Volunteer Appreciation Night

The Arts Umbrella Volunteer Appreciation Event is a special time of the year, capturing a cross section of our community. From Board Members to parents and local leaders to staff, an appreciative group of supporters gathered at Blake, Cassels and Graydon LLP on April 15, 2015 to say thank you.

“Our volunteers impact us on every level on this organization,” said Michael Lee, Chair of the Arts Umbrella Association Board. “All of our volunteer efforts…make available high-quality arts education and training programs for all.”

Of about 300 Arts Umbrella volunteers, an exceptional five were honoured at the event: Brad Bardua, Sue Hong, Riko Nakasone, Tracey Osborne, and Helaine Shepard.

“I think it is such a worthwhile cause,” said honouree Riko Nakasone at the April 15 event. Since 2011, Riko has volunteered on the Art Selection Committee for our Splash art auction, Arts Umbrella’s largest fundraiser.

Another honouree has also helped make many Splash events successful. Brad Bardua is a longtime Splash devotee, a dedicated Splash Committee Chair, and also a Trustee on the Arts Umbrella Foundation Board.

Though honouree Sue Wong couldn’t join us at the event, she sent some inspiring words that resonated with many: “Growing up, my parents were the typical entrepreneurial immigrants who ran businesses that operated long days, 365 days of the year.

“My fondest memories were going to computer, art, piano, violin, flute, and singing lessons. At the time it didn’t seem like much, but as I got older I realized how integral these lessons were for me in shaping who I am today.

“I think of my parents who paid for all my programs and am totally puzzled at how they managed to do it all. I look at this as my way of helping other parents who struggle, but do it anyway for their kids.”

Dedicated parents were a theme of the evening.

“Both the students and their parents become part of the Arts Umbrella family,” said Susanne Moniz de Sá, Junior Troupe Director and Coordinator of Theatre & Music, who spoke about the contributions of parent Tracey Osborne to countless Theatre shows and fundraising events.

Artistic Director, Dance Artemis Gordon echoed the importance of parent support. “Helaine Sheppard does the job that no one else volunteers for, and she makes you feel like you’re doing her a favour.”

As though choreographed, Helaine – a parent and Dance Program volunteer – told the crowd just that, with a heartfelt smile.

“I feel that I have received far more than I have ever given to Arts Umbrella,” said Helaine.

“Thank you Arts Umbrella for providing a place for our community of children, to explore – and ultimately pursue – their passions in a safe, fun, unique, and talented environment.”

As the event coincided with National Volunteer Appreciation Week, we’d like to reiterate our thanks to the many volunteers who joined us, and share our appreciation with those who couldn’t – because we truly believe that Arts Umbrella wouldn’t be Arts Umbrella without you.

I feel that I have received far more than I have ever given to Arts Umbrella.

—Helaine Sheppard, parent volunteer

Dance parent-volunteers with Association Board Chair Michael Lee at the 2015 Arts Umbrella Volunteer Appreciation Event, hosted by Blake, Cassels, & Graydon LLP.