Everyone has a story to tell
Vicky Tsorlinis puts her heart into everything she does. Whether it’s getting up at dawn to ferry her daughter to rowing, or making the hour’s commute to work, or buying groceries, Tsorlinis does it lovingly. But one of the things she is most passionate about is her volunteer work. Tsorlinis regularly opens her heart to fundraising for charitable causes and when she does, people open their wallets. As a result, over the years she has succeeded in raising thousands of dollars for organizations both large and small.
Tsorlinis, 48, began developing her fundraising skills during university when she taught group exercise classes through the city’s Parks and Recreation department. She did that for 25 years and many of those classes were combined with charity events.
“We did aerobathon fundraisers at Glen Ames, and I led classes of about 150 people,” she said. “Each year we raised more and more money and the contacts started getting larger and larger.”
Today, in her capacity as office manager in a busy downtown dental practice, a position she has held for over 20 years, a main component of her job is meeting, greeting and putting patients at ease. Consequently she has been able to add to her contact list merely by being the engaging person she is.
“I started developing a rapport with clients,” she said. “Dentistry in our office takes care of itself. So the conversations revolve around social things like your family, what do you do on the weekend, stuff like that. So I would say, ‘Oh I’m doing a breast cancer fundraiser at the Eaton Centre, a three-hour spinathon’ and they would say, ‘Can I make a donation?’ And others in the waiting room would hear the conversation and say ‘Oh can you include me?’”
Tsorlinis’ contact list has grown to over 400 and with each fundraiser she takes on, she sends each person a handwritten letter. And every one is heartfelt.
“Because they know me, they trust me,” she said. “They know I’m going to research the organization that I’m fundraising for. There are many times I have just wanted to let it go because it’s a lot of work, but I can’t because people are waiting for my letter to see who I’m going to donate to this year.”
For the last two years, her charity of choice has been Perram House, a palliative care hospice. So far she has raised $14,000 of her $15,000 goal. She also volunteers there once a week. Next year she plans to support Emily’s House, a palliative care hospice for children under the age of 19, and the only facility in the province for children in the final stages of life. Again, her fundraising goal is $15,000.
In 2010 she raised $15,000 for Becel Ride for Heart and, in 2009, $21,000 for Bayside Rowing Club. In 2008, she raised $23,000 for the inaugural Ride to Conquer Cancer to Niagara Falls. She rode in memory of a friend who had died, and whose wife she met for the first time while training for the event. It was a serendipitous moment for Tsorlinis.
“We spent an hour and 30 minutes talking on that day,” she said. “By the time it was over both of us were in tears, and I said to her I will dedicate my ride to the memory of your husband.”
When she isn’t writing letters, she is knitting scarves which she sells at craft fairs and bazaars.
“It’s therapy for me,” she said. “It’s something that I don’t have to concentrate on, I don’t have to be accountable. I can pick it up, put it down. I see something I’m creating, something unique, and people appreciate it.”
Another aspect to her creative fundraising skills is her knack for putting together gift baskets for various events. As Treasurer and Fundraising Co-ordinator of the Malvern Collegiate Home and School Council, she designs and assembles the popular themed baskets for the school’s major fundraising events such as the Boardwalk Ball.
Even though Tsorlinis has a busy home life with her husband and teenaged son and daughter – she also checks in on her parents every day and helps out her visually-impaired tenant – she has no plans to slow down. She is already sourcing out products and services to include in upcoming baskets. And she is always knitting.
“It comes from a drive, a drive I can’t really identify except at the end of the day I know it’s the right thing that I’m doing,” she said. “It’s so simple to change a person’s life in a moment.”