Paul Walz began his journey as a Rotarian as a high schooler. Now 32, he has already built an impressive resume of good deeds around the community.
“I'm a third generation Rotarian,” he said. “My grandfather and my father were members. So it’s just been in the family for so long. When I was a young kid in high school getting my volunteer hours in, it was always with the Rotary club, with Rotaryfest, the telethon or other small events.”
Walz, born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, received a Master's in Epigenetics from Alberta and is currently working at Algoma Steel as an environment control officer.
While at university, he was a part of Rotaract, a junior rotary club for young individuals who aren’t full time Rotarians.
He says that the most rewarding aspect is the feeling of giving back, and is what makes his time volunteering worthwhile.
“For myself and I know for many others, it’s not just signing checks, we’re not multi-millionaires and we can’t just donate everything, but what we can give is our time and our expertise on how to plan, organize and coordinate, and that’s the most fulfilling thing- giving back to the community that’s given me so much.”
This will be Walz’ sixth year as a co-chair for Rotaryfest.
“(The best part is) the reaction we get from people who come to the festival. We use the festival to say thank you to the community for supporting us for the entire year through all of our endeavors,” he said.
Out of all of his experiences so far, one that continues to inspire Walz is their partnership with Thrive.
“One of our biggest (recipients) for the club is Thrive, the children’s rehabilitation center. We get to occasionally visit to see where the donations are going towards to help children with physical and mental disabilities,” he said. “Just seeing the progress of some of these young children and the tools that the institute has to help educate them and help develop their skills - that’s probably the #1 experience for me.”
Walz also helps out with the Algoma District Science Fair.
“The science fair not only gives them the experience to do science projects, but also to develop their communication skills with strangers or with other students,” he explained. “The prize winners from our science fair are then sponsored by the Rotary Club to go to the national science fair. I was one of the coordinators for that, so we planned and communicated with our sponsors, we got prizes, coordinated with the judges, communicated with the students, and ensured the travel is all taken care of. We can’t just send four or five underage students by themselves, so we coordinate with their teachers to have a chaperone, and we coordinate with the parents too because this is the first time some of these students are going off by themselves. We encourage the students to go and have that experience, and we work with the parents if they have any concerns or questions along the way.”
Walz’ contributions to the city are impressive, but they wouldn’t be possible without the help of his fellow volunteers.
“Everyone puts in hundreds of hours a year for the projects that we do, and it’s just great to see the group itself but also the community put in those hours towards the festivals every year too. We’re just appreciative of everyone volunteering and I want to say thank you to the city and to my fellow Rotarians for their help,” he said.
The Rotary Club’s Easter Seals telethon is coming up on Sunday, March 29 from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The funds raised through the telethon will help children and youth with physical disabilities in Ontario.