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Helpers: Tim Whalen has devoted 15 years to helping cancer survivors like his dad and brother

Never forget that you really do matter and you can make a positive difference, says Canadian Cancer Society volunteer
Tim Whalen. (Supplied)

The desire to volunteer comes naturally when you have a personal connection to a cause or organization. Giving back will not only have a lasting and meaningful impact on others, but you will discover just how much it contributes to your own family as well.

Timothy (Tim) Whalen was born and raised in Greater Sudbury, the youngest of five children. 

“We were a family of educators,” he said. “My father, Gord, retired as Director of Education with the Sudbury Catholic District School Board and my mother, Betty, worked as an occasional supply teacher.”

Oldest brother Terry resides in southwestern Ontario, where he is now a Bell Canada retiree, while sister Donna lives in Sudbury and works at STOP Restaurant Supply.

John taught at St. John Catholic Elementary School in Garson for more than two decades before retirement. Sadly, their brother Mark, who was a teacher in Newmarket, passed in 2013.

Whalen attended St. Charles College and Laurentian University, graduating with an economics degree, and subsequently earned his CGA designation through continuing education. 

He launched his career in the field of finance with GMAC in 1986. By the early ‘90s, Whalen had joined the Federal Business Development Bank (now BDC), where he took on progressively responsible roles.

By 1998, after living in a number of different Ontario communities, Whalen settled back in Sudbury. In 2011, he accepted a position with TD Commercial Banking, and currently serves as Manager Commercial Services. 

“Sudbury is a great place to live and work, and I’m so pleased that my two adult children chose to remain in their hometown,” he said.

Son Thomas is a Civil Engineer and daughter Darcie currently works as a coffee barista. 

Lina, Whalen’s life partner, is a local medical professional who originally hails from Sault Ste. Marie.

As teachers, Whalen’s parents have always been big believers in continuous learning. 

“I remember my dad saying that new skills and enhanced education give a person a leg up in a highly competitive world,” he said. “I believe those values apply to career, as well as to volunteer work and everyday life.”

The Whalen clan was also a sports-minded family. Young Tim played many conventional team sports, like hockey, baseball and football. As a student, he played hockey at both St. Charles College and Laurentian University, and later jumped into the coaching ranks with local minor hockey teams.

His passion for the game was rekindled when his two children started into hockey around the age of five.

“It just makes sense that if your own kids are interested in a particular sport, and you have played the game yourself, you explore the possibility of coaching or helping out the teams they play on,” he said. “Parents naturally want to nurture and teach their kids, and this is certainly a good way to do so while having a fun time together.”

In the 1990s, Whalen began helping as a coach or manager with the minor hockey teams his two kids belonged to. They loved the game as much as their dad and grew to excel in competitive hockey. 

“It’s wonderful to see your children follow your own interests,” he said.

“Coaching them right from the start helped develop their passion for the game. Sports also teaches valuable teamwork skills we apply in every aspect of life. Being a part of my kids’ activities just created wonderful lifelong memories for our family.”

As his children were maturing and their interests broadened, Whalen decided to search out organizations that could use a volunteer with his professional background. After a bit of research, he approached the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS). 

“I was attracted by the programs and activities they offer and the personal connection my family has to the disease,” he said. “Because my dad and brother are cancer survivors, the CCS was a great fit for me. When I reached out to them, I felt an instant camaraderie with the staff and volunteers I met.”

That was almost 15 years ago, and Whalen has done everything from handling participant parking at events to selling daffodils on the street corner; from chairing the advisory committee to being event lead on the Relay For Life organizing committee; or making community and school presentations about prostate cancer.

“I’ve enjoyed a real myriad of responsibilities with the CCS, and what makes that possible is how the staff match your availability with the task at hand,” he said. “I can easily fit in volunteer work, despite a hectic work and family life. They consider a volunteer’s schedule when helping them decide what and where they can contribute.”

Volunteering is all about making a difference in a personal way. “I’m sure we can all look back at someone—whether it be a certain teacher or coach or other mentor—and realize the valuable life lessons they’ve taught us and how they’ve impacted our lives in a positive way.”

Tim Whalen’s Volunteer Words of Wisdom

Never forget that you really do matter and you can make a positive difference in someone else’s life. It’s easy to develop a mindset of thinking that you won’t make any type of lasting impact, but every contribution of time and effort counts. Find a cause that has meaning for you. That can easily start where your own interests lie, whether it is sports, the arts or a cause that hits close to home.

To the youth in our community, volunteering will help you start to grow personally and professionally. It’s continuous learning and education that will give you a leg up on your path to a career.

Working and interacting with different groups and individuals builds confidence, communication and social skills, and develops networking skills. It’s fulfilling to learn from such a diverse group of people.

Marlene Holkko Moore is a local communications professional and occasional contributor to


About the Author: Marlene Holkko Moore

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