At our monthly team meetings, one of our crew members discusses some of our five values: strength, courage, commitment, heart, and spark (formerly trailblazing). This is Dawn’s reflection from this month’s meeting.
By Dawn Bishop
It’s been four years this month since I decided to make a life-changing career decision. I had worked in the oil and gas industry for 16 years and I was getting burnt out. I was unhappy in my current role. I was often angry when I came home from work. But I was comfortable where I was. I did my job and I did it well. I was making good money. I was comfortable, but I had an urge to ignite a spark, to blaze a trail — not exactly how I would ever describe myself.
I am an introvert, I don’t like risk, but I knew things had to change. I started searching jobs to see what was out there and saw the ad for Young Adult Cancer Canada. I thought about its executive director, Geoff Eaton, who I had heard speak at a function many years before and the powerful story, his story, and the start of what was then Real Time Cancer. Then I thought “I’d love to work there, but they probably don’t pay much, etc.” I was already trying to talk myself out of it, but I talked to my family and thought, “Why not just apply?” So I did. Several interviews with Geoff, and well, the rest is history. I knew I was making sacrifices for my family in some ways, but I never would have guessed the benefits that came along with it.
YACC defines spark as “engaged, anticipatory, change-oriented, and self-initiated.” Boy, I was that back in 2013 when I decided to make that change. On top of it all, I was also in the process of building a new house and continued to work part-time for my old employer until they had someone comfortably in place.
I have become grossly engaged in YACC and its vision of empowering all young adults diagnosed with cancer to live and love life. Through this, I have learned to live and love life more than ever. Cancer is the shitty, crappy thing that brings our young adults together, but through YACC, they can connect and come together and not feel as isolated. I’ve seen young adults living and loving life after connecting. They have inspired me and those around them.
At YACC, we can’t anticipate every little thing, but we do our darndest to try, whether we’re predicting program demand, projecting revenue, or planning topics for Survivor Conference. We listen to what our YACCers need, and we work together and try to be anticipatory.
Anyone who’s worked for a not-for-profit knows that despite your best efforts, things don’t always go as planned, but you can anticipate that and always have a backup plan. Be ready. Despite my aversion to changing things up, it’s the way it goes, and I’ve learned you need to be change-oriented and open.
It goes without saying that you need to be self-initiated. We are 100 per cent a team, but it takes special people to not just run a charity, but to make it a successful one. And I don’t necessarily mean successful in terms of dollars but successful in terms of fulfilling its vision and its mission. YACC does that, and does it well. The whole premise and existence of YACC stems from Geoff Eaton’s self-initiation 17 years ago from his old bedroom at his dad’s house with an email group. That premise still exists at YACC today. We take initiative to help YACC succeed as we help more young adults dealing with cancer.
So here I am four years later, igniting sparks and blazing trails.