Editor’s note: This story is the first in a new monthly series on Sudbury.com called Inspire, which focuses on the work and efforts of young people who are working to make a difference in Greater Sudbury. The series is part of our Community Leaders Program, which you can learn more about here.
William McCormick has been a dedicated volunteer since the tender age of six. Who inspires this 19-year-old, second-year Laurentian student to be the best he can be?
McCormick is the youngest son of Dr. Kevin McCormick, president and vice-chancellor of Huntington University, and Renee McCormick, a financial advisor with a 25-year career at CIBC. Their eldest son, Christopher, 21, is enrolled in first year at Osgoode Hall Law School.
“I’m extremely close to my family,” said McCormick, adding, “I idolize my big brother. Christopher has always been a strong anchor and support in my life. I look up to him in my own quest for a fulfilling life and career.”
“Our parents guided my passion to help others by their own actions. They are devoted to community work and helping improve life for vulnerable and at-risk members of our community. They have always stressed the importance of treating people fairly and equally and living life free of stigma and judgement.”
The McCormick boys were also close to their grandparents, especially to their ‘Nana’ McCormick.
“My grandmother was an incredible person. She taught us how to read and write as toddlers, which gave my brother and me a unique advantage starting school. For the first 16 years of my life, Nana was instrumental in motivating me to work hard, and to persevere and focus on my dreams. She instilled in us the values of goodness and humility which our family lives by.”
Witnessing his grandmother’s experience with physical rehabilitation at St. Joseph’s Health Centre, McCormick was inspired to become a dedicated volunteer with St. Joseph’s by age 13.
“Nana had broken her hip in 2013 and spent three months in the St. Joseph’s Continuing Care Centre. Every time my family visited her, I observed how people were helping people, and I was inspired to do the same.
“We focus on a patient’s enjoyment.”
Employed as a life enrichment assistant during the pandemic, McCormick co-ordinated safe, fun activities for the residents, which included games, socials, and a cycling-without-age program. Although his summer job ended on Sept. 4, McCormick will continue his role in a volunteer capacity. He has, in fact, contributed almost 3,000 hours to St. Joseph’s Health Centre over the last six years.
For the last eight years, McCormick has volunteered at L’association de Jeunes De la Rue alongside his mother and brother, preparing cold lunches for the homeless and vulnerable. L’association de Jeunes de la Rue is a not-for-profit organization that offers support services to high-risk individuals.
McCormick also works with Reseau Access Network, an organization which advocates wellness and harm reduction through education and public awareness. He has assisted with HIV and Hepatitis C testing events and puts together safe injection kits. “Any person could find themself in a situation where they’ve lost everything and rely on the support and humanity of others.”
McCormick volunteers with several other local organizations, including the Food Bank, where he has done everything from sorting packaged foods to helping the organization increase and simplify communication and public awareness programs.
His longstanding commitment to community, encouraged by his very active volunteering family, is shaping McCormick’s future. This focused, driven, and compassionate young man is preparing to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming a psychiatrist.
“Mental health is extremely stigmatized, particularly in Northern Ontario. If I am accepted to and complete medical school, I intend to remain here in Greater Sudbury, perhaps as a member of HSN’s psychiatric team of doctors or eventually operating my own independent practice.”
In the meantime, McCormick will continue his commitment to the less fortunate and those whom society tends to forget. “They need our support, counselling and care.”
McCormick credits his father as his primary mentor.
“I revere my dad, his accomplishments and his enduring dedication to community. He taught us modesty and honesty. He always says, ‘If you don’t know something, there’s no shame admitting that. You learn from those situations’.”
McCormick’s parents and his older brother continue to inspire him every day. “They are all exceptional models of modesty, humanity and selfless service. Nothing they do is for personal gain.”
William McCormick’s Words of Inspiration for Volunteers
To help build your self-confidence through volunteering, seek opportunities where you are not constantly being led, but where you are encouraged to lead as well. Volunteering provides a safe environment to experiment with leadership. At age 13, I ran a resident activity where I had to obtain the bingo cards and prizes, distribute them and ensure all logistics were in place for the game. If anything had gone awry, there would be no bingo that day. At such a young age, this was an excellent exercise in leadership through responsibility and accountability, and failure would not have devastating consequences. It gave me the confidence to take on more complex volunteer tasks without trepidation, such as writing documentation and screening for COVID-19.
Don’t be afraid to volunteer for something you are unfamiliar with. If the task turns out to be something you don’t care for, you can still feel good knowing that you have given it a try. On the other hand, you might just discover the role is exactly what you were looking for; however, you wouldn’t have known that if you didn’t step outside your comfort zone.
If you don’t understand or you don’t feel comfortable handling a task, don’t keep it to yourself. Voice your concern. It will help build your confidence. As a volunteer, admitting that you don’t know something is alright. You are not a paid employee, so the learning curve and expectations are more flexible. A volunteer environment is a safe place to develop new skills and leadership abilities.
Always try your best, especially in the most difficult situations. Don’t appear to be effective; be genuinely effective. Put your heart and soul into the task, go the extra mile and always have a positive attitude. That’s what proves your potential to others. And that’s what opens the door to opportunity.
Marlene Holkko Moore is a local communications professional and regular contributor to Sudbury.com.