A new charitable organization launched by the same group of businessmen who brought professional football back to Ottawa has scored the equivalent of a 109-yard touchdown.
In its first four months, the OSEG (Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group) Foundation has raised $1.25 million with the backing of 25 community-minded business leaders and philanthropists. That's above and beyond the foundation's original goal of 20 donors and $1 million.
"It's a fantastic start to the foundation; we really appreciate it," Roger Greenberg told those donors who attended a thank-you reception hosted prior to Sunday's snowy Grey Cup game at TD Place Stadium.
The funds will be invested in the community, helping to level the playing field so that more children and youth have the opportunity to benefit from the power of sport.
"We really want to try and focus on our goals in the foundation to helping those in the community who can’t afford to participate in sports," said Greenberg, who donned a matching Redblacks cap and jersey. "We also want to try and train amateur coaches, individuals and volunteers who are helping kids get off the couch, so that they are active in sports."
Greenberg, executive chairman of Minto Group and of OSEG, was joined by two of his OSEG business partners, John Ruddy (Trinity Development), and Bill Shenkman (Shenkman Corporation). They are among the founding donors who have each pledged $50,000 to the new foundation, which was started in July.
Also there were the foundation’s new executive director, Janice Barresi, and its honorary president, retired Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris. He brought along his infectious smile and positive energy.
“He’s such a shrinking violet,” quipped Greenberg.
OSEG owns and operates the Ottawa Redblacks, the Ottawa Fury and the Ottawa 67’s sports teams, as well as TD Place stadium and arena, at the redeveloped Lansdowne Park. Bernie Ashe, chief executive officer of OSEG, donned the Redblacks' trademark plaid lumberjack shirt. So did Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell.
More than half of the donors attended. They filed into the Minto office building on Bank Street and headed up to the Commissioner's Gameday Lounge overlooking the football field, where Toronto beat Calgary later that night. After the reception, the guests headed to the Aberdeen Pavilion for the VIP Tailgate Party.
Seen from the Ottawa construction industry were John Bassi, president of Bassi Construction; Paul McCarney, senior vice president at Tomlinson Group of Companies; Robert Merkley, president of Merkley Supply Ltd., and Kathleen Grimes and Ersin Ozerdinc from Site Preparation Ltd.
Real estate executive Paul Hindo (who became our city's most famous lottery winner this year) and his wife, Alison, are also behind the cause. So are Gary Zed and fellow founding donor Liza Mrak, co-owner of Mark Motors, an Audi and Porsche dealership.
Other founding donors at the reception were Shawn Rivers, president of Anish Branding; Peter Hudson, founder and CEO of HTG Sports Services; Rick Iafelice, president of Main and Main Developments, Shawn Lamarche, owner of Lamarche Electric, David Maxwell, president of La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries, and Kevin McCrann, president of Shenkman.
The list of founding donors also includes the Shabinsky and the Taggart-Parkes families, lawyer Don Bayne, general contractor Dennis Laurin and his wife, Andrea, Greenberg's brother Robert Greenberg and cousin Dan Greenberg, with wife Barbara Crook, and OSEG partner John Pugh and his wife, Christine.
Unfortunately, the Redblacks didn't make it to the championship this year, following their spectacular Grey Cup win in 2016.
"Next year," said Greenberg, his voice sounding hopeful. "We can't win it every year, right? It's just not fair to the other teams."