Leading The Dream

Two top Sunshine leadership volunteers share notes on the joys of inspiring others, waving many magic wands, and feeling thankful. 

In celebration of April as Volunteer Appreciation Month, Sunshine invited incoming National Board Chair Chirag Shah and outgoing National Board Chair Ed Holder into Sunshine’s head office to ask why they choose to lend their time, talent and treasure to Sunshine, and why they encourage others to follow their lead.  

Both Chirag and Ed are magicians at balancing high-octane professional lives with love of family and a deep commitment to community service. Both are full of energy, purpose, laughter, and fun, and both are passionate about Sunshine – the children and families we serve, and the volunteers Canada-wide who help make their dreams come true.

1. What do you consider the #1 responsibility for a Board President?

Ed: It’s the opportunity and obligation to inspire others. A leader’s role is to lead. As Robert Kennedy said: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask, why? I dream of things that never were, and ask, why not?” 

Chirag: My Dad always said I was a dreamer.  Part of the role of President is keeping an eye on the dream and building a sustainable path as we look three to five years down the road. It’s a balancing act - keeping that long-term strategy and oversight in play as we go about the day-to-day.

2. How did you first become involved with Sunshine?

Ed: It goes back 25 years when I was asked to join a little golf group that organized a Sunshine Dreams for Kids golf tournament. It took a couple years for it to become the County Heritage/ Stevenson Hunt Golf Classic. During my time as co-chair with Wayne Dunn, our committee created an endowment, which, through the power of friendship and community, grew to $1-million over eleven years.

3. What have been your proudest moments as a Board Volunteer and President?

Ed: Hitting (and surpassing) that $1-million mark for the endowment was huge. Another extraordinary experience was going on a DreamLift in 2017, during the time I was Chair. It was a great privilege, and for me it pulled together everything Sunshine is about. But the greatest privilege of all is to serve with so many volunteers, people who give so freely of themselves because Sunshine touches their hearts. 

4. What piqued your interest to become a Board member and support Sunshine’s mission of making dreams come true for kids?

Chirag Sunshine Foundation

Chirag: I’ve always been community-minded, and community involvement is part of our mantra at work. Sunshine is an absolutely deserving charity that I simply couldn’t say ‘No’ to. I’d attended Sunshine golf tournaments and I was aware of their footprint in the community and the good they do. But until I joined the Board, I didn’t understand the depth and breadth of their reach or the opportunity to be such a catalyst in a young person’s life. Few organizations can make that impact for a child in such a short amount of time. We start every board meeting with a Dream story. As I look at the demographic we serve across Canada, and the number of kids we could be serving, that really drives the passion. We could be doing so much more – double or triple the number of Sunshine Dreams.

5. Ed, during your Board presidency, you helped Sunshine celebrate its 30th Anniversary. What moments stand out?

Ed: The single most compelling activity was DreamLift. And the most fun one was Float for Dreams. Last year I captained a boat, and we kicked butt - Top Fundraisers…! Why did people give? Because they were asked. So, simple lesson:  just ask. People respond.  

6. Ed, on the DreamLift you were the volunteer buddy to three boys with varying degrees of serious visual impairment. Tell us about that.  

Ed: The Disney experience for these boys was very tactile. They loved rides that rushed. (I was petrified.) But the real defining moment for me was during “It’s A Small World” when I heard one boy explaining to the other what was coming up and what it looked like. The two became close buddies through the whole day. The one boy took the arm of the other and he would point out things all the way along. It was spectacular.

DreamLift Brantford 2017 - Ed

7. Chirag, what do you look forward to helping Sunshine achieve in the coming years?

:  My aim is to expand our footprint in a way we can sustain, to tap into a broader geography, and to set the structure, the foundation, with a managed formula for growth. We are doing remarkably well. What we need now is to make a level of connectivity that is sustainable for us. We may need to wave a bunch of magic wands to get there, but I believe we can do it!

8. Ed, if you could ask for anything to come true for Sunshine, what would that be?

I’d like to see Sunshine continue to grow the brand across the country, because the reputation is phenomenal.  And to ensure that volunteers and staff feel (as I do): “I’ve got to be part of that.”

9. Sunshine Dream Programs are life-changing moments that help children see that dreams do come true, and inspire them to write a brighter future story for themselves. As a child, what was your life-changing dream?

Chirag: In my case, it was not one but a series oflife moments, where I achieved a level of independence, accomplished a goal, passed a hurdle, or realized my own growth. Those moments stand out in my mind and collectively define who I am.

Ed: When I was 13, my mom had cancer – and she lived. That early experience made me believe that dreams do come true. My mother had more influence on me than anyone else in the world. She was passionate about volunteering, politics, community service. She kept inspiring me to be better. Throughout my life, I continue to find that if you can dream something and clarify it, you can often achieve it. But you first have to have that clarity. I think it is the same for Sunshine kids.  

10. If you could spend a day learning something from a Sunshine child, what would it be?

Chirag: I don’t think a day is enough. I’d like to learn from their joy, humour, passion, and courage in pursuing their dreams. If I could pick one other thing, it would be technology. These kids are just too good at it! [laughter]

Ed: I would like to see the world through their eyes, to try to understand their world. They are remarkable kids, and each of them has so much to teach us.