Since 1999 my work with the different Governor Generals of Canada has been nothing short of a honour. Each one in their own right touched me with their passions, openness, and mutual love of our country: the land that binds so many from so many places. With Romeo Leblanc and the first Aboriginal Day, Adrienne Clarkson and her celebration of the arts and cultural fabric of modern Canada, Michelle Jean and her tireless work for countries in need of a hand, to Governor General David Johnston and his open handshakes to marathon runners at the steps of Rideau Hall I learned more about Canada, its place in the world and my own understanding of what it means to live in Canada in 2019.

So to say I’m very excited to have “Trust: Twenty Ways to Build a Better Country” in my hands now may be a tab bit of an understatement. For four years I had the privilege to work with him and his staff professionally, to talk of Canada, children and running.  Through all my meetings and interactions with him none was more insightful then when I would see him greeting all the runners with a warm smile, handshake and proverbial “You can do it.”

Standing there waiting for the next runner he said you matter; each and every one of those that ran by.  For in his vision of Canada we all matter, the strong and weak. So as I get ready to read Trust, I do so with the knowledge that by number 20 my life and my vision of Canada will forever be influenced and that I will share that vision with others to keep building Canada’s future from some of its greatest citizens.

 

The iconic marketing and sales money by Canadian Tire touches just about everyone in Canada on a regular basis. Perhaps not as a frequent customer, but as one who has stashes throughout the car or house, or in the case of my mother, a stack clipped to the fridge; a constant reminder of the Canadian tire brand and potential cash discount.

As a child I loved when my parents would allow me to collect their 5 cent, 10 cent and when lucky, 50 cent bills. For those not from Canada, the bills are in denominations ranging from 5 cents and up, all paper. I was able to use those precious bills at my local store; after riding their on my trusty CCM.

My local Canadian Tire store is where my love for Jumpstart started. Canadian Tire was always local and invested in the community (as they are today). The day I saw the first sign was the day I was outfitting my son for his first season of hockey. There I was, a young parent, with a single income household and mortgage. I was calculating the cost of leaving the store with a fully outfitted hockey player. This was all new to me as I did not play hockey and to this day still consider the rink walls my most important piece of equipment.

Watching the sales clerk walk my son through the aisles, trying on the chin guards, gloves, pants and on and on my wallet started to hurt. What had first started out as a continuous calculation as the cart filled, soon turned into that question, “how can families afford this?”

Ours had no true understanding what expense we were getting into until that day but it was too late now as the next great one’s parents had already committed. It was at that point I saw the poster for Jumpstart at the end of the skate aisle; rather strategic I would say. A reminder to us that could afford our children’s foray into the expensive Canadian past-time, way more expensive than a Beavertail on a winter afternoon. A sign telling us how Canadian Tire cared about youth activities, youth health.  Issues that had already started to be part of the national discourse on child and youth obesity.

The sign had shocking stats about the need and the way they were assisting families meet the wishes of their children. It was a very overpowering moment. Not because they told me the need, was prevalent in the media. It was the fact they had a simple, community-based solution. A solution that looked at many activities (70 today) for children with diverse interests but with one dream, to be part of activities with classmates and other peers in their community.

Since that day I try to make sure my Canadian Tire money goes in the bucket. Having the blind faith that Jumpstart was doing exactly what they claimed. Having spent a career working for non-profits I had become conscious of the new charities and foundations constantly sprouting up when our country already had over 60,000 registered charities: way more today. Each with a board, executive director, fax machine… But I trusted the brand and continued to give and continued to see in the media all the incredible work the program was doing. Simply put, Jumpstart showed results for a critical need in the country.

Then I started working for a large well-established Canadian non-profit that was also entrenched in communities across the country and my appreciation grew for Jumpstart. As I moved from community to community in my role I learned about our partnerships with Jumpstart. The long standing and trusted relationships based on a common goal, helping disadvantaged families. Active living was not my organizations’ focus, our focus was on assisting families and individuals to overcome socio-economic obstacles in order to lead healthier more independent lives. The health and well-being of children and youth was a common goal. And I would add, a goal that looked at the recipients holistically. Jumpstart created an avenue for us to talk to families about other needs once they came under the umbrella of the two entities.

My appreciation of Jumpstart runs deep. In my opinion the beauty of the program is twofold:

  • Community based delivery based on local knowledge and brand trust; and,
  • Using sport and activities for children and youth as an opportunity to recognize and address broader issues through program linkages that provide whole solutions while helping children be active and have FUN.

I hope you will join me in placing all of your Canadian Tire money in the buckets when you next go to their stores. Or, if you have children, teach them how a few cents can make a difference in the lives of children in their own community and school.

More about Jumpstart can be found on their website below:

Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart: Over 1.6 Million Kids Supported

 

 

 

Eight  years ago I sat in the National Art Centre in Ottawa with my daughter to enjoy a night of comedy at the Cracking Up the Capital finale. Expecting a night of laughs and joys I gained so much more from the comedians. I learned that comedy was a wonderful way to break the silence about issues: mental health, race, gender, politics… and yes, father daughter relationships. See my daughter was in those complicated tween years and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

As we sat and were entertained by one then another comedian we went from high stress at the mention of teenage sexuality to a total ease as the comedians broke the silence and the tension. They reminded my daughter and I that no issue was too big nor too unimportant for us to discuss openly; pushing it aside had too great a risk for both of us.

The next year I started my long tenure as what we like to call a volunteer beaver. While I was not able to dedicate my time every year I have done what I can whether that was carry equipment and signage, review fundraising proposals, or as with this past year fill the role of Director of Communications. Wherever I could be of the most assistance is where I was.

This year was so special for the festival. Through a sequence of past and present events a partnership has been established and flourished in less than 12 months. The festival sprouted wings and flown to Iqaluit, Nunavut.  First for one component of the annual festival in March, and now heading to its own Nunavut wide comedy festival. A festival founded on the same idea, use comedy to talk about mental health and addiction and the proceeds to help organizations on the front line of service delivery.

How did this happen. Listen up, you may be the next influencer.

CBC was a past sponsor of the festival. A member of the CBC team moved to First Air, and with him blossomed an idea. He loved the festival and cause and in his new position was looking for a cause that First Air could support and bring to Nunavut where of course they made a lot of money but also had a lot of influence as they are the main transporter of people and things.

The idea was launched to support Cracking Up the Capital, but even more, take the festival to Iqaluit. One night, one competition and the winner would be flown down to participate in the finale in Ottawa: a huge opportunity for Nunavut comedians. The night was a huge success. The community bought up the tickets, every spot in the competition filled and the fabulous Mary Walsh egging on comedian and attendee alike.

As I watched the show unfold and felt the energy in the room all I could think of was wow, this all started with the passion of a man, a single man that changed jobs.  Of course there was a lot of back and forth between the heads of Cracking up the Capital and First Air, but a partnership was launched and matured in such a short period of time.

These two entities have very different mandates but they share a common interest. The common interest is all it took to endure all the logistical challenges and distance divide. First Air is not just the voice of Nunavut now, they are the face of comedy, comedy with a message, Mental Health matters.

What brought me to write on this topic is that from that humble beginning a year ago has led to the first ever First Air Arctic Comedy Festival, with all its proceeds in support of the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line . This initiative was able to leap from the Capital festivals decade of experience and now will have a very direct impact on mental health for all in the Arctic. That was made possible by trust, risk, passion, technology, money, shared resources, comedians across this country…. But most of all, one man that changed jobs and carried the torche.

Join me in congratulating all my old friends and colleagues at Cracking Up the Capital on this huge success. While I have moved away, I will never forget all the festival has done for me, my daughter and mental health in Canada. Today, I know there is no issue too big for me to talk to my daughter (or son) about, and if I struggle to find the words a comedian a few clicks of a mouse away can assist.

Take a read about this wonderful event coming up in October.

Crackup Comedy brings festival to Iqaluit