We have an innate desire to give. Research has shown we crave selflessness and the accompanying feeling of happiness. According to a recent study conducted by psychologists at the University of British Columbia, even toddlers (under the age of two) are happier when giving -- rather than receiving -- treats. As we grow, we retain this desire to act pro-socially.
But there's a difference between desire and action, and this is often the definitive gap that sets the people we truly admire apart from, well, the rest of us. Hopefully, we all have good-hearted people in our lives who nurture and sustain us. but the greatest people we know don't just care. They act. They change. They push. They rally. They inspire. And they don't wait for anyone to tell them what they can or can't do. They just do. And most of the time they don't ask for anything in return. No payment or personal recognition is necessary, just the knowledge that what they've done has made an impact.
We're about to change all that. Our Greatest Person feature will shine a weekly spotlight on these exemplary, everyday people, and highlight the ways they've helped to make Canada -- and sometimes the world -- a better place. To kick things off, we've started a list, but it's by no means exhaustive; we need your help to make sure the heroes you know don't go unsung.
Who would you nominate as the Greatest Person of the week? Check out some inspirational Canadians below, and then tell us who we should feature next. Send us an email at Canada@huffingtonpost.com, or reach us on Twitter.
An intellectual property lawyer and engineer by day, Gould's passion also lies in his talented performances of puppetry, ventriloquism and theatrical production. All the shows he has performed have been for hundreds of charity or non-profits that benefit children. While his main focus is making kids smile, he regularly performs magic shows for developmentally-disabled adults as well. As a man responsible for fostering contagious laughter, it's no wonder <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogkHYB1g4ng" target="_hplink"> he's a recent recipient of the Governor General Canadian Caring Award for 2012</a>.
Linda Chamberlain has been orphaned, homeless, a burlesque dancer, a fugitive, accused and acquitted for murder and has lived with mental illness. She is also the founder of <a href="http://www.thedreamteam.ca/" target="_hplink">The Dream Team</a>, a group that advocates for more supportive housing for people with mental health issues. After being diagnosed with cancer, she has taken clown classes and now performs as Pinky, a pink, homeless clown-cat, in an attempt to make others smile. Yes, all of this is being done by just one woman.
This woman is smart, savvy and progressive. A Mik'Maq lawyer whose family originates from the Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick, Palmater is devoted to the protection and empowerment of Aboriginal peoples and communities. Driven and knowledgeable, <a href="http://metromonctonnews.com/n-b-mikmaq-pam-palmater-vying-to-become-first-female-national-chief/" target="_hplink">she recently vied to become Canada's first female national chief of the Assembly of First Nations</a>. Palmater says <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/afn-runner-up-says-gender-a-factor-in-defeat-against-atleo/article4426278/" target="_hplink">her defeat to incumbent Shawn Atleo was due in part to her gender and sexism in First Nations communities</a>, which makes the fact that she ran all the more impressive. But don't think we've heard the last of Palmater - we're confident she'll continue to press ahead and remain an active democratic voice in First Nations leadership.
Vancouver counselor and author David Granirer performs and teaches stand-up comedy to people coping with mental illnesses as a way of building their confidence and to fight the public stigma, prejudice and discrimination that surrounds mental health. He created and leads <a href="http://www.standupformentalhealth.com/index.shtml" target="_hplink">Stand Up For Mental Health (SMH)</a>, where he helps people transform their problems into comedy; attendees then perform their acts at conferences, treatment centres and various mental health organizations. As someone diagnosed with depression himself, Granirer recognizes the importance behind the humour: "[This is] incredibly empowering and a great way of fighting public stigma," he says.
Campbell is a 21-year-old Ottawa native who was diagnosed with a degenerative hardening of the lungs -- ideopathic cystic fibrosis. She has become the unofficial face of organ donation after <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/24/helene-campbell-organ-donation_n_1543078.html" target="_hplink">recovering from a double-lung transplant and launching a seemingly tireless campaign to promote awareness</a> that was characterized by Campbell's trademark 'happy dance.' She has won the support of celebrities like Justin Bieber and Ellen DeGeneres, the latter of whom <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/25/helene-campbell-ellen_n_1545799.html" target="_hplink">promised to dance with Campbell post-surgery</a>. Since Campbell's chat with Ellen aired, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/24/helene-campbell-organ-donation_n_1543078.html" target="_hplink">there has been a significant increase in people signing up to be organ donors in countries as far away as Australia</a>. Campbell has since vowed to keep up her advocacy for organ donation, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
This University of Manitoba graduate student is walking across Canada (from Vancouver to Ottawa) with a copy of the Indian Act chained to him. His purpose? <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2012/07/01/mb-march4justice-winnipeg.html" target="_hplink">To call on the federal government to make changes to the act and to raise awareness about federal policy and legislation that relates to Canada's Aboriginal peoples</a>. Baskatawang's motivation for this four and a half month journey was when a January meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Assembly of First Nations failed to provide a blueprint for massive social and economic change for Aboriginals. HuffPost Canada's Impact Launch will mark Day 100 of <a href="http://www.facebook.com/March.4.Justice" target="_hplink">Baskatawang's March 4 Justice</a>.
Heather Jarvis And Sonya Barnett
When a Toronto Police officer suggested publicly that women avoid "dressing like sluts" to prevent rape, Heather Jarvis and Sonya Barnett kicked into action. They co-founded <a href="http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/" target="_hplink">SlutWalk</a>, a protest and march against victim-blaming and sex-shaming in society. SlutWalk held its first march in May 2011, and the movement went viral, with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/20/slutwalk-united-states-city_n_851725.html" target="_hplink">SlutWalks organized in the U.S</a>., <a href="http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2086142,00.html" target="_hplink">UK, Australia and India</a>. SlutWalk Toronto celebrated its first anniversary in May with its <a href="http://www.torontolife.com/daily/informer/the-new-normal/2012/05/28/gallery-slutwalk-2012/" target="_hplink">second annual walk</a>.
When teaching at an adult education centre, St. Colomban Quebec's Elaine McGee realized the hardships that accompany going back to school as a single parent.<a href="http://www.gg.ca/pdf/CCA_Profiles_McGee_E.pdf" target="_hplink"> In 2002, she created "Marchant à tes côtés" (Walking by Your Side), a foundation that helps young single mothers finish their studies</a>. McGee helps to assist these women financially and emotionally; the foundation provides a service where two people can "adopt" a student and her child until the mother has finished college. When she's not helping the women with their studies, she's busy acting as a counsellor to students at risk of dropping out of school.
Ryan Claude Walker
Hailing from Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Ryan Claude Walker can often be identified in a white beard and red and white suit. Each Christmas, he has dressed up as Santa Claus and distributed thousands of gifts to the children and adults in his community. When he's not ensuring everyone from Tuktoyaktuk has a merry merry christmas, he volunteers for a number of other activities.
When 25 year-old Toronto nutritionist <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/21/max-sidorov-karen-klein-school-bus-monitor-video_n_1616266.html" target="_hplink">Max Sidorov</a> saw the video of the brutal bullying that Karen Hull Klein, a 68-year old grandmother and bus monitor from New York state, endured at the hands of four middle-school students, he had to act. The York graduate <a href="http://www.indiegogo.com/loveforkarenhklein" target="_hplink">started a fund on IndieGoGo</a> hoping to give Klein a 'vacation of a lifetime.' And boy, did he ever. The 30-day campaign went viral and raised $703,833 in total -- $698,833 more than Sidorov's original $5,000 goal. What's next for the two, who recently met for the first time in June (see video above)? Klein has said she <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/27/bullied-ny-bus-monitor-re_0_n_1711777.html" target="_hplink">will retire from her job as bus monitor</a>, and other good samaritans <a href="http://www.indiegogo.com/love-for-max-too?c=home" target="_hplink"> started a fund for Sidorov to 'pay it forward</a>,' raising more than $7,000 in his name.
This Toronto-area father of three has harnessed his own dark memories of his absent father and is attempting to break the cycle. Tackling the unspoken topic of black fatherhood, Hay founded the <a href="http://www.blackdaddiesclub.com" target="_hplink">Black Daddies Club</a> in 2006 to provide other like-minded fathers with parenting resources and support. <a href="http://www.torontolife.com/daily/informer/from-print-edition-informer/2012/03/23/return-of-the-dads-black-daddies-club/" target="_hplink">By turning apathy into action, he is changing the face of fathers across the country</a>.