OSEG Foundation scores big with Redblacks Women's Training Camp

Football players help women learn skills, better understand the game during sold-out fundraiser at TD Place

Anybody and everybody involved in the first major fundraiser for the new OSEG Foundation deserves a round of high fives and fist bumps for pulling off a tremendously successful event.

The $125-a-ticket Redblacks Women's Training Camp at TD Place Stadium sold out lickety-split and raised more than $100,000 toward sports programming that will help keep girls active and healthy. By the age of 14, they tend to drop out of sports at twice the rate as boys, according to the Women's Sports Foundation.

OSEG Foundation
Participants of the Redblacks Women's Training Camp, held at TD Place at Lansdowne, took part in a series of drills and exercises as part of a fundraiser for Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group's new charitable foundation. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The OSEG Foundation was launched last year by the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group to give more children and youth the opportunity to play, learn and develop through sports. OSEG owns the Ottawa Redblacks football team, the Ottawa 67's hockey team and the Ottawa Fury soccer club. It also operates the stadium and the commercial district of Lansdowne, which is a booming destination for nightlife and entertainment in Ottawa.

More than 360 women of all ages and athletic abilities donned running shoes and workout clothes as they gathered together on the football field, scoring perfect weather conditions. There, they were led through a series of warm ups by a fit and toned Maria Bassi.

OSEG Foundation
Redblacks mascot Big Joe Mufferaw joins Maria Bassi on stage as she leads the crowd through a warm up at the Redblacks Women's Training Camp, held at TD Place Stadium at Lansdowne, on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in support of the OSEG Foundation and its efforts to keep more girls healthy and active. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Bassi was part of the event’s 24-member female leadership team and is also a founding donor of the OSEG Foundation. She's married to well-known Ottawa builder John Bassi.

On hand were head coach Rick Campbell, the OSEG Foundation’s executive director, Janice Barresi, and honourary president Henry Burris.

The Redblacks players made their grand entrance by running onto the field, and slapping the outstretched hands of nearby fans. 

OSEG Foundation
Redblacks running back William Powell is enthusiastically greeted as he runs onto the field for the Women's Training Camp held at TD Place Stadium on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in support of the OSEG Foundation and its effort to keep more girls active and healthy through increased sports programming. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The athletes spent the next few hours instructing the women on such skills as how to throw and catch a football, tackle players and kick a field goal. Observed were versions of the wobbly-leg, ball-spiking football dance – normally reserved for such special occasions as a touchdown – but also appropriate that day to celebrate the women's smaller victories, like the catching of a pass. The signature fundraiser for the OSEG Foundation was presented by St. Laurent Shopping Centre.

“I think it’s amazing to look out at the field and see so many women,” said leadership committee member Krista Kealey, vice-president of communications and public affairs at the Ottawa International Airport Authority. “Just listening to the hooting and hollering, you know everybody is having so much fun.”

OSEG Foundation
Participants of the Redblacks Women's Training Camp, held at TD Place at Lansdowne, took part in a series of drills and exercises as part of a fundraiser for Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group's new charitable foundation. Photo by Caroline Phillips
OSEG Foundation
Carrie Irvine, marketing director of St. Laurent Shopping Centre, with Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris at the Redblacks Women's Training Camp fundraiser for the OSEG Foundation, held Tuesday, June 12, 2018, at TD Place Stadium. Photo by Caroline Phillips
OSEG Foundation
From left, leadership committee member Mary-Ellen McIntosh with Janice Barresi, executive director of the OSEG Foundation, and leadership committee member Marg Clunie at the Redblacks Women's Training Camp held in support of OSEG's new charitable foundation. Photo by Caroline Phillips
OSEG Foundation
From left, Krista Kealey with Melissa Shabinsky, a partner with sponsor RAW Pulp + Grind, at the Redblacks Women's Training Camp held Tuesday, June 12, 2018, at TD Place in support of the OSEG Foundation and its effort to keep more girls active and healthy. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The Redblacks players also toured the groups around the locker and weight rooms and went over some televised plays, in a classroom setting. Afterward, there was a post-drill reception, with auction items and take-home swag bags full of gifts, in the exclusive Otto’s Club.  

“It’s awesome to meet such empowered women and to be able to teach them some football,” Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris told OBJ.social, after giving a lesson on how to throw the perfect spiral. “It’s amazing how well they’re picking it up.”

When asked whether any of the women had draft potential, Harris politely replied: “We’ll have to talk to Coach Campbell about that. That’s outside of my power.”

Among the football fans to take part was leadership committee member Lynda Bordeleau, a law partner at sponsor Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP. She grew up in Ottawa going to football games with her dad. She's also a Redblacks season ticket holder with her husband, Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau.

“It’s our ‘happy place,'” said Bordeleau of their game nights together.

She brought together two groups, totalling 20 women. Most of participants knew very little about football prior to the training camp but ended up taking a shine to the sport, she said.

“I think they’ll be coming to games,” Bordeleau predicted.

As for the drills, said the marathon runner, "They're a workout. I'm feeling it."

OSEG Foundation
Lynda Bordeleau with her daughter, University of Ottawa law student Marie Bordeleau, at the Redblacks Women's Training Camp held at TD Place Stadium on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.  Photo by Caroline Phillips

Leadership committee member Chantal Biro-Schad also knows a thing or two about football. Her husband and business partner, Andre Schad, was formerly drafted by the Montreal Alouettes (but got injured), while his brother Mike played in the NFL, and their 13-year-old son, Wolfgang Schad, is a quarterback for the OPFL Cumberland Panthers.

She, too, recruited two teams of women, consisting of customers, friends and football moms. It was an easy ask.

“Everybody – unless they couldn’t come because of a prior engagement – said ‘Yes,'” she noted.

OSEG Foundation
From left, Chantal Biro-Schad, co-owner of Schad Boutique, which was one of the sponsors, with Maria Bassi at the Redblacks Women's Training Camp, which raised funds through the OSEG Foundation to keep more girls active and healthy through sports programming. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The Schads owns the eponymous high-end clothing boutique on Sussex Drive. They also run the seasonal outdoor patio and bar hotspots, Tavern on the Hill, located in Major’s Hill Park, and the new Tavern by the Falls, located along the Ottawa River, at 50 Sussex.

Biro-Schad has watched her share of football and tossed many balls around with her son, but never had she participated before in football drills and exercises. They were harder than she'd expected.

“The players make it look so easy,” said Biro-Schad, who was just grateful she didn’t have to deal with being tackled, on top of everything else.

OSEG Foundation
Henry Burris, honourary president of the OSEG Foundation and former quarterback for the Ottawa Redblacks, with Jasmin Rose Ibrahim, a host with GustoTV’s One World Kitchen, and her mother, community volunteer Lucy Ibrahim, both of whom were part of the leadership team for the Redblacks Women's Training Camp, held in support of the OSEG Foundation. Photo by Caroline Phillips
OSEG Foundation
Melissa Reeves, co-founder of Linebox Studio, took part in a series of drills and exercises as part of a fundraiser for Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group's new charitable foundation. Photo by Caroline Phillips
OSEG Foundation
From left, Redblacks defensive linemen Nigel Romick seen hanging out in the weight room with Jenn Auld, left, and Rosanna Toscano, both with sponsor TD, at the Redblacks Women's Training Camp fundraiser, held at TD Place Stadium on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
OSEG Foundation
From left, communications professional Michaela Schreiter, who hosts her own weekly sports show, That's What She Said, on TSN 1200, and public servant Jeannine Ritchot, with whom she's started a new Ottawa Redblacks fan podcast, Mouchoir.  Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca