Jonathan’s MS: a voyage to volunteerism

“I can’t think of a better cause to support than the MS Society of Canada when you’re faced with this disease.”

Jonathan Allenger – father, Senior Director at CIBC, MS advocate, and top fundraiser – knows all too well about the importance of giving. His relationship with the MS Society began shortly after his diagnosis in 2013.

Jonathan still recalls the cold, January day when he received a phone call from his neurologist, confirming he had MS.

With symptoms dating back to 2011, he had long suspected something was wrong. For two years, his symptoms included countless migraines, dizzy spells, disorientation, and trouble with balance, putting him through a rollercoaster of emotions. The unpredictable nature of the disease terrified him, but he continued to persevere through his newfound hardships.

Through all of this, Jonathan’s son, Leo, has been his biggest motivator. Jonathan wants to do everything he can to watch his son grow up and ensure he sets a positive example for him. He teaches Leo, through his actions and goals, that life is not about what you take, but the difference you make by giving back.

This mindset inspires his involvement with the MS Society: initially joining the MS Society’s Toronto Chapter board, becoming a volunteer ambassador, and participating in and fundraising for MS Bike, where he’s raised over $65,000 since 2014.

Jonathan’s employer – CIBC – has also been incredibly helpful and accommodating throughout his MS journey. Back in 2013, Jonathan moved from Montreal to Toronto to further his career by taking on a new opportunity with the company. He quickly learned that the demands of being a new father while transitioning into his new role was more than he could manage. CIBC supported his transition to a role that allowed him to better achieve work-life balance along with managing his MS symptoms.

Since that initial post-diagnosis transition in late 2013, Jonathan’s career at CIBC has continued to flourish with the most recent promotion being to the position of Senior Director, Global Operational Risk Management in 2018. Jonathan credits that success to many factors, including the support he’s received from family, friends, and CIBC in addition to staying true to his post-diagnosis commitment of pursuing his goals.

This support means a great deal to Jonathan and encourages his own volunteerism in the workplace. It means he’s able to bring his work life and personal life together. CIBC’s employee giving campaign is just one example.

CIBC’s employee giving campaign “One for Change” is set on making a difference. The bank has formalized a volunteer program where employees can track their volunteer hours to earn CIBC Reward Dollars which can then be used to donate to charitable organizations.

CIBC is committed to several national causes but is also determined to support employees who are passionate about other causes.

“CIBC has always been invested in giving back to the community,” says Jonathan. “The bank has a long history as a strong community partner – making a positive impact through its corporate giving, sponsorships, and the volunteer spirit of its team members.”

Charitable giving speaks to Jonathan more post-diagnosis as he understands first-hand the challenges of living with this disease. CIBC’s volunteer program gives all employees a means to raise additional money for causes that matter to them. Jonathan is grateful for the program’s boost to his personal MS fundraising campaign.

“A world free of MS would mean that my level of anxiety would subside. Anxiety comes with the lack of clarity around the prognosis of the disease. Those living with and affected by MS would be able to have peace of mind. I want to give my all in my volunteer work and hope to inspire others to donate and get involved with the MS Society, so we’re able to reach that goal.”

Like Jonathan, Canadians are finding ways to give to causes they care about. Discover ways to give through your company: https://mssociety.ca/employee-giving.

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    Ravi Gupta

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