Ski For Kids, cancer survivor Peter Charbonneau among leaders to be honoured with Ottawa Philanthropy Award

Annual event hosted by Ottawa Association of Fundraising Professionals to recognize eight recipients for their outstanding contributions
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From left, Derek Noble, partner at Huntington Properties, and Tom McKenna are co-chairs of the Ski For Kids fundraiser, which has been named Outstanding Philanthropic Group for raising more than $2.5 million to date for the CHEO Foundation and Children's Aid Foundation of Ottawa. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Enough with the doom and gloom already. Maybe it’s time to focus on something more positive, such as the 26th Annual Ottawa Philanthropy Awards happening this Tuesday.

Eight Ottawa individuals, groups and businesses will be celebrated for donating their time, leadership and financial support toward making a significant and lasting impact on their community.

Recipients normally accept their awards before a large audience at an elegant dinner. This year, due to COVID-19 social gathering restrictions, winners will be featured in a special Rogers TV broadcast hosted by Sam Laprade from 1310 News and presented by Foundation WCPD. It can also be watched online at Rogerstv.com or on Facebook, starting at 7 p.m.

Angie Kelly, director of major gifts and planned giving at The Ottawa Mission Foundation, is co-chairing the event with Jessie-Lee Wallace, who's leaving Cornerstone Housing for Women to start a new fundraising job with the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa. The philanthropy awards are organized by a 13-member volunteer committee, with winners selected by a volunteer judging panel.

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From left, professional fundraisers Jessie-Lee Wallace and Angie Kelly are co-chairing the 2020 Ottawa Philanthropy Awards, which are being televised this Tuesday on Rogers TV. Photo by Caroline Phillips

From a celebrated chef to a retired technology executive to downhill ski enthusiasts, all the recipients have at least this in common: great leadership and a sense of caring for others. AFP Ottawa is hoping their inspiring stories of philanthropy give audiences an escape from the COVID blues.

“It’s such a wonderful coming together of the community, which, in normal times, is always something that’s needed,” said Teresa Marques, board chair of the Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and president and CEO of the Rideau Hall Foundation. “This year, there’s never been a greater need just to take a moment to celebrate the good things that our city is doing when it comes to volunteering and philanthropy.”

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From left, Jessie-Lee Wallace and Angie Kelly, co-chairs of the 2020 Ottawa Philanthropy Awards, with Teresa Marques, board chair of the Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Photo by Caroline Phillips

What’s not to love about Peter Charbonneau’s story of becoming a long-time cancer fundraiser, following a promise he made nearly two decades ago to his surgical oncologist, Dr. Hartley Stern

The good doctor caught wind of Charbonneau's finance expertise and high-tech connections. He asked his recovering patient whether he'd consider co-chairing a major campaign that would lead to better cancer care in Ottawa. Charbonneau agreed, on one condition: that the doctor keep him alive.

“I got the better part of that deal,” Charbonneau later quipped.

Nine grandchildren later, Charbonneau, 67, has been named this year’s Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser. The award is sponsored by Gary Zed (a former recipient of the award himself) and his family.

It was Charbonneau’s vision to create a joint fundraiser between two organizations that he’s so passionate about: the National Arts Centre Foundation and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.

Up Close and Unplugged launched in 2005 with headliner Holly Cole. Held at the NAC, the benefit featured a dinner and intimate concert. Jim Cuddy, Natalie McMaster and The Tenors are among artists to have performed over the years. Memorable moments include singer Alan Doyle auctioning off a stay at Zita Cobb’s Fogo Island Inn, off the coast of Newfoundland, for $15,000.

The fundraiser took its final bow last year but not before raising a net total of more than $2 million.

"You do it because you want to make a difference, and this award reinforces that people think you’re making a difference."

“To get recognized for something that you do because it’s fun is really rewarding,” said Charbonneau. “You do it because you want to make a difference, and this award reinforces that people think you’re making a difference. Hopefully, that's the case."

Over the years, Charbonneau was assisted by fellow community leaders Peter Nicholson, Sam Firestone, Gregory Sanders and Stephen Greenberg as co-chairs.

“They all made the event so much stronger and so much bigger,” said Charbonneau while noting that his own connections do come with a shelf life. Charbonneau spent 13 years at former Newbridge Networks in a number of leadership roles, including chief financial officer, president and vice-chairman.

Charbonneau also co-chaired a $50-million cancer campaign and chaired the Cancer Foundation’s first-ever Cancer Champions Breakfast.

In 2006, he and his wife, Joan, were honoured as Outstanding Individual Philanthropist by AFP Ottawa. 

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Peter Charbonneau, 2020 Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser, at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation's Cancer Champions Breakfast in 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips

When it comes to volunteering, nobody goes into it thinking they're going to win a big award.

“It’s not the primary motivation,” said Derek Noble. He's receiving the Outstanding Philanthropic Group Award with Tom McKenna as committee co-chairs of Ski For Kids, which has been around for 30 years.

“But, it is really nice – when there are people who have been so committed for such a long period of time – to have somebody stand up, take notice and say, 'Thank you,'” continued Noble, a partner at Huntington Properties. It owns some two million square feet of commercial real estate across the city and is doing what it can, says Noble, to provide assistance to its tenants who need help during the pandemic.

Ski For Kids, held an hour north of the National Capital Region at Mont Ste. Marie ski resort, has raised more than $2.5 million for two causes: helping kids receive the best possible care at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and providing, through the Children's Aid Foundation of Ottawa, post-secondary bursaries and scholarships to youth who are, or have been, in the care of CAS.

This past winter, the event brought in $410,000. It's the longest-running and largest single-day third-party volunteer fundraising event for CHEO. 

Ski For Kids is organized by volunteer committee members who invest many hundreds of hours planning the event, recruiting sponsors and collecting auction items. Its volunteers include John Bethune, John, Matt and Laila Booth, Matt Hill, J.J. Hochrein, Kerrie Kossatz, Nik Lemieux, Jeff Parkes, Peter Paciorek, Ross Rowan-Legg, Monica Singhal, Jeff Smith, Rob Tweedy and Brandon Yuke.

Noble’s involvement with Ski For Kids goes back about 10 years. He was recruited by the late Jeff Clarke Sr., founder of Inflector Environmental Services. Clarke was responsible for elevating what was once a small grassroots fundraiser, started by ski parents, to a larger charity event. It has since grown even bigger with support from the construction and real estate development community. Clarke Sr. passed away in 2014.

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From left, Jeff Clarke Jr., CEO of Inflector Environmental Services, with Ski For Kids co-chair Derek Noble, committee member Jacqueline Belsito from the CHEO Foundation, and co-chair Tom McKenna at the 2019 Ski For Kids event at Mont Ste. Marie. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

“I really feel that I’ve been given so much in life, have been so blessed,” said Noble, who’s also on the board of the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa. “In return, I feel it’s an absolute requirement for me to reach back and pull somebody else forward.

“I’ve made a decision to focus on kids, because that’s where I think the biggest impact can be made.”

For McKenna, he grew up helping his dad deliver Christmas hampers.

“I was brought up to give back to the community,” said McKenna, who was formerly head of environment health and safety for Nortel's North American operations. 

The one-time ski racing dad volunteered with the MSM ski club, serving as treasurer and president, before getting involved with Ski For Kids nearly 20 years ago. McKenna has loved the experience and people but thinks it may soon be time to hand over the reins to a younger volunteer when the event is able to resume.

“I wouldn’t say I’m just a figurehead but there are a lot of people with great ideas and who can pull stuff together. It’s pretty amazing to see.”

Key sponsors include Sporting Life, Inflector, Huntington Properties and the Taggart Parkes Foundation. 

— caroline@obj.ca

Complete list of the 2020 Ottawa Philanthropy Award winners:

Award For Outstanding Fundraising Professional

Jacline Nyman

Award For Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser

Peter Charbonneau

Award for Outstanding Philanthropic Group

Ski For Kids, Derek Noble and Tom McKenna

Award for Outstanding Corporate Philanthropist

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)

Award for Outstanding Individual Philanthropist

Joe Thottungal, Coconut Lagoon and Thali Restaurants

Award for Outstanding Small Business Philanthropist

Emond Harnden LLP

Award for Outstanding Youth Philanthropist 

Ava Sidoli

Award for Outstanding Emergency Response

PCL/EllisDon Joint Venture and their supply chain