Marilyn Will: tried and true
Marilyn Will is a Wellspring Calgary gem. She has earned this status humbly and earnestly with her long-standing commitment to Wellspring that began in 2006 when she was among the first volunteers trained to offer support at the Parkdale location.
Marilyn has what some might call fortitude, along with a 360-degree perspective of Wellspring, sampling the organization from all angles. She has been a volunteer in many roles, a caregiver member, a cancer patient, and she has been on various Wellspring Calgary committees, including a panel that was set up to undertake Wellspring System Performance Reviews.
“I first learned about Wellspring during my career teaching medical surgical nursing at MRU. Back then, Wellspring was only in Ontario, but I really believed in the concept and what it was offering,” she said. “When I retired and learned that a Wellspring was coming to Calgary, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”
And she has been a part of it … for fourteen years and counting. Marilyn’s commitment is tried and true.
“Wellspring is a wonderful place to volunteer – which is why I’ve stayed for so long,” she said, noting she has spent most of her time working the front desk. “For some, coming through the doors might be the first time they’ve reached out for support, so there can be a lot of angst. I always try my best to welcome them and help them come to a place of calmness.”
After over a decade of honing this skill, Marilyn found herself on the other side of the support model, as her husband developed bowel cancer, and Marilyn came to enjoy a weekly Wellspring program for caregiver support. Sadly, she lost her husband within a year of diagnosis.
Then in 2020, once again performing her role as front desk volunteer, with the added skill of offering peer support to caregivers, Marilyn herself faced a cancer diagnosed … endometrial cancer.
“Of course I wondered, why me? But then I thought, why not me, and I focused on being thankful for early detection and treatment,” she said, adding that in the latter part of her career, she pursued studies and work in oncology.
“One of my friends who was attending an appointment with me at the cancer centre asked me how I was feeling, and I told her I was feeling like a statistic – one of the one in two who will be diagnosed in their lifetime.”
But Marilyn knew where to turn for support. “Now I was on the receiving end, taking programs and really aware of how effective they are; how they can help you find your center,” she said.
Marilyn took a variety of programs including Living Well, Healing Journey, yoga, photography, gardening, bird strolls, music, and a number of speaker events.
“I really loved Trudy’s calm caring approach in Living Well – she has so much wisdom to share,” she said. “And I liked Bird Strolls so much that after I took the program myself, I signed up to help with it. It’s hard to beat walking and learning in nature.”
Now, feeling like herself again, and believing she is beyond cancer, Marilyn is getting ready to shift back into her role as a volunteer.
‘I’ve learned to realize my limitations, take one day at a time, and just do the best I can,” she said.
Her Wellspring family would say … her best is exceptional.
ART WITH HEART
In 2014, when Marilyn’s mother, Mary Mjolsness was downsizing and moving to a supported living facility, she reflected on her daughter’s steadfast volunteer commitment to Wellspring Calgary, and was inspired to donate $57,050 – the proceeds from the sale of their lifetime collection of Western paintings and bronzes. “My parents had a wonderful art collection,” said Marilyn. “Our family members all have some pieces from the collection, but when it came time for mom to downsize, she was happy to donate proceeds to Wellspring Calgary, knowing her love of art would support a great organization,” said Marilyn. “I hope other families will see their own opportunity to do something similar when it comes time to downsize.” Marilyn’s mother has since passed, but the Mjolsness’ generous gift is not forgotten.