cards and merchandise that could be auctioned off or placed into grab bags.

Over time, her role has varied. More recently, Marsha has forayed into other areas of the organization, helping out at the reception desk and with our Volunteer Engagement team. A sort of jack-of-all-trades, she moves around the office as needed, to help out anyone who could leverage her skills. As she describes it: “I’m here and there and everywhere!”

Why did you become involved with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada?
My motivation stems from my own personal experience with Crohn’s. 

I was diagnosed six and a half years ago. A little over two years later, I underwent resection surgery to remove part of my small intestine. Then, I spent a couple of years figuring out how to manage my symptoms.

After everything I went through, I felt a desire to help the organization in any way I possibly could.

I started volunteering because I know what it is like to live with Crohn’s disease, and I wanted to help as much as I could. I know what it’s like to go through all the various aspects of treatment, the challenges that arise with nutrition and diet, and the difficulties of coping from day to day.

What is your favourite part of volunteering with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada?
I can recall one particularly striking instance when I was assisting at the reception desk. We received a call from a man, frantic. He felt unable to turn to anyone for answers or empathy with respect to what he was going through. I spoke to him for quite some time, sharing some advice from my experience living with Crohn’s. I left the office that day feeling happy and proud. It was satisfying to be able to help somebody going through the same things I did. It felt good to see the direct impact my work had on someone in the community.

It makes me feel good knowing that what I do, no matter how small, is helping us move toward our shared goal: finding a cure for these chronic illnesses. Volunteering with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and I would be extremely happy to continue to help the organization.

To all our volunteers—thank you for your hard work and dedication! Stay tuned for more volunteer spotlights coming up this week. In the meantime, you can read the stories of the other volunteers we interviewed here.

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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