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Volunteer Week Spotlight: Baker Tilly, the Accounting Team that Walks The Walk

Rosa Maria Iuliano had her hands full. She was at the Walk For Dementia with her baby daughter Ida, volunteering at the registration table with her accounting firm Baker Tilly Ottawa LLP. And she had to move a large amount of cash and cheques, safely and secretly, to the back room where other representatives from Baker Tilly could count it and make sure all the donations matched up. What to do? She couldn’t leave the baby behind, but carrying a baby in one arm and a sack full of cash in another seemed ill-advised.

So Rosa did what any gangster movie aficionado would do. She stuffed the cash and cheques inside her baby stroller, lining the area between the blanket and the basket with bags of coins and bundles of bills. Then she made her way toward the back room of the Carlingwood Mall, through throngs of Saturday shoppers.

It was a different time. Back then, Baker Tilly was not yet called Baker Tilly. The Walk For Dementia was not yet called the Walk For Dementia and The Dementia Society was not yet The Dementia Society. The Carlingwood Mall was still the Carlingwood Mall, only it had a Sears and a Radio Shack. Also “cheques” and “cash” were still being exchanged for services, goods, and in this case good deeds.

The good deed Rosa was doing that day was volunteering with about 20 other Baker Tilly employees to manage the Walk For Dementia registration process. A process that, with the advent of the ability to donate money online, has changed dramatically over the years.

There have been many years. Baker Tilly was a “Founding Sponsor” of the walk that first year, and they remain the “Founding Sponsor” to this day. They were spurred on by a single employee, Tracey Pagé, who had lost a grandfather to Alzheimer’s Disease in the early 80s. Back then Madeleine Honeyman, the founder of the Society, was still teaching people how to pronounce the name of this little known disease.

In the intervening 23 years, their support has not abated in any way. In fact, it has grown. This year more than 40 employees of Baker Tilly will volunteer their time to help with the registration process and much more. And this year they will be doing so outdoors at Tunney’s Pasture, which has now hosted the walk for years.

Ken, the Tax/Managing Partner of Baker Tilly, says the event serves as a team building exercise as much as it functions as a community partnership. Marie enlists both her children to join her on walk day. They must enjoy it too, because now that they’re both out of high school and no longer have community volunteer hour requirements they’re still as eager as ever to help out.

Most of the younger people at Baker Tilly have no direct experience with dementia in their families. Ryan, the Audit and Assurance Manager, has an organizational role with the Walk For Dementia. He took it on in part because he is looking to carry on the work of his co-worker Kelly who had been heavily involved until, tragically, she died suddenly last year.

Donia manages the full registration process, from recruiting volunteers and training them to logistics and planning to making sure everything runs smoothly the day of the walk. Even then she’s not finished, as there is still wrap up and feedback to sort through. She says being involved in the walk is being involved in the community, and that’s important to her. Tian says that knowing she has done some good for her neighbours fills her with pride, and seeing her coworkers do the same makes Walk Day a joyful day. Joanne, who first volunteered as a co-op student in 2015, is proud to still be a part of the walk. And also proud to still be with Baker Tilly, because it’s a company that takes this kind of community involvement seriously. Now, back to that baby in the stroller.

Rosa maneuvered the stroller through the Carlingwood crowd without incident. She slipped into the back room among the counting tables, and started pulling out the bundles of cash from beneath the baby. Ida was pretty happy and unruffled by the experience, despite having just become the youngest cash courier in the history of The Dementia Society. In 2019, Ida will celebrate her 17th year at the Walk For Dementia. This time it will be as a volunteer and co-op high school student, at Baker Tilly.

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