The Power of Sport

Turning Empathy Into Empowerment at the Invictus Games

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As the first medal of the 2017 Invictus Games was awarded, Magdalena Leonowicz, a Senior Associate in our Pharmaceutical Division was at the event in Toronto, volunteering her time to ensure the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge ran smoothly.

At Roche, we take great pride in having employees who drive our purpose and impact, both through their work and through individual volunteer activities within their local communities. We encourage our people to participate in things that hold meaning for them, and we’re constantly amazed at the interesting and exciting opportunities they put forward.

Magda truly brings our passion and commitment for making a difference to life. She is one of the 1,500 volunteers chosen from a pool of more than 6,000 applicants to help with this year’s Invictus Games, an international adaptive sport event that commemorates and honours injured, ill and wounded servicemen and women, and veterans. She was interested in volunteering at the Games because of her connection to family members who lived with disability.  Growing up, Magda was acutely aware of the challenges her grandmother’s sister faced as she was in a wheelchair and confined to a room because accessibility wasn’t commonplace.

“I want my daughter to see that a person with disabilities is able to overcome challenges and do great things,” she says. “I want her to be inspired by the men and women who have committed their lives to protecting our country and who have been injured in the line of duty as they continue to push beyond their physical limitations. It’s great that everyone has the opportunity to participate and excel in things like sports. I’m inspired by the spirit of these athletes, and fascinated by the technology they use. Today it’s not a question of if someone with a disability can do something, it’s how.”

The Invictus Games use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding of, and respect for, those who serve their country. This year, 550 competitors from 17 countries will participate in 12 adaptive sports including rugby, swimming and golf.

The Canadian team’s focus on the benefits for athletes who participate was of particular interest to Magda: “The Games give people purpose. Canada is one of the few countries that chooses athletes based on who will get the most from this experience, instead of focusing on performance in a sport. They look at how much the Games can benefit their recovery from a disability, whether physical or mental. Many of these athletes are new to the sport they’re competing in. It’s not about winning, it's about trying your best and overcoming challenges.”

During her orientation and volunteer training, Magda was introduced to Corporal Kelly Scanlan. Participating in the Invictus Games has helped Corporal Scanlan recover and rise to new challenges, and she says her training helped her recently land a position as a firefighter.

While Magda has dedicated personal time to volunteering at the Games, her efforts are in part supported through our corporate philanthropy program. Volunteerism is an important component of our program because it allows us to make an impact in our local communities through employees who are just as committed to giving back as we are. Through our Personal Volunteer Day initiative, each employee is encouraged to take paid time away from work to volunteer at a charitable organization that is meaningful to them. This time is offered over and above other activities, which include support for our corporate philanthropic partners, an employee-directed charitable donations program, and a variety of other company-sponsored volunteer opportunities.

Congratulations to all of the Invictus Games participants and to the thousands of people volunteering their time to express their gratitude for the sacrifice and perseverance of our military personnel.

September 23, 2017