The saying of ‘work hard, play hard’ has long pushed the notion that if you work hard, you get to play hard. But in Catherine Vu’s case, she works hard so she can spend as much time as possible giving back to her community and the organizations that lay close to her heart. It’s rare to find such a driven, passionate person that inspires others to laugh and smile when she does.
Every word that comes out of Catherine’s mouth is laden with this intensity that drives the listener to want to dig deeper into what makes this woman’s soul so beautiful. It’s hard to know at first if it’s just a great attitude and beautiful façade, but as you spent more time getting to know Catherine, you spend more time realizing what drives her to be such a Game Changer in our community.
“I used to volunteer for a lot of organizations, and I’d do it like, a little bit here or there, whenever they’d need me, I’d come and do it. And over the past year and a half I’ve kind of narrowed down to my favorite charities that I do, so I do a lot of volunteering with my time. But then I also fundraise throughout the year for the different causes like the Easter Seals, the Down Syndrome Society, you know, just a variety of causes.” A variety of causes includes Junior Achievement, Suit Yourself, WeBA, The Canadian Cancer Society and the Winnifred Stewart Foundation (to name a few).
A little bit here or there soon became not enough for Catherine, who is an entrepreneur and business owner. A little bit became a lot, and even though she would likely shy away from sharing the fact, Catherine has been recognized in a number of ways for the amazing contributions she’s made, the proof is out there. Avenue Magazine named Catherine a Top 40 under 40 in 2010, and described her as a “four-foot-ten-inch perpetual motion machine”. And it’s true. In our interview with Catherine, she revealed that there’s always more time and room in one’s life to help, so long as you’re dedicated to the cause.
“I feel emotional all the time, but I’m not an emotional person. It takes a while to get to me. But three years ago was my last time participating in the Easter Seals Rappell, and they knew that, so they gave me an award and said because of my involvement, I’ve brought in over $45,000 in fundraising for them…. And you know, you forget, because you’re always pushing pushing pushing, and you don’t take time to kind of reflect on what you’ve done. And to have that award… you just sit down and think, holy smokes, I did do that. So I try to do that more often, …just enjoy the moment because it comes and it goes.”
Catherine is a powerhouse, both in personality and impact, which is shown in the key roles she takes in community organizations, which includes being Director of Communications West with WeBA (or West Edmonton Business Association) and being on the Board of Directors “of the Winnifred Stewart Foundation, which is a charity that supports people with disabilities so that they can have homes, good homes. That has changed me, because, I know my brother might need that in the future. That’s kind of how I got involved with volunteering, because my brother was born in 1991 with Down Syndrome and we didn’t know anything about it, (sic), so I figured out along the way that the best way to learn and get inside a community is to participate in those charities or organizations that support people with disabilities. So that’s how I got started with everything… and it just kinda snowballed.”
Catherine’s dedication to our community is amazing, and she will actively pursue opportunities to support Edmonton in favor of other charities that support other locations. I can kind of group people together really easily and make a bigger impact. I think the first time I got to do that in a huge way was the Easter Seals rappelling down the side of the Sutton Place building. You know, I heard about it from down in Calgary but I was like, ‘Oh I want to do it in Edmonton’ because even I don’t want to raise money for Calgary! I want to raise money in our city… So I thought, oh I’ll put a team together. And we put a team together… and we raised $25,000 for them. And they never had, like, big teams that promoted them.”
Edmonton is a city that some people love to hate, but Catherine believes in the beauty that is our awesome community, recently posting online, “I LOVE Edmonton. Weather and all! We are a great city with great people.” And truthfully, Catherine is one of those great people. “I love Edmonton, I came here in 1981. I travel around to different places, but I just love Edmonton. I’m of the philosophy that I want to help people, that’s my nature, and I want to help in my community first, that’s my priority. Because you can always donate to Africa or you know, so many places in the world, but there’s lots of needs in our own city, and I would rather see the result of my work. I feel that my greatest impact in the community that I have is the enthusiasm I have for all of the causes that I take on. I care about all of these things and I’m pumped to do the work, and then it’s kind of contagious.”
You can find Catherine online at @IT_Catherine on Twitter or on her website, http://proactiveit.ca