Three sisters raise awareness over youth homelessness after the oldest comes face-to-face with a teenage girl begging for change outside their neighbourhood grocery store.
A man toils away at a car dealership for 59 years while quietly serving as a shining example of service to his community.
Thousands of students and their teachers champion Catholic social justice by gathering money, food and clothing, while also donating their time, year after year, to help the poor and needy.
These are just a few of the beautiful and inspiring stories shared with a crowd of more than 350 at the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 23rd annual Ottawa Philanthropy Awards, held at the Shaw Centre on Tuesday.
The dinner hands out awards to individuals and businesses who generously give so much of their time, money or resources in order to make Ottawa a stronger community.
“Nobody has to make a donation, nobody has to volunteer, nobody has to stand up for the underprivileged, and yet we have the privilege of witnessing this every day,” Jennifer Van Noort pointed out during her passionate acceptance speech for 2017 Outstanding Fundraising Professional. She’s vice-president of philanthropy and leadership giving for The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, which she thanked.
“My cup runneth over. There are no words to express how grateful I am to all of you.”
As challenging as the job of professional fundraiser might seem — what with having to ask people for money all the time while competing with other multimillion-dollar campaigns — you’d never know it listening to Van Noort.
“I will tell anyone who will listen: I have the best job in the best city in the whole world, and I witness miracles every day because of all of you.”
The awards dinner included such special guests as Mayor Jim Watson and television personality Sarah Freemark. Returning as presenting sponsor was WCPD Foundation, represented by Peter Nicholson.
The evening also saw the official launch of OBJ’s collaborative Giving Guide, a new printed and online publication that’s intended to be a central resource in helping the business community better connect with local charity groups.
The crowd rose to its feet with applause after hearing how Outstanding Youth Award recipients Hannah, 16, Sophie, 14, and 12-year-old Cece Weider helped to create a unique fundraiser called SleepOUT for Youth for the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa. The sisters, who attend Glebe Collegiate, Ashbury College and Turnbull School, wanted to raise awareness over youth homelessness by sleeping outside City Hall for a night with their parents. The initiative started after Hannah had a chance encounter with a homeless girl in her neighbourhood. A subsequent family conversation turned into a call for action.
The grassroots movement that started in 2012 has created a ripple effect, growing into a mass overnight sleepout involving hundreds of youth and community members. It’s also raised more than half a million dollars.
“We stand here today as simply three of the hundreds of youth that made the sleepout such a success, and of the thousands of Ottawa youth who want to contribute positively to their community,” Hannah also told the room.
Then came the reality-check, from middle sister Sophie.
“Don’t get us wrong; working with teenagers isn’t easy,” she good-humouredly told the room. “They’re not organized at all, and every year we get at least five people asking to sign up the day of the sleepout or asking if we have an extra tent because they totally forgot.
“And, yes, it takes a bit of work to get them moving at the start but, once they get going, youth are a force.”
The sisters thanked their parents, Kate and Mike Weider, who’s the CEO at Clearwater Clinical, and made sure to invite everyone to join them at this year’s SleepOUT happening on Nov. 30 at TD Place stadium at Lansdowne.
“Though you might want to wear something a bit warmer,” Sophie suggested.
Cancer survivor Tom Spence received the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser award for raising more than $250,000 over the past 15 years for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation’s Do it for Dad. The room heard how he’s no stranger to commitment, having been a member of the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa for 40 years and an employee of Surgenor Pontiac Buick for 59 years. In accepting his award, Spence thanked his former employer, friends and family, particularly his wife, Terry Spence, whom he described as “my rock.”
The Ottawa Catholic School Board received the Outstanding Philanthropic Group award for having raised more than $3 million in goods and monetary donations over the past 10 years for the Shepherds of Good Hope. PBC Group, represented by president and CEO Paul Bouzanis and his wife, Celine Bouzanis, was awarded Outstanding Small Business Philanthropist for its support of the YMCA-YWCA National Capital Region.
Shoppers Drug Mart landed the Outstanding Corporate Philanthropist award for its work with the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health, particularly in the area of women’s health.
The evening wrapped up with the presentation of Outstanding Individual Philanthropist to Cuckoo Kochar from DCR/Phoenix Group. In 2013, he donated $1.2 million to Carleton University to encourage outstanding students from India to come to Carleton.
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