Well, look who’s gone and grown up — Ski For Kids.
It’s been 30 years since the fundraiser for the CHEO Foundation and Children's Aid Foundation of Ottawa first starting helping children in our community. The downhill ski charity event takes place at Mont Ste. Marie ski resort, about an hour north of the nation’s capital.
Today, Ski For Kids is considered one of the premier winter events for Ottawa’s business community, attracting close to 100 business sponsors and making it the largest fundraiser organized by a third party for each of its beneficiaries. The total ended up being $410,000, following an additional donation to round the number up.
It's become tradition at Ski For Kids to host a dinner, the night before, at the main lodge for sponsors and contributors who have given $3,000 or more for the cause. It's a big night up at the ski hill and one that continues late into the evening, with an after-party.
This year's attendance for the pre-ski festivities was so great, at nearly 270 guests, that organizers moved the dinner from the restaurant/bar to the larger-capacity cafeteria area.
The returning title sponsor, Sporting Life, was represented by Hank Shannon, general manager of the store’s location at Lansdowne.
Jeff Parkes is not only on the organizing committee but his family's philanthropic Taggart Parkes Foundation was a double black diamond sponsor, along with Huntington Properties and Inflector Environmental Services.
Inflector was founded by the late Jeff Clarke Sr., who passed away almost six years ago. The tenacious volunteer fundraiser helped to elevate Ski For Kids from bunny-hill heights to where it is today.
Huntington Properties partner Derek Noble was back to co-chair the event with Tom McKenna, retired manager of environment health and safety for Nortel. They're joined by a committee of volunteers who pour their heart and soul into planning Ski For Kids.
Clarke Sr. began the tradition of hosting a dinner for all the sponsors, on the eve of the charity event. He used to do it at his cottage, on nearby Lac Heney. Of course, that dinner has grown so big that it's now held at the main lodge, but Noble still hosts a small gathering for top sponsors at his ski chalet, prior to the dinner.
Long-time supporter Brian Scott, president of Smith Petrie Carr & Scott Insurance Brokers Limited, remembers attending those early sponsor dinners. “One year I said to him, ‘Jeff, I didn’t get an invitation to the dinner’,” Scott told OBJ.social.
That’s when Scott found out that Clarke had raised the bar on the amount of money that top sponsors were supposed to give. “He said, ‘Scotty, we sort of jacked it up a little bit. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you come, anyway. Next year, you can give $5,000’.”
Ski For Kids was started by Dr. Sam Kucey. The oral surgeon has retired from Argyle Associates but the dental surgery clinic was a black diamond sponsor. Much of the early support for the fundraiser came from parents who were part of the ski racing community at Mont Ste. Marie.
There have been many volunteer leaders along the way, including Peter Rowan-Legg. His son, Ross Rowan-Legg, from CIBC Wood Gundy, is on the organizing committee.
In attendance that night was Bob Sudermann, owner of Mont Ste. Marie. It’s looking to be a great season for the ski resort, despite the slow start. The teacher strikes have been good for business, he acknowledged.
“I love teachers,” said Sudermann, while adding that he's all for them fighting the good fight — until the end of March, when the snow begins to melt. “Then, they can settle.”
Organizers had already brought in more than $300,000 in sponsorship dollars before launching their raffle for a ski trip to Panorama Mountain Resort in B.C., which usually raises around $15,000. It's donated by the resort's CEO, Steve Paccagnan, a former GM at Mont Ste Marie. There was also huge money to be made from the live auction, led by Shopify COO Harley Finkelstein. He and his family kicked in a $5,000 donation. It was matched by Ottawa businessman Howard Silver, owner of The Silver Group. To bring the final total up to $410,000, Solace president and CEO Les Rechan donated $3,750.
There were trips to the Caribbean and the Bahamas — perhaps appealing during Friday's extreme cold weather warning.
Bidders also had the chance to win a variety of unique experiences. Matt Tweedy, owner of Tooth and Nail Brewing Company, once again offered to give the highest bidder and nine more buddies the opportunity to help design, name and brew 1,500 litres of craft beer, with local alpine ski hero Dustin Cook. He and his brother Rob Tweedy, who's on the organizing committee and works for Modern Niagara, threw in an extra brew day, thereby selling the item twice and helping to raise a total of 10K for the charities. The two groups plan to compete against each other to see who can make the best beer. It will be Rob's friends versus Paul Cook's friends. Cook, who's also known as Dustin's dad, is an executive with CBRE.
Political junkies and history buffs could win an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block (while it’s under reconstruction), followed by lunch for four at the Rideau Club.
There was also an overnight Nordik spa experience, with dinner and wine catered by prominent restaurateur Stephen Beckta.
Thyme & Again business partner and award-winning chef Michael Moffatt offered to cook dinner for the highest bidder and seven of their guests, with wine provided by Huntington Properties.
There was a fishing adventure at the Sutter Club lodge located on the Miramichi River, and a professionally catered sushi dinner for eight, to be held in the winner's home. It will be hosted by Ottawa Senators player JG Pageau and one of his teammates, and prepared by a chef from Shinka Sushi. Once again, Huntington Properties is covering the cost of the vino.