It’s easy to get caught up in Natalie Wakabayashi’s enthusiasm for volunteering and the city of London. Her energy is infectious and her pride tells an inspiring story. Needless to say, you can find her fingerprints and expertise across a number of different organizations in the community.
For Wakabayashi, commitment to the community means going beyond writing a cheque. It’s about giving the time and engaging in her surroundings. It’s something she’s been doing since she was a teenager.
“My first and largest experience as a volunteer was when I was in high school and helped to create the first ever Relay for Life at Lucas Secondary School,” she said. That experience and the role modeling set by her parents created a foundation for the way Wakabayashi lives her life.
At any one time, Wakabayashi can be found volunteering for a long list of organizations, and giving all she has at every meeting or event. “Right now, I have a number of different projects on the go,” she said, rhyming off the long list which includes the London Knights Golf Tournament Committee, co-chairing the 2017 Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction, sitting as a member of Children’s Health Foundation’s Leaders Board, and serving as a mentor as part of the Larry Myny Mentorship program at Fanshawe College. And she’s just completed a volunteer role with the Canadian Country Music Awards.
“Giving back to the community enriches my life,” said Wakabayashi. She also believes it’s taught her how to be a good listener, appreciate the life and luxuries she has, and has helped her to stay grounded.
As the Special Events and Promotions Officer at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, Wakabayashi can often be found working evenings and weekends to support the numerous events for the School. She seems to thrive on the energy and is able to redirect it into her volunteer roles, and to the many sports teams she plays with.
With so many roles in the community, it’s hard for Wakabayashi to identify the one that has had the greatest impact.
When recalling her experiences visiting the sixth floor of Children’s Hospital, the normally bubbly Wakabayashi suddenly became very reflective. When working for the London Knights, Wakabayashi would join players visiting children who were in Hospital. Every other week for the five years that she worked with the Knights, she went to the Hospital. “We would play and talk to the children, and just try to make their days a little brighter,” she said. “And the first time a child who you have visited passes away, it’s really difficult.” She continues to be grateful for the experience and even today she receives letters and notes of thanks from the families she met while volunteering.
What’s next for Wakabayashi? She’s just been asked to sit on the organizing committee for the 2019 World Juniors. “I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “I love hockey and I’m always excited to promote our city.”