The National Board of Directors of The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada has presented its fifth annual Laura Cole Volunteer of the Year Award to Elmer Harris of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
It was in September 1986 that Elmer Harris, a journalist with VOCM Radio Newfoundland, first learned about the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada. The news release said that a new charity had just been established to grant wishes to children with high risk, life-threatening illnesses and Elmer knew he wanted to play a role in bringing the organization to Newfoundland and Labrador. With the support of his boss, he was on a flight to Montreal the next day to meet with then Executive Director Laura Cole.
After a positive meeting, Elmer returned to set the wheels in motion for establishing a new chapter and ensuring community support. In those first few years, Elmer spent countless hours setting up local volunteer groups, recruiting new Board members, securing corporate funds and individual donations, and using his media savvy to maximize publicity opportunities - and get wishes granted. In addition to his role locally, Elmer was also recruited during the early years of the Foundation to serve on the National Board of Directors.
After health concerns sidelined him for a time, Elmer returned again in 2000 to his active volunteer role. He continues to this day as a provincial Board member and a tireless fundraiser, promoter and Ambassador of the Children’s Wish Foundation. He has always worked hard to extend the reach of the Foundation throughout the province, ensuring that no matter where a child lives, they could receive their wish without needing to travel into St. John’s.
Though he would rather give credit to others, it is no exaggeration to say that without Elmer’s involvement, the Foundation would not be as strong as it is today. His personal devotion has inspired so many other board members, volunteers and wish families who have taken strength from his positive outlook and the size of his heart.
The chapter’s first fundraiser, started by Elmer as an annual event with VOCM Radio continues to this day, and has raised as much as $42,000 every year since 1986. Through all of the many events Elmer has chaired, organized or supported, Elmer has helped raise more than $5 million for the Foundation over the past 22 years. Elmer has exemplified what it is to be a Wish volunteer. As the founder of the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter, Elmer has played an integral role in strategic development of the national organization as well as the implementation of fundraising tools and policies that have contributed to the organization’s growth, recruitment and success, not only in the province but across Canada. In 2003, Elmer received the Caring Canadian Award for his work with the Foundation and other charities. The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada is privileged to be able to recognize and work with volunteers like Elmer whose talents and accomplishments are as diverse as the communities they serve.