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Posted by on Dec 1, 2010 in Inspirational Women, The Women Behind The Men, Winter 2011 | 0 comments

Heading up a cross country campaign

Trials & Tribulations: Beating the odds…

By Suzanne Couchman, Trade Secrets

By Suzanne Couchman, Trade Secrets

As women, it is in our nature to help the people we love. At times it seems overwhelming or more than we can handle, but we do what we have to do in order to see our loved ones succeed in life.

When I met my life partner Robert Bertolas, it only felt natural for me to want to help him achieve his goals. Robert has been living with Multiple Sclerosis for 24 years and is very ambitious, he also had a strong desire to help others suffering from the disease, especially those who were not as fortunate as him. Robert felt he needed to encourage and inspire others living with MS, and I jumped at the chance to help him be able to do that on a bigger scale.

In 2007, I dove in head first with high expectations as I headed up the campaign for the Victory Tour for MS. The ‘goal’ was for Robert to run and cycle across Canada from Victoria to St. John’s Newfoundland – a distance of 9,653 km – over a ten-month period to raise awareness for MS.

My job as the campaign manager was to utilize the media, police, Canadian Government, local businesses and the general public to help us along the way. Because I was actually living on the road for the ten months during the tour, my parents, brother, David and my friend Shawna, helped me with phone calls when I had no cell phone signal and looked up information and contact numbers for me when I had no internet.

Suzanne Couchman and her partner Robert

Suzanne Couchman and her partner, Robert Bertolas, with a display of Suzanne’s artwork at Cambridge Festival.

My job as the campaign manager was unrealistic for one person to handle. However with determination and passion I got the job done. I was supposed to let all of Canada know about the tour, so I did the best I could and arranged media coverage with every major TV network from BC to Newfoundland. I also arranged radio interviews and there were close to 100 newspaper articles about the tour. Forty-five times I arranged for government dignitaries to meet Robert at city hall, as the police escorted him in. Other events were planned at schools and local grocery stores to raise awareness. Along with all that, I took thousands of pictures and video clips, and cycled beside Robert each time he ran to city hall, or when he ran a marathon.

I encouraged and supported Robert daily and never lost site of the final goal, St John’s, Newfoundland. Our tour was very high profile, and with the help of the media our coverage was worldwide. People honked their car horns in recognition as they passed Robert cycling or running every single day.

Did I have any experience to organize a campaign of this size by myself? No, but the way I see it, everyone gets up in the morning and puts their pants on one leg at a time. This is what I told myself before I made any phone calls to arrange an event for Robert. It didn’t matter who I was calling or what I was arranging, I bypassed anyone who was not able to give me the final yes or no to my request. I always spoke with clear intention and I made sure the person on the other end of the phone was as excited as I was by the end of the conversation.

Was I concerned I wouldn’t be qualified to do the job? Never. I knew the tour would be completed the second Robert said to me, “Wouldn’t it be great to run and cycle across Canada? I knew I could only control how hard I worked and what I did and not how people reacted to it, or how they supported us. I did things logically, one step at a time.

If you are trying to organize a campaign for someone, it is very important you believe 100% in the person and what they want to achieve. Be prepared and know your own information inside out before calling for help and then you will be taken seriously.

If you speak like you’ve done it a million times before, directly, with a clear tone, you will get the response you want. Never be afraid to ask questions. It’s amazing how many people come to your aid if you are unsure of what you are doing.

My desire to help Robert succeed in reaching his goal of crossing Canada far out weighed my fear of rejection or failure in the things I was trying to help him accomplish.

It’s not hard to support someone who also supports your own endeavours.

Robert fully supports me in my job, managing Trade Secrets at the Cambridge Centre Mall. He also supports my art functions when I display and sell my paintings and he’s the biggest fan of my singing and recorded works.

I took care of Robert and his campaign on the road, and in return he took care of me too. Every night, regardless of how tired he was, he cooked supper for us, always with a smile on his face.

The tour was a success because I felt appreciated and we were there for each other.

Would I do it again? Absolutely!

Page 12, Winter 2010

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