Volunteer showcase

There is an opportunity for everyone to get involved with the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists in a way that is meaningful to you: from moderating a session at CAOT’s conference to running for the Board of Directors, writing exam questions or meeting the public at a tradeshow. 

Elizabeth Steggles- Co-Chair of CAOT Conference 2019 Social Committee

"I became a member of CAOT upon my arrival in Canada in 1982, never dreaming that I would have the opportunity to volunteer for the Association or become a director.

When working for CAOT, I experienced the professional support of members and the enormous contribution of the volunteers.  It was a joy to learn from them and experience their enthusiasm and collegiality.  Goodness knows what CAOT would do without them. My own volunteer experiences have included: contributor and guest editor for OT Now; conference presenter; Chair of the Retired Member Network; supervisor of student OTs and OTAs who conducted projects for CAOT; member of the Use of Title Committee and, most recently, Co-Chair of the Social Committee of the 2019 Conference.

Over a twelve-month period, the Social Committee sourced potential venues, costed out the events, reported back to other members of the Host Committee and sampled the offerings (tough job but it had to be done!). Having retired in 2015, I was able to re-connect with colleagues, make new friends and use my OT skills to ensure that delegates and guests had an enriching experience.  The responsibility of selecting activities was a bit unnerving but, during the conference, the camaraderie at Ravine Vineyard was palpable and the elation of the dripping-wet delegates as they disembarked from the Hornblower cruise was a treat.  An unanticipated (but very affirming) side benefit of the role was being approached by people who reminded me of past positive connections. It felt good."

Diane Graham–advocate for occupational therapy in BC

"I challenge each and every one of us to speak up and advocate for occupational therapy in our own little corners of the world so that occupational therapy someday becomes a household word. I remember the moniker from my own experience in my university OT program: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. 

You don’t need to be on a formal CAOT committee to do this but you do need to make your concerns known to them and connect. I have long been inspired by the collective energy and commitment to excellence in OT practice for protection of the public by the College of Occupational Therapists of British Columbia (COTBC). I have volunteered as a board member, board chair and have been on various committees since 2009. Currently I serve on the Quality Assurance committee. 

This year I was asked by CAOT-BC to put on my other hat to participate in OT Day at the BC legislature as I had inquired and connected previously with CAOT-BC Managing Director Tanya Fawkes-Kirby on local paediatric OT issues.  This was in response to OT’s working in primary care and increasing the number of UBC OT school seats. We are the third largest province yet have the fewest number of OT student seats in total of any province. There are huge accessibility issues, not only for those wanting to practice OT, especially in paediatrics here but also access to OT for the clients we serve.  I also feel we need to be at the table in primary care for children so that GP’s and paediatricians understand our wide scope of practice and the needs of their patients in order to promote timely onward referral, early intervention/prevention and often a team approach throughout the lifespan. I often attend Dr’s appointments with parents, if they desire, in order to promote this. Though none of the MLA’s I invited were able to attend the OT day at the legislature, I was invited to meet with all three of my local MLA’s at a later date. I held them accountable to this and made a short verbal presentation to them on local paediatric OT issues and followed this up with a written submission. 

I also have done some disability awareness at my church as backpacks and briefcases were blessed for return to school and work this fall.  I work with children and adults to improve awareness of OTs and students in their classes who are challenged and learn differently, as I showed them some of the OT tools in my briefcase that I use with students. 

As Mother Teresa said, "We can’t all do great things but we can do many small things with great love”. "

Kim Hewitt- Chair of the Suicide and OT Practice Network

"Just out of OT school I started to see suicide as a significant issue in my practice.  As a developing clinician I worked to build my own skillset in suicide prevention but didn’t feel this was enough.  I felt compelled to highlight the clear fit between occupational therapy and suicide prevention at a systems level.  As many good ideas do, I started by going to Sue Baptiste.  Sue was the President of CAOT at the time and linked me with Janet Craik as the Executive Director to explore ways in which the association could support me to explore this pressing issue.  Since then it has been a beautiful unfolding of idea generation, knowledge translation forums and collaboration all underpinned by the support and encouragement of CAOT.  As a member of the association I was connected with other like-minded OTs to develop the CAOT Practice Network – Addressing Suicide in OT Practice.  As Chair of this incredibly hard working group of OTs from across and up and down Canada, I am in awe of what we have been able to do.  Suicide prevention is work of the heart and with all of the amazing minds around the table we marry heart and head and are accomplishing significant outcomes.  One of which is that we advocated for CAOT to consider suicide prevention as a position statement.  This advocacy ultimately translated into the Suicide Prevention in Occupational Therapy as the first CAOT role paper which I am humbled to be an author. 

As a volunteer for CAOT I have had so many incredible opportunities to grow as a practitioner, to meet and build amazing relationships with like minded OTs and to be supported to push the needle on pressing issues like suicide prevention."

Paulette Guitard- Abstract Review Board

"My volunteer work with the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists dates back more than 35 years when I served as a student representative for my cohort. When CAOT moved to Ottawa, I became more involved as a member of various committees such as the Membership Committee, the Academic Credentialing Council which I chaired for 3 years as well as serving as CJOT’s Associate Editor (French) from 2006-2010. In 2005, I joined the Board of Directors as the Quebec Director. Subsequently, I was Secretary, Vice-president, President-elect and finally President from 2012-2014.

In addition to serving on committees, I annually review abstracts for the national conference and articles for the Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, and I am an evaluator for academic program accreditation.

Why dedicate all this time to CAOT? Nothing more natural for me. I am active in CAOT because this is my responsibility as a “professional”. I want to help promote my profession, to help occupational therapy take the place it deserves in society, to no longer be asked what is occupational therapy? So that one day I can realize my heartfelt wish  that children not only play doctor, play teacher but also play occupational therapist. That day I will be able to say mission accomplished but until then I continue to help CAOT to demonstrate the added value of occupational therapy and that it is THE cost effective solution to meet the needs of the health system."

Angie Phenix and Kaarina Valavaara- Co-Chairs of the Occupational Therapy and Indigenous Health Network

"We volunteer with CAOT because we are passionate about transforming occupational therapy to better ally and partner with Indigenous clients and communities. We believe it is important to not just stand by and wait for something to happen but to use our voices and experiences to advocate and actively participate in efforts for occupational therapy to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls for Action and to be more culturally safe. As a profession, we need to recognize how our education, research, and practice is embedded within Western systems that are creating and maintaining inequities- we don’t have all the answers of how to orient occupational therapy towards equity and allyship with Indigenous peoples, but we are well positioned and motivated to ask the provocative questions to encourage change!

We also feel it is very important for the perspectives of Indigenous occupational therapists to be heard within CAOT and OT practice. We are fortunate enough to be able to volunteer some time to continue to raise the profile of Indigenous OTs in Canada and we look forward to meeting and collaborating with many future Indigenous OT leaders in the future!

As front line clinicians, volunteering provides us an opportunity to influence occupational therapy practice to better serve the Indigenous clients we see every day. It also provide us an opportunity to work with CAOT to advocate for real changes that impact our clients. By volunteering with CAOT we have been able to help advocate for changes to Non Insured Health Benefits, guest edit a special edition of OT Now, contribute to the CAOT position statement on OT and Indigenous health and numerous other efforts within CAOT that we hope will directly impact occupational therapy practice with Indigenous peoples."

Margie Collingwood- Incoming Treasurer, CAOT Board of Directors 

"Early in my career I had the opportunity to be a CAOT National Board Director and was the chair of CAOTs first national OT week which has now grown to a full month! This experience was immensely rewarding. I was a young clinician on the Board with leaders and academics of our profession, and these CAOT leaders modelled dedication and love of our profession.  This opportunity instilled in me the importance of advocacy for our profession – the value we, as occupational therapists, provide to Canadians. 

Now 30 years later and still an OT - I feel my early exposure to CAOT confirmed the importance of strong leadership.  I have progressively grown as a leader and advocate for Occupational Therapy provincially.  For the past eight years, my role as the OT Practice Consultant within the largest Regional Health Authority (Eastern Health) in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) has allowed me to continue to promote the diversity of practice, and the value of Occupational Therapists and the services we provide in our health care system.  I am proud to have worked full time, grown as a professional and raised a family that is the joy of my life.

CAOT continues to have growth, energy and passion: it was so evident at the CAOT conference in June! It remains progressive and collaborative in setting our professions direction. I want to be a part of the energy.  I trust with more years of experience, I have more to offer and give back.

I am ready and excited to share and continue to grow with CAOT!"


Laura Bulk- Chair of the CAOT-BC Advisory Committee 

I am a chronic volunteer – I just can not help it. Surely most of us have heard that when you volunteer you get more out of it than those you serve – this is certainly true for me as a member of the CAOT-BC Advisory Committee (AC). When I first applied to join the AC in 2014, I did so because I have a passion for OT and because I admire the individuals involved in CAOT-BC and hoped for opportunities to interact with the incredible OT’s from across BC. The AC has not disappointed! Volunteering with CAOT-BC I have had the chance to interact with and learn from OT’s representing:

  • residential and acute care, research, pediatrics, and private practice,
  • all five health regions in BC, and diverse geographic urban/rural locations, and
  • the University of British Columbia and British Columbians at the University of Alberta.

Our motivated team is effective because of our diverse member representation and passion for OT, and because we have built relationships within the committee and with CAOT-BC members.

Being part of the AC (as Chair since 2016) has been formative in my professional development. I have been supported in advocating for the value of OT by attending networking events at the BC Legislature, participating in government consultations, attending events and tradeshows, meeting with interdisciplinary colleagues, contributing to the development of resources/information for the public and for OT’s, and on and on.

I am grateful to each of the AC members with and from whom I've learned so much.”

Marc Rouleau- CAOT-Qc Advisory Committee

“Why get involved as a volunteer in CAOT? The reasons are numerous. It could stem from the desire to contribute to the development and recognition of the profession, to improve the practice, to have a concrete impact for sustaining occupational therapists in our wide range of fields and be proud of what we accomplish together, to give back to our network, to be involved with the next generation of OTs, to have an opportunity to share in order to develop collaborative efforts between different regions to enrich, innovate and promote our profession. The above mentioned reasons are some of many for which the advisory committee members of CAOT-Qc got involved with the organization as volunteers. 

CAOT-Qc is an associative movement that has, as part of its mission, the promotion of the profession and to sustain its members through diverse activities. As part of the committee we have the privilege to try to facilitate the information sharing and to participate in the coordination and planning on actions that respond to provincial issues related to occupational therapy in order to support our professionals and advocate for the profession. 


 Getting involved as a volunteer, we were able to not only work in the realization of our common goals but we have had and continue to have the chance to meet and work with dedicated, educated, creative and passionate occupational therapists . We have all grown as a result of it.” 

Maura Dulong- Certification Examination Committee Chair

“I began as a member of the CEC in 2011 when a colleague from my province was leaving the group. The opportunity came at a time when I was looking for a new purpose beyond my day to day clinical practice. Volunteering with the committee has given me opportunities to get outside of New Brunswick, use my clinical expertise, collaborate with colleagues, learn about the exam process and gain knowledge about how individuals are prepared for the profession. While our meetings can be challenging and exhausting, there is a collective positive energy and purpose that keeps me wanting to continue to participate. Most importantly volunteering with CAOT has provided me with new friendships and connections that will last beyond my involvement on the committee. I guess it is the reason I have extended my participation for so long!

The CAOT certification exam committee (CEC) ensures that the national OT exam is current, reliable, and valid. The CEC consists of front line OTs and academics. The committee meets twice a year. My current role with the CEC is chair elect.

What has evolved in my time on the CEC is increased communication with the national regulatory organization: Association of Canadian Occupational Therapy Regulatory Organizations (ACOTRO) as well as the Association of Canadian Occupational Therapy University Programs (ACOTUP). This collaboration continues as we embark on a project with our partners to develop a single document (from 3 competence documents) that reflects the competence of occupational therapists in Canada. Through my volunteering with the CEC I have the opportunity to be involved in this groundbreaking goal.”

Watch an interview with Maura about her experience: 

Angelena Gartner-OTA/PTA Joint Accreditation Committee and CarFit Technician

“Hello there! My name is Angelena and I am an occupational and physical therapist assistant in Saskatchewan. I am a volunteer member of the OTA/PTA Joint Accreditation Committee (JAC). I joined the committee in May 2017, just a year after finishing my program. My role on the committee is as a “recent OTA/PTA graduate”. I help the JAC committee review programs and have a vote on whether I agree that a program should be accredited, or not, based on whether the program follows the Accreditation Standards. I also have the opportunity to be a primary reviewer on different accreditation reviews or progress reports from the programs. This committee benefits the OT field because therapists can have a better understanding of what their OTA’s are learning in school and also have a good understanding of the background of the person they may be hiring. This has been a really exciting opportunity and has given me connections all over Canada with occupational therapists and physical therapists. It has broadened my knowledge and allowed me to use my OTA/PTA knowledge through a different lens. From this volunteer experience, it has also brought other opportunities my way such as being a part of the OTA/PTA Vision Steering Stakeholder Study, inspired me to volunteer more, the opportunity to share my experience with CAOT and the chance to develop and refine my critical thinking skills. There are many ways to become involved with the JAC committee, as a therapist or OTA/PTA, and I highly recommend you look into this exceptional volunteer opportunity!?”

“Hello, Angelena reporting again. Along with my volunteer work with the JAC, I am also a volunteer, trained CarFit Technician! CarFit is run in partnership with CAA and is an event that targets older drivers and how they “fit” in their cars. However, after learning about this event I highly encourage EVERYONE to go get their “car fit” checked! At the first station, the driver goes through a checklist with two trained technicians. This is where the “fit” is reviewed. The final station is run by an OT or an OTA. The OT is not there to address dangerous driving or to make recommendations about driving abilities, but there to support the fit of the car to the person. Recommendations for different equipment such as, a cushion for seat height can be recommended if necessary. Most CAA stores have the adaptive equipment on hand. The final station can ONLY be run by an OT and/or an OTA. Some Car Fit events won’t even run without a volunteer OT or OTA. It is such a cool experience and you get to meet many different faces in the community. Our mayor even came out to the event held in our city! A couple of us from our Therapies Department volunteered together and we viewed the day as a team bonding event! The day was so much fun and I would do it again in a heartbeat!  I learned a lot about how I fit within my own vehicle and have since made adjustments. We all lead busy, busy lives but when you volunteer your skills and abilities for the betterment of your community or the betterment of our rehab field, it is an unbelievable rewarding experience. Get out there and get volunteering!”

Danielle Hogan – past Chair of the Certification Examination Committee (CEC).

“Such a phenomenal committee, such a wealth of experience there.”
“I’m actually making a difference…I loved being part of it.”
“Although I’d love to stay on, it’s nice to rejuvenate these committees with new members and get fresh new eyes on the exam – which is fantastic.”

Read Danielle Hogan’s volunteer story

Rose Martini – French Associate Editor of CJOT

I’m proud that I’m part of the team whose mission it is to improve the quality of a Canadian occupational therapy journal.”
“I find it very inspiring and I also find it very satisfying to see the results of the work, like when you see the manuscript published or the metrics of the journal going up. “
“Volunteering with CJOT has been, and continues to be, a wonderful, satisfying experience for me that I’d love to wish upon others.”

Read Rose Martini’s volunteer story

Isabelle Matte – Representative on the Certification Examination Committee 

“Moi je crois comme membre de l’association qu’il faut qu’on s’investisse pour la faire rayonner!”
J’ai rencontré des gens sur le comité, développé des liens d’amitié et des contacts précieux.”

Read Isabelle Matte’s volunteer story (available in French only)

Andrea McNeill – past Chair CAOT-BC Advisory Committee

“It’s been a wonderful journey. It promotes and builds confidence in the individual as well as the organization as whole.”
“Volunteering makes me feel fulfilled, very connected and supported and really happy to be involved in contributing in this profession and growing it.”

Read Andrea McNeill’s volunteer story

Sandra Hobson – CAOT Representative on the Joint Accreditation Committee (JAC)

“It’s very collegial and collaborative; it’s a very positive committee to serve on...I’m really enjoying it.”
“The work is all worth it because it’s enjoyable and it’s important. You feel that you’re contributing, that you’re making a difference, assuring potential students and their parents that the OTA/PTA programs are really good quality programs. “

Read Sandra Hobson’s volunteer story

Thank you to the CAOT members who shared their volunteer story with us.

video screen

Thank you to Catherine Backman, Paulette Guitard, Denise DuBois and Mary Forhan for participating in this membership video.

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