An old sports adage says lessons learned in defeat pave the way for future victories.
Though he’s not an athlete, David Gourlay is here to tell you there’s more than just a grain of truth in that.
The veteran public relations expert is probably best-known for the four years he spent as president of the minor-league Ottawa Champions baseball club and his failed bid for municipal office last fall. After losing the race for councillor in Kanata North to Jenna Sudds in late October, Gourlay immediately tapped into his wide network to figure out what other opportunities might await him.
It didn’t take long for Gourlay to land an offer practically tailor-made for his skills.
In mid-January, the 48-year-old Carleton University alumnus began his new career path as senior manager of major gifts at the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group’s charitable arm, the OSEG Foundation.
In many ways, he says, it’s a dream job – and one he never would have been in a position to take had he not lost his run for council.
“I think failure is a very important business asset,” Gourlay says. “When you fail at something, you learn a lot about yourself. I think that prepares me for a role like this because you become a lot more humble; you become a lot more focused.”
After spending much of the past year pounding the pavement soliciting votes, Gourlay says his new job will still involve knocking on plenty of doors. This time, he’s looking to round up corporate funding and partnerships for the OSEG Foundation, which was launched in 2017 by the owners of the Redblacks, Fury and 67’s to provide assistance to children and youth involved in amateur sports in Ottawa.
Gourlay, who grew up a die-hard Expos and Canadiens fan, believes sports can play a transformative role in the lives of underprivileged and special-needs children. He is president of the Miracle League of Ottawa, which operates a baseball diamond in Orléans equipped with expanded dugouts and a non-slip rubberized surface designed for kids with physical and mental disabilities. The league is also building a fully accessible playground set to open later this spring that includes swing sets that accommodate wheelchairs.
Gourlay believes the OSEG Foundation, which has already raised well over a million dollars from a slew of local donors, can have the same type of impact on the community.
“Sports gives kids the confidence to go out there and pursue their dreams, and that’s exactly what we want to do,” he says. “I’ve seen it. That’s very empowering for me.”
Gourlay says he remembers attending a ball game for children with disabilities several years ago where kids were going to the bathroom in their parents’ cars because there were no accessible facilities at the park.
“There’s no dignity in that,” he says. “If OSEG Foundation can level that playing field and do what we can through football, soccer, hockey … there’s all kinds of ways we can contribute.”
Gourlay says he hopes the foundation can partner with corporate donors and groups such as the Boys and Girls Club to help raise awareness of the need for better sports infrastructure for players of all socioeconomic backgrounds and abilities.
“That’s part of our job at the OSEG Foundation and other foundations is to educate the public,” he explains.
"We want people to see sport as a true community builder.”
“I don’t hear a lot of people talking about the power of sport. We want people to see sport as a true community builder.”
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