Ann Dowling: journey to Wellspring volunteer
Ann Dowling has a rich history with Wellspring dating back to 2011, and although it was a cancer diagnosis that kicked it off, she is the first to say she feels incredibly fortunate.
“When I first walked through the doors at Carma House and got that beautiful welcome, for me it felt like a warm blanket,” said Ann. “From that moment on, it was nothing short of wonderful. Every program I took, every instructor, was exceptional. I don’t know how they do it, but Wellspring facilitators are the crème de la crème.”
Ann tackled Wellspring programs like she tackles all things in life – with a full dose of devotion and positivity.
“I took all kinds of yoga, Healthy Steps, Tai Chi, Pole Walking, snowshoeing, Food and Nutrition, knitting, I even took the spin class, although I had never learned how to ride a bike,” said Ann. “At one point in time I was taking a program per day from Monday to Friday. And even occasional Saturday programs.”
When her treatment for breast cancer ended and she returned to her career as an executive administrator at WestJet, Ann continued taking Wellspring programs, only to find that she was wearing herself out, rather than filling up her cup. “That’s when I knew I had to put the brakes on the train,” she said. What followed was a short Wellspring reprieve.
But after retiring, Ann found her way back to Wellspring, and now she is equally committed, not as a member, but practicing her mom’s philosophy of paying it forward. “I received so many benefits from Wellspring, now I wanted to volunteer and help others who could use what Wellspring has to offer.”
Ann took the peer support training and now spends a day and a half each week reaching out to members, and half a day as a front desk volunteer at Carma House.
“Being on the peer support side of things certainly gives you a dose of reality. I’m a fairly positive person as a rule but there were days when COVID got the best of me – got me feeling a bit sorry for myself,” she said. “But then I’d get on those peer support calls and it put my life back into focus. I have a wonderful husband and two beautiful, successful daughters – I feel like I have won the lottery.”
Ann has some rituals she performs before she starts her peer support calls. “I do some stretches, a qigong practice – I want to come across in a way that is open, calm and caring. And I have my faith – that helps ground me,” she said.
Ann guides members to take it slow – not to overdo their programs while they are healing and regaining wellness. Mostly she just listens and feels deeply grateful to know that her call can make someone’s day brighter.
“Members tell me they are so happy to get my call. It’s not a lot I do but when they let me know how much it means to them, that makes it all worthwhile. I love what I do. I’m glad to contribute.”