BGC Ottawa Morning Social hosts its only fundraiser of the year

Ottawa businessman Michael Wilson donates $300,000 to BGC Ottawa with hopes of inspiring others to give
morning
Adam Joiner, CEO of BGC Ottawa, and chief advancement officer Jonelle Istead in the makeshift studio at the Ron Kolbus Clubhouse for this year's BGC Ottawa Morning Social, held Friday, Sept. 10th, 2021. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Editor's Note

OBJ.social is supported by the generous patronage of Mark Motors and Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties and the National Arts Centre. Read their stories here.

Guess who woke up this morning feeling like a million bucks? BGC Ottawa.

For the second year in a row, the nonprofit organization is believed to have reached its seven-figure fundraising goal, following its 12th annual breakfast held today. The event was once again presented by Mark Motors Group but with a friendly new name, The Morning Social.

Business and community leaders roused themselves early to support a local charity that gives thousands of at-risk children and youth in our city a safe and supportive place to go after school, where they can have fun, be inspired, learn new skills and hang with friends. Audience listened to heartwarming stories about how BGC Ottawa has positively impacted, even transformed, the lives of its young members.

morning
The Ron Kolbus Clubhouse hosted a small gathering for the BGC Ottawa Morning Social, a virtual hybrid fundraising event held Friday, Sept. 10th, 2021. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Organizers were still counting donations on Friday afternoon but were feeling confident that the breakfast had raised $1 million.

“This is such an impressive milestone, and we couldn’t be more grateful,” said Adam Joiner, who became CEO of BGC Ottawa just a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is going to help so many kids in our community.”

Said board chair Stephen Beckta, owner of Beckta, Play and Gezellig restaurants: “It’s game changing for the organization. Without this, we’d be in a huge deficit for the year. It allows us to keep our life-changing programs happening for our members now that we’re re-open again."

Announced during the event was a $300,000 donation made by Michael Wilson, on behalf of him and his family. He's the co-CEO of financial services holding company 1251 Capital Group, as well as a BGC Ottawa board member and passionate supporter.

During the morning's program, he expressed his concern over the potential long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the children and youth in Ottawa, especially those living in vulnerable neighbourhoods. "I believe now more than ever those who are more fortunate in this city need to step forward and help those who are less fortunate," said Wilson. "Boys and Girls Club need our help today. They're doing amazing work providing support and assistance to children and families in need, but the reality is: their resources are limited."

Wilson said he normally prefers to give anonymously. "But, given everything that's happened, I feel that doing it publicly might inspire others to give whatever they can, no matter how big or small. Every gift helps."

morning
Quiet community leader Michael Wilson, seen inside BGC Ottawa's Tomlinson Family Foundation Clubhouse (whose gymnasium bears the Wilson family name), donated $300,000 on behalf of him and his family as a way of inspiring others to also support BGC Ottawa. Photo by Caroline Phillips

While the 75-minute event seemed to fly by, there were months of behind-the-scenes work that went into planning, raising awareness and getting support for BGC Ottawa’s only fundraiser this year. A small online auction was also added. 

A limited number of guests met at the Ron Kolbus and Tomlinson Family Foundation clubhouses. The French Embassy and the Audi West Ottawa and Audi Ottawa dealerships were also small host sites. As well, there were hundreds of supporters watching the live streaming program from their homes and workplaces.

Emond Harnden LLP lawyer Jock Climie, who’s also on the BGC Ottawa board, took on hosting duties with well-known social media influencer Katie Hession

morning
Hosts Katie Hession and Jock Climie in the makeshift studio at the BGC Ottawa's Tomlinson Family Foundation Clubhouse for the organization's Morning Social fundraiser held Friday, Sept. 10th, 2021. Photo by Caroline Phillips

BGC Ottawa board member Derek Noble, a partner with Huntington Properties, invited a bunch of his associates to the Ron Kolbus site while fellow board member and Tamarack Homes vice president Michelle Taggart drew members of the construction industry to the Tomlinson clubhouse. She played a major role in her family’s donation of $1.4 million to help with programming and services at the new south-end clubhouse currently being built on Heatherington Road. It will be called the Taggart Parkes Family Clubhouse.

morning
BGC Ottawa board member Michelle Taggart, vice president of planning and development at Tamarack Homes, with BGC Ottawa board chair and prominent restaurant owner Stephen Beckta, who's also an alumni of the nonprofit organization. Photo by Caroline Phillips
morning
From left, Anthony Capello, president of Capello Systems, with BGC Ottawa board member Derek Noble, partner at Huntington Properties, Graeme Webster, partner at KOBLE Commercial Real Estate, Karl Quinn, vice president with RBC Royal Bank, and a socially distanced Adam Joiner, CEO of BGC Ottawa, at the Ron Kolbus Clubhouse for the BGC Ottawa Morning Social. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The breakfast was once again led by founding event chair Gary Zed and his partner Liza Mrak, executive vice president of Mark Motors. 

Mark Motors’ long-standing relationship with BGC Ottawa goes beyond the giving of money and the volunteering of time. The family-owned group of luxury car dealerships also has hired former BGC Ottawa members.

“Mark Motors is part of the community that helps the community,” said Mrak. “The fact that we have alumni in our organization that have come from the Club, and are very successful in our stores, goes to show that your support with the Boys and Girls Club goes a long way.”

morning
Long-time BGC Ottawa board member Gary Zed and his partner Liza Mrak, executive vice president of presenting sponsor Mark Motors Group, co-chaired the BGC Ottawa Morning Social. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The co-chairs acknowledged that they felt pressure to pull off another blockbuster benefit. In 2020, the breakfast raised $1,067,000.

“Last year we thought was exceptional; we weren’t sure if we could do it again,” said Zed. “But, the community has been very resilient, even during COVID, and a lot of people in Ottawa are stepping up.”

The purpose of the Morning Social goes beyond dollars and cents, he added. The event is also about growing networks and strengthening donor relations. All of the organization’s top donors were first introduced to BGC Ottawa by attending one of its breakfasts in the past, Zed told OBJ.social.

“Our personal preference is to get away from the virtual world because people, fundamentally as human beings, want to spend time together. People want to be connected, they want to hang out together.”

While BGC Ottawa has been running virtual programs and youth outreach programs during the pandemic, it’s now welcoming kids back to its clubhouses, in limited numbers. The organization was once again able to give youth the experience of going to sleepaway camp at its Camp Smitty this summer. “It’s super exciting to be back to some form of normalcy,” said Joiner.

morning
Taylor Cavanagh with her father, Jeff Cavanagh, president of Thomas Cavanagh Construction, at the Tomlinson Family Foundation Clubhouse for the BGC Ottawa Morning Social, held Friday, Sept. 10th, 2021. Photo by Caroline Phillips
morning
From left, Project1 Studio principal Ryan Koolwine with Peter Paciorek, director with Alliance Engineering & Construction, Ryan Munden, principal at D+M Structural, and Mike Cleland, co-founder of Cleland Jardine Engineering, outside the Ron Kolbus Clubhouse for BGC Ottawa's Morning Social. Photo by Caroline Phillips
morning
From left, Barry Hobin, founder of Hobin Architecture, with Sean Lundy, president and CEO of MP Lundy Construction, and Doug Van Den Ham, also with Hobin Architecture, at the Tomlinson Family Clubhouse for the BGC Ottawa Morning Social. Photo by Caroline Phillips
morning
Sean Lundy must know all the architects; here he is again with Danica Robertson and Robert Martin, principals at Robertson Martin Architects, at the BGC Ottawa Morning Social held Friday, Sept. 10th, 2021. Photo by Caroline Phillips
morning
From left, Jessie-Lee Wallace, associate director of major gifts and communications for BGC Ottawa, with Angela Singhal, executive vice president with Richcraft Homes, at the Tomlinson Family Foundation Clubhouse for the BGC Ottawa Morning Social. Photo by Caroline Phillips
morning
From left, Peter Nicholson, president at The Foundation (WCPD), with Chris Bockstael, president of OneLife Wealth Management, at the Tomlinson Family Foundation Clubhouse for the BGC Ottawa Morning Social. Photo by Caroline Phillips

caroline@obj.ca