Some of Molly Walsh’s favorite childhood memories of time spent with her father include visits to a Chicago-area nursing home.
They’d deliver Sunday newspapers and visit with residents.
“At a very early age, I got exposed to volunteering and the benefits of it,” Walsh said. “That’s where it became ingrained in me: This is what you do.”
It stuck with her throughout her adult life, where she maintains a busy calendar volunteering with myriad local nonprofits and causes and serves on various boards and committees.
It’s difficult to start talking about her volunteer endeavors, she said. Each is as important as the next.
There’s the McHenry County Historical Society, of which she is a board member. She’s also been instrumental in organizing the McHenry County Human Race and People In Need Forum. She got the annual Care 4 Breast Cancer 5K Walk and Run up and running – literally. She’s a trustee at McHenry County College.
Walsh was nominated as an Everyday Hero by Rebecca Stiemke, executive director at the Volunteer Center of McHenry County. Walsh also is a board member for that organization.
“I’ve known Molly for about 11 years now, and I so respect her for what she does in the community,” Stiemke said. “It’s really wonderful to be able to call on her and know that she’s there in my corner.”
From its humble beginnings more than 10 years ago, Walsh helped organize the county’s annual breast cancer walk/run. Proceeds from the race benefit the Family Health Partnership Clinic, which provides breast cancer education, screening and early detection for the uninsured.
Organizing the race was born out of Walsh’s own experience with breast cancer. She’s an 18-year survivor.
Walsh said she was “lucky” to have caught her cancer early. Through it all, it became clear how crucial early detection is for survival, she said.
“I was 49 at the time. That was the farthest thing from my mind,” Walsh said. “The problem is you’re healthy and then there’s somebody telling you you have this disease that could kill you.”
The breast cancer race began in 2000 with about 100 participants. Walsh remembers putting together race bags in her living room. Today, there are more than 2,000 participants.
“I thought it could grow, but not to the point it is now,” she said. “Now it’s one of the biggest races we have in the county.”
Last spring, Walsh was elected to a six-year term on the McHenry County College Board. In fact, it was at MCC where Walsh spent much of her career. She worked in the Continuing Education Department and organized events at the college’s conference center. She retired in 2008.
“Having worked in the community college, I really saw what a value they are to the community,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of continuing to make that happen.”
Walsh jokes that with young children at home, she didn’t want the MCC job at first. She almost didn’t even apply. But then she decided, “Oh, what the heck.”
“It’s a great place to work, I loved it,” she said. “It was an ideal job because I was able to work with the community to utilize the resources of the college.”
Walsh started at the county historical society, interestingly, after taking a birthday visit. A tradition in the Walsh family is that on your birthday, you chose the day’s activity. Walsh wanted to visit to the museum, saying it was one of the first things she did after the family moved to the county in 1981.
Soon, she became involved with the society after working with former director Nancy Fike on a couple of projects.
“Talk about volunteering, my Lord, I think we have over 300 volunteers,” Walsh said of the historical society. “As the county grows, it becomes more and more important that we preserve our history and communicate what our history is.”