Guest blogger Matt Mitchell is a Team Fox Mentor and avid marathoner. He is from Vancouver, Canada and currently resides in Helsinki, Finland studying for his Masters at the University of Helsinki.
This weekend Paula Toivanen, Team Fox’s first Finnish member, and the first Finnish Charity Miles user, will cross-country ski 50kms in an event aptly named the Finlandia Ski, to raise awareness for Parkinson’s research.
Individual philanthropy and fundraising are not a part of the cultural fabric in Finland as they are in the US or Canada. The government provides considerable support for causes and citizens in need and is relied upon as such. That being said, there are gaps, and opportunities, as there are within any system, and it is here that Paula enters the story as a pioneer, an activist leveraging her passion -skiing to make a difference.
Paula was on skis when she was 2 years old, her father, a skier, started her training early and he passed along his passion for this national sport and cherished tradition, both in competition and recreation. As Paula remembers, “some of the most memorable childhood experiences were skiing with my dad, it brought us together.”
Paula developed a strong passion for skiing and began competing when she was just 5 years old. When she was 9, she joined a team, racing on a national level. She chose to ski ‘classic’ style versus ‘skating’ simply because it was more difficult. Paula felt connected to Team Fox, “not only for their impressive work but also because I am able to contribute in my own way, by doing something I love; it just made everything come together."
Finland is the home of some of the world’s most innovative Parkinson’s research and now to one of our newest Team Fox members. Paula’s efforts are an example of our ever-growing, ever-inspiring community.