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By Mark Pavilons
“Anywhere I see suffering, that is where I want to be, doing what I can.”
Joan Kelley Walker leads by example.
Juggling a hectic schedule and wearing many hats, Walker is a strong woman, loving wife and mother. Underneath her calm, cool exterior is unbridled passion for what matters most – helping others and remaining true to herself.
Joan's celebrity status has snowballed since she appeared on the inaugural season of The Real Housewives of Toronto this past spring.
Her legions of fans spread across the globe like wildfire, and followers have reached out to her from as far away as New Zealand, Denmark and Indonesia.
“People still want to talk about it (the show),” she said.
Joan is happy to hear from fans and tries to respond as often as she can. She found the experience amazing and she appreciates the outpouring of support.
The reality show was invasive but respectful and the crew was very professional.
Throughout the show, Joan remained genuine and level headed.
She's thrilled with the “entirely positive experience” that helped raise the bar for reality TV. She's happy that she helped contribute to the show's quality and remained true to herself throughout.
This elevated status has opened some very interesting doors, and bolstered her philanthropic efforts.
While it may sound like a cliche, she follows a simple rule – be a good person and do your best with the purest of intentions.
“With privilege comes great responsibility,” she said, quoting Princess Diana. For Joan, her voice gives her a platform to help others.
“I feel it's something I can do,” she said.
Her focus is not fame or fortune but do good and enjoy what she's doing.
Her commitment to her fellow men and women came from her humble upbringing and solid values instilled by her parents. Growing up in small-town Saskatchewan, everyone looked after each other.
“That's philanthropy at the grass roots level,” she observed.
Joan's penchant for giving back led her to World Vision Canada. Both Joan and her husband Don Walker, CEO of Magna International, looked into various charities, and found World Vision has a solid track record. Admittedly, Joan leads with her heart and her instinct, just like Diana, who never followed any rule book. Don conducts the thorough strategic analysis and the duo complement one another perfectly. This synergy extends to all of their endeavours.
Joan was approached by Mercy Ships to be their spokesperson and she's now taking up the role.
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to transform lives and provide surgery related programs that bring hope and healing to those who have limited access to health care. Mercy Ships is the world's leading non-governmental, ship-based medical organization and since its beginnings in 1978, has impacted the lives of more than 17 million people.
The Walkers have been strong supporters of Magna's annual Hoedown, which raises money for 20 York Region community groups, charities and non-profits. The 2017 event raised more than $500,000.
Joan didn't have just one mentor through her career. She believes that you meet many people along the way and some may influence you if you're open to it and willing to accept them. She does draw a great deal of inspiration from Princess Diana and her work around the world. Joan also credits Ron Moore, of the Red Carpet Diary, for giving her some early career opportunities which set the stage for more to come. Red Carpet Diary is an entertainment news program covering red carpet events at the Toronto International Film Festival.
From announcing at many major trade shows in Canada and the U.S., Joan made the transition to voice-over work, hosting and stints with radio stations such as The Fan and EZ Rock.
Joan enjoyed her own self-made success and didn't marry until she was in her 30s. Her solid relationship with Walker has taken her life, and her pursuits, to an entirely different level.
The opportunities and financial resources give her that larger voice to help others.
Joan challenges all other celebrities and successful entrepreneurs to think about donating to worthwhile causes. There are many creative ways of giving back.
Joan walks the walk in this regard. She's on the verge of launching her own lifestyle brand of clothing, accessories, etc. She will donate all profits from these sales.
“I'm not messing around here,” she said proudly.
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”
Joan stresses that everyone has a role to play when it comes to generosity.
“No one goes broke donating and being kind,” she observed. She pointed out that giving isn't just writing a cheque, but giving time and energy.
“We have to think outside the box and do something,” she said. “That's philanthropy. Make an effort at whatever level you can. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”
Joan admitted she's quite blessed and never forgets it. She's deeply committed to her two sons and wants to simply enjoying being a mom before they head off to university.
Despite the wealth that surrounds her, she wants her kids to develop a respect for others and follow in her footsteps. To that end, she brought them along with her to a World Vision mission to Cambodia.
Joan's efforts are currently focused on the “Starting Strong” Program in Cambodia, spearheaded by herself and her husband. This program concentrates on the health of mothers during pregnancy and newborn health and nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life. As a mother and step-mom, Joan strongly believes that every child deserves a fair chance.
There's nothing like being on the ground, working in areas like Cambodia or Rwanda, which is still recovering from years of genocide. Joan becomes teary eyed when recalling a few incidents in Rwanda and trying to fathom the injustice of it all.
She's also a fashionista, and expresses herself through the clothing she wears. She admits that she has a few pieces from her mother from the 1970s that she integrates in some of her outfits.
The fresh air of King Township, their dogs and beehives provide comfort from the hustle and bustle of the Walkers' busy lifestyles. When time permits, they try to cross off destinations around the globe – some of National Geographic's top places to visit.
Family activities – enjoying their Muskoka retreat, Florida vacation and skiing in winter – become precious moments for the Walker clan. Joan revels in each and every one of them.
Wherever the need takes her, Joan Kelley Walker will continue to wear her heart on her sleeve.
For more, visit her website at www.joankelleywalker.com
Excerpt: Joan Kelley Walker leads by example. Juggling a hectic schedule and wearing many hats, Walker is a strong woman, loving wife and mother. Underneath her calm, cool exterior is unbridled passion for what matters most – helping others and remaining true to herself.
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