by Sheila Reynolds
She was in her 20s when a manager at work asked her to get other staff involved in a charitable event. Little did Margot Gauley know it would mark the beginning of a lifelong enthusiasm that would add such depth to her already full life.
Close to 30 years later, and after the recent loss of two of her greatest heroes, she continues to help others, coordinating numerous charitable and community events. As a core committee member of SheTalks, she values the strength the group's supportive and inspirational events bring to women – and her now-found passion for health and fitness help her maintain her own physical and mental strength.
Sheila Reynolds: Tell me a little about yourself (eg. family, education and work).
Margot Gauley: I am a married mother of two awesome kids – a 22-year-old son who is currently studying to be an architect at BCIT and a 19-year-old girl daughter who is doing environmental studies. I was born in this beautiful province 52 years ago and feel privileged about that every single day.
My career started in my early 20s in the advertising industry at J. Walter Thompson Ad Agency. At the time I was also a BC Lions cheerleader and fitness instructor so my life was very busy and I loved every minute of it! During my time at J. Walter Thompson I started to take on more of an “event organizer” type of role, putting together our 24 Hour Relay team for Easter Seals Camps, organizing events for Big Brothers, as well as organizing events for the GM of the agency. After having my second child, I began working in radio promotions and helped develop the very first West Coast Women’s Show in 2001. I went on to create my own successful consumer/trade show, called the Here for Kids Expo & Pet Fair, which ran for four years. I also organized the West Coast Grad Expo & Career Fair, the Image ’07 Role Model Search and started the BC Junior Talent Search, which ran for 10 years (a singing contest for kids seven to 18). I’ve also organized the Mayors Golf Invitational in the City of Surrey for the last 11 years and charitable events such as the Race for Babies, in support of the Tiny Bundles Program at the Surrey Food Bank. For many of those years, I was working in advertising at the Surrey Now Newspaper (from 2006-2015).
SR: How did you initially get involved in volunteer and fundraising activities? Do you remember your first charitable act and how that felt?
MG: It feels awesome to give back! My love for charities and helping others really began after that first 24 Hour Relay in my 20s. It was a very emotional and physically draining event so it really felt like you were helping – and that started on my path for helping others. The events I organized over the years always had a charitable component and I'm proud to say that in the last 10 years or so, I’ve raised a little over $100,000 for causes such as the Surrey Firefighters Charitable Foundation, the Surrey Food Bank, the Surrey Christmas Bureau and Easter Seals Camps.
SR: Do you have a favourite charitable event or activity that you're connected with currently?
MG: Currently, I am assisting the Surrey Christmas Bureau to raise funds for local families. But I also love working with the Surrey Food Bank. Also, I assisted with “Brenden's Ride” this year, an event raising money for Easter Seals camps.
SR: Why is it important to be involved in the community?
MG: I think it’s vital to be involved in the community. Community creates a sense of belonging and togetherness and keeps you “in the know” about what’s happening around you.
SR: Why did you feel SheTalks was a good fit for you?
MG: I knew about SheTalks from its conception but because of my work commitments, couldn’t dedicate time to it at the beginning. But back in September 2015, I was able to work on and attend my first SheTalks event, SheTalks Fitness, which I also MC’d, and loved everything it represented.
As precisely that time, my personal life took a drastic turn. Both my mom and dad were very ill and I needed to spend time caring for them, so I left my newspaper sales job and looked after them pretty much full time. Through the health crises that both my mom and dad were going through and the many hospital and doctors visits, my eyes opened to my own health and fitness and I made a big change in my daily routine. I am currently a health and fitness coach and love everything about it!
Both my parents passed away this year just over three months apart – my dad on April 13 and my mom on July 24. I had no idea that my decision to take care of myself physically through proper nutrition and exercise would really help with how I reacted to, and was able to cope with, the stress of losing both my parents in the past year.
SR: What does the female voice/perspective add to the conversation and why is it important to provide a venue that it be shared?
MG: Females are half the population and play a vital role in every day life and decisions. We are typically the nurturers and the caregivers, the motivators and the cheerleaders. Women see a lot of things differently than men, which is simply human nature. Because women are the motivators and cheerleaders, it is very important that women hear the stories of other women and applaud them for speaking up. This gives the speaker the confidence that their voice matters and gives the audience a sense of relief that other women might be going through the same thing they are. SheTalks events build more confident and strong women, who continue to thrive and grow and will be the change-makers of tomorrow.
SR: Is the concept of women supporting women important? In this day and age, why does gender still matter?
MG: Well, what a timely question in the wake of what just happened in the U.S. election. I was very saddened by the outcome, not just because of my own personal opinions about Donald Trump, but more about the message it sent out to women and, more importantly, young women and girls. In this day and age, with SheTalks-types of events, the message is “you are awesome,” “you can do it," “we want to hear your story.” I believe the U.S. election was a step back – in fact, maybe a few steps back – in that messaging. I have a tendency to look at the world through the eyes of my 19-year-old daughter, who was very disheartened by the outcome of the election. But hey, maybe this will make women move forward even more. Sometimes, something good comes out of something bad. Maybe it’s a wake-up call…I hope so.
SR: What (or who) inspires you?
MG: My dad and mom inspire me. My dad was my hero who fought in World War II, worked until he was 96, was very independent and was the most loyal, trustworthy human being in the world. My mom was a crazy lady with a great sense of humour. Her objective in life was to make everyone laugh.
SR: What do you do for fun and to find balance?
MG: I am passionate about health and fitness at this time in my life. I love the great outdoors and enjoy walking or jogging as well as working on strengthening my body through half-hour workouts at home. It clears my mind and gives me so much energy and is definitely the way I find balance.
SR: What words of wisdom would you give today's young women?
MG: I would ask them to remove the word “can’t” from their vocabulary. Instead of saying they can’t do something, I would rather hear them say they “won’t” do something, and take ownership of their decisions. Saying the word can’t not only validates a weakness, but gives you an excuse to not try something that could lead you to an amazing opportunity.
I would also suggest staying involved and connected with like-minded females, organizations and associations, as together, we are stronger.