Celebrating the Impact of MDA Volunteers

After an entire year spent celebrating MDA volunteers for the 2023 Year of the Volunteer, MDA is excited to celebrate and recognize our volunteers this National Volunteer Month 2024. The incredible impact that MDA has had on the neuromuscular disease (NMD) community and treatment landscape would not be possible without the dedication of our valuable volunteers.

Volunteers make up an intrinsic part of the tapestry of MDA’s history. And now, more than ever, as MDA continues to support and progress research for treatments, the impact volunteers have on the lives of those individuals and families living with neuromuscular disease in undeniable. Every hour spent, dollar raised, and talent shared by volunteers significantly propels MDA’s mission further. The volunteer experience at MDA goes beyond volunteers’ contributions and extends to lifelong relationships and an ongoing commitment to the cause.

Wendi Dressen, Senior Director of MDA Volunteer Programs

Wendi Dressen, Senior Director of MDA Volunteer Programs

This year, the need for and impact by MDA volunteers is stronger than ever before. Increased event locations, the goal to serve more campers and empower more individuals, a variety of boots-on-the-ground and volunteer-led events, and a focus on cultivating lasting relationships provide a multitude of opportunities for volunteers to make a difference in the lives of others. And with the many recent strides in research and therapies, the volunteer impact has never been more tangible.

Wendi Dressen, Senior Director of MDA Volunteer Programs, shares her insights on why now is the time for new volunteers to get onboard, create and maintain a lasting relationship with MDA, and become part of the amazing progress.

Why is this such a monumental time for MDA?

This is a momentous time for MDA due to the significant advancements in research and therapies for those living with neuromuscular diseases. Breakthroughs in understanding the underlying mechanisms of these diseases, coupled with innovative treatments and therapies, are offering unprecedented hope and opportunities for improved quality of life for individuals within the MDA community.

MDA has made huge strides in NMD research and new therapies, how do volunteers tie into that?

Volunteers are the foundation of MDA’s legacy and mission, playing a multifaceted role in supporting MDA’s efforts. Beyond raising awareness and funds, volunteers are instrumental in providing hands-on support to individuals and families served by MDA. Their compassionate support not only enhances the quality of life for those living with neuromuscular diseases but also strengthens the community’s resolve to drive progress forward in research and therapy development. Volunteers serve as champions and ambassadors, advocates, and catalysts for change, amplifying the impact of MDA’s initiatives and fostering hope for a brighter future.

While they may not directly engage in scientific research, their dedication plays a vital role in raising funds, increasing awareness, and providing essential services to individuals and families affected by neuromuscular diseases. Through their unwavering support, volunteers enable MDA to conduct groundbreaking research, test new therapies, and navigate the complexities of treatment development, ultimately bringing about positive change in the NMD community. Our volunteers’ commitment to the cause propels MDA forward, driving progress and fostering a sense of community resilience in the face of adversity.

How do volunteers directly impact families and individuals living with NMD?

MDA volunteers execute fundraising events that raise essential funds for research, therapies and to support the folks served by MDA.  Additionally, volunteers support MDA’s mission through advocacy efforts, donating their time as mentors to our community and fill the critical role of Summer Camp counselors and medical team.  Without the participation of these volunteers, MDA wouldn’t be able to provide these life-changing opportunities for those youth living with neuromuscular diseases, and for respite and resources for their families.

What kind of roles and opportunities are available to volunteers who want to support MDA’s mission?

MDA provides diverse avenues for volunteering, catering to various interests and preferences. Opportunities range from assisting in fundraising events such as golf tournaments and galas, to supporting our partners through initiatives like Fill the Boot or donating their time to advocacy efforts. Volunteers also play pivotal roles in rallying participants at events like Muscle Walks and Team Momentum gatherings. And of course, volunteers fill invaluable roles at summer camps and mentorship programs where they directly engaging with our community. For those preferring remote engagement, MDA offers virtual summer camp volunteer participation and assistance with retail campaigns. Volunteers can choose roles that align with their interests, skills, and availability, ensuring that there is a meaningful opportunity for everyone to contribute.

These diverse opportunities contribute to MDA’s progress by increasing awareness, fostering community engagement, and empowering individuals within the MDA community.

Why do so many volunteers develop and maintain such committed relationship to MDA?

Volunteers develop a committed relationship with MDA because they are passionate about MDA’s mission, are moved by the resilience of individuals living with neuromuscular disease, and motivated by the tangible impact of their contributions. Additionally, the sense of community and camaraderie fostered within our volunteers strengthens their commitment to the MDA mission.

Why is now such a great time for volunteers to get involved – and stay involved – with MDA?

Now is an opportune time for volunteers to get involved with MDA because of the unprecedented progress being made in neuromuscular disease research and therapy development. Volunteers have the opportunity to be part of transformative initiatives that are shaping the future of treatment and care for the community we serve, making their involvement both timely and impactful. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of an organization at such an exciting time?

Why is there an even bigger need for dedicated volunteers right now?

The heightened need for dedicated volunteers arises from two significant factors. First, with the gradual recovery from the pandemic, we’re able to broaden our impact by reinstating in-person events, thus expanding our outreach. Secondly, the rapid advancements in neuromuscular research and treatment development necessitate increased support from volunteers. As MDA intensifies its efforts to advance research, bolster advocacy and awareness, and provide essential therapies, the invaluable contribution of volunteers becomes paramount. Their assistance is indispensable in meeting the expanding demands of research, community support, fundraising, and advocacy endeavors.

What advice would you give to someone who has never volunteered before but is looking for an opportunity to get involved, connect with an organization, and make a tangible difference in the lives of others?

My advice would be to start by identifying causes or organizations that resonate with your values and interests. Research their mission, programs, and volunteer opportunities to find a good fit. Reach out to the organization directly to inquire about how you can get involved. Remember that every contribution, no matter how small, can make a significant difference in the lives of others. So don’t underestimate the impact of your efforts! Finally, approach volunteering with an open heart and a willingness to learn and grow, knowing that your contributions are truly making a difference in the world.

Next Steps and Useful Resources

Disclaimer: No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.