MEET ALAN THOO. He is like an Energizer battery. He lasts longer and he is always charged up to do what he does best – cheering people up. He warms up to strangers like it was second nature and probably by the 5th minute; he is already your best friend. Alan is a stroke survivor but the way he goes whizzing around in his daily life doesn’t provide any tell-tale signs of that fact. We caught up with this events management specialist and active Lions Club member to find out about he continues to ROAR loud in his day-to-day activities.
Tell us a bit about your family.
I’m the middle child of 3 boys. Both my parents were teachers. My wife and I have an 11-year- boy and 8-year-old girl.
Where did you grow up? What school did you go to?
I grew up in Teluk Intan. I was there until I was 10 when we moved to Ipoh. I spent my schooling life in SMK Anderson Ipoh.
What were your favourite past times in your school days?
I was in the school band. I played the marching bells! I was also an active member of LEO Club of Anderson! I was the treasurer for the club. During my time, I was awarded Top Treasurer in District 308 B2 in 1992-1993.
Who are your mentors and idols? Is there anyone you aspire to be?
My mentors were mainly the many Lions who guided and helped me grow into who I am today. Among them were Lions Dato Patrick Chew and the late Lion Andy Lim from Lions Club of Subang Jaya who were like father figures to me. They scolded me when I made mistakes, taught and guided me to be a better person.
You suffered a stroke about a year and a half ago. Tell us about your experience and what you have changed in your life since.
I used to have the life motto “Sleep is a bonus and not an option”. For 42 years I hung on to that motto but I obviously stopped when my haemorrhage stroke hit me on 18 July 2018 during a live national radio interview! I was lucky actually. I was seated at the radio control with my Lions member at the time it happened. Two hours before that I was doing a morning stroll at the park alone. Two days earlier I was in a 10KM run! It happened so fast! Immediately the right side of my body was totally ‘paralysed’ and I had trouble breathing normally. I had aphasia (inability to put thoughts into words). I was rushed to the hospital and spent 3 weeks of my dreadful life there! I even recorded a video for my son and wife in case I didn’t come back. I didn’t have the courage to view that until 7 months after. I released the video on my Facebook thereafter to tell the world to take care of your health and do things in moderation.
The first few days in the ICU I had the worst thoughts of my life. Ending it was one of them. Depression is no joke, especially when you try to lift up your hand and leg and find that you had totally forgotten how to do it! I gave up actually until the nurses wheeled me into the physiotherapy lab when I thought I was the worst case. But I was wrong. There were younger and older people there who couldn’t walk, talk, or do things with their hands legs etc! I told myself then that i needed to get better if not for myself at least for them.
What advise would you give to other stroke patients and the public in general?
No stroke patient is the same. The recovery path is not the same for everyone too! I am blessed with a lot of supportive friends, and most importantly very supportive family members. My wife and kids visited me in the hospital every day. My friends and some whom I’ve never met since college came as soon as they saw my photos and videos on FB. The support is important. The most important part is you must stay strong and positive. It wasn’t easy for me but I cried like a kid when I managed to move my fingers for the first time after 10 days! You have no idea the feeling of achievement that was.
And my advice to stroke survivors… don’t read google! I remember googling up statistics of stroke survivors and I freaked out in the middle of the night! The study says 40% of stroke patients die in the first year; 60% die within 5 years and the tendency of a relapse is 30%! That night I had such a meltdown I didn’t sleep! The next morning I attended a Leo event (the first after my stroke which I was so looking forward but…) half way through I broke down and went outside. I thought of dying and not being able to make it. I thought my life was done!
Then I had my closer Lions and Leos who were with me throughout. Instead of thinking 40% die, why not think 60% survived in the first year? Instead of focusing 60% die in 5 years why not focus on 40% who actually survived and went on with life? Instead of thinking 30% relapsed 70% actually didn’t! I guess being human, we always have the tendency to look at the negative aspects and not look at the positive side. We need the triggers to let us stop and restart! That’s where friends and family should come in and be that trigger!
Tell us more about your experience as a Leo Club member from school up to your college days.. What were your fondest memories as a Leo?
I remember at the age of 15, I was excited to be invited for a club service to an old folk’s home in Jelapang, Ipoh. Being well groomed at home, having almost everything I needed whenever I needed it… yes I guess I had a little #FirstWorldProblem syndrome. I was thinking of even playing the piano for the Uncle Aunty gung gung poh poh, chit chatting with them in a nice environment and so on. When I reached the home I was so upset. There wasn’t any air-conditioning, and the place was smelly, hot, and was absolutely not conducive for old folks to live in. How could anyone ever send their parents here? We spent our time there cleaning up the toilets, rooms, sat down and chatted with the old folks.
Well the home is better managed now…Ever since then (and till now), I go back to the home especially during Chinese New Year or other festive season to visit the home as that place was the beginning of my Lionism! I remember there was this uncle who told us that his son told him to pack a few shirts for a holiday in Genting Highlands but left him at a bus stop for the people at this home to pick up. I cried so many days after that… in fact my members and I turned that story into a short film and we won a Jury award at the Navi Mumbai International Film Awards in 2014!
What are the two experiences or values you gained as Leo that benefited you as an adult?
LEO stands for Leadership, Experience, Opportunity. We were given opportunities to experience leadership at the rawest form! From managing a project to leadership training to community services… Leos are trained to face the real world at the teenage years. It gives us a chance to make mistakes, learn and be better!
Today you have a reputation as a Lion who focuses on developing the school-going Leo Club members. Why the passion for developing Leos?
I was the District Chairperson for Leo Clubs (DC LEO) for Perak region from 2007-2009, and the DC LEO for District 308 B2 (Selangor to Perlis) from 2009-2011 and DC LEO for Selangor 2015-2018. My lions club sponsors 5 LEO Clubs and I’m the LEO Advisor for LEO Club of SMK Bandar Utama Damansara 3 and Sunway Metro.
I developed this idea from my mentor the late Lion Andy Lim. “A leader is someone who can train someone else as good as him, if not even better!” My passion is to develop more leaders who can get the job done like yourself if not faster or more efficiently. Only when we have a group of capable and passionate leaders, can we make this world a better place to live in.
How many Leo Clubs and Leo members are in your district? What do you expect to achieve with this group of youth?
I have approximately 90 clubs in the district with approximately 3500 members. We have new goals but the same directions every year which is to have youth do good in their lives and the lives of others and the environment via the many platforms offered by the Lions or the community.
Share with us a couple of instances when the Leo movement made a difference to a youth.
The most significant one is when you see the Leos you know start to change and be more involved maturely in the management of their club, the organising of events; the failure, the disappointments, and then the rising up to the challenge; the process of learning from mistakes and changeover; that’s rewarding to witness throughout my days as a LEO advisor or DC LEO. Do note that not all “survive” the process. It may take longer for some but the journey is priceless and will be a good embedment of positive learning foundation in the process of growing up.
Do you have a favourite Leo Club. Tell us why and what’s unique about this club?
We can’t play favourites when we are in a supervisory role. But clubs who aspire and passionately want to learn has my attention! Every year there are new passionate leaders mushrooming
You run an events management company. Tell us how you started off.
It’s funny. This has every LEO signature patched on it! My parents hadnever attended any of the LEO projects that I have ever been involved in. Well not until the day I hosted a charity concert that raised RM30,000 and my mum actually came. She later asked me and LEO buddy Simon Leong … “The concert is so good… why don’t you guys start a career doing this!”
At that time events management wasn’t a thing and I was still working in Australia (no kidding I was travelling back and forth) and Simon was in his final year in college. So we laughed off the idea and then an offer from the sponsor of the said concert called up. They proposed us to pitch for a talent based competition amidst those Idol fever and we submitted our pitch without knowing much about the industry and whoa-laaaa…! Fifteen years has passed since EP Marketing Malaysia started!
Today your company is renowned for carrying out events and publicity for shopping malls. We know shopping malls are facing challenges. What do you foresee in the near future for shopping malls?
What is critical for malls is to change in order to survive given the onslaught of online shopping. What do consumers want today from malls that are different from the wants of yesteryears? We have organised many events in at least 5 malls in and around Subang. The trend of shopping has evolved and it will get worse! Online shops are offering better deals and perks that actual shopping malls can’t! Shoppers don’t go to the malls these days to just shop anymore! We need to give shoppers money can’t buy experience!
That’s where we come in. We offer experience that online shops can never give. From thematic fairs to youth programs, talent based competitions to cultural activities … that’s … how we get the brand awareness in!
Lastly, we know you reside and work in Kota Kemuning. What do Kota Kemuning folks think of Subang Jaya folks? How would you relate the relationship of these two townships?
I’m in no position to represent the thoughts of KK folks. To me Subang Jaya is a much more matured township with everything you need right there. KK is getting there. I hope it will not be like Subang Jaya in the next 5 years as the jam will be the one that’s killing me!