Business leaders aim to hit bull’s-eye with new event for Senators Community Foundation

Darts for Charity tournament to take place June 5 at Manor Lounge

Kyle Turk, Donna Baker, James Baker
From left, Kyle Turk, CEO of Meerkat Marketing, Keynote Search managing partner and co-founder Donna Baker, and Keynote Search CEO and co-founder James Baker are hosting the inaugural Darts for Charity tournament in support of the Senators Community Foundation at Manor Lounge on June 5. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Editor's Note is supported by the generous patronage of Mark Motors and Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties® Inc. Read their stories here.

One should never take darts too seriously — not when it qualifies as one of the few sports that you can play with a pint in hand.

That’s the thinking behind Darts for Charity, a new fundraiser taking place at Manor Lounge later this spring in support of a good cause, the Senators Community Foundation. It’s meant to be a friendly competition anyone can participate in, whether or not they’ve ever played darts before.

The event is being hosted on Wednesday, June 5 by Kyle Turk, CEO of Meerkat Marketing, along with husband and wife business owners James Baker and Donna Baker of Ottawa-based executive search and recruitment firm Keynote Search.

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Winners can expect to walk away with more than just bragging rights. We’re talking replica championship rings of the conspicuous variety.

“I want oversized,” James stressed. “I want these things to be something that you’d expect someone to wear to Forty Under 40 or an Ottawa’s Fastest Growing Companies event; something really glam, that signifies your superiority of darts.”

Even though it’s only been about a week since the launch of Darts for Charity, the event was more than 50-per-cent sold out by Wednesday and had secured sponsorship support from Manor Lounge, Intega IT, seoplus+ and Mirabel Management

Turk got the idea from a networking social he attended last year at Manor Lounge, hosted by digital marketing agency seoplus+. Manor Lounge, an immersive entertainment experience, is located on Elgin Street, which is a popular downtown area for young professionals. “It’s super cool inside,” said Turk, who was drawn to playing darts while he was there. Each dart board has its own automatic scoring system.

There is already a plethora of events that bring the Ottawa business community together, Turk acknowledged. “I was just looking for something different that you don’t do every day.”

The evening will also offer a variety of games and activities to keep attendees engaged.

Turk was wise to pair up with the Bakers, who are both his clients and friends. They not only share his community-minded values but also have an appreciation for darts through their British background. The couple have lived here for nearly 18 years and have so obviously become Canadian citizens – they refer to “soccer” as “soccer” rather than “football”.

“Growing up, I think every family had a dart board somewhere in the house,” said Donna while recalling how competitive she and her brother would get, playing against one another. “We probably scared my parents, throwing sharp objects around.”

She was also exposed to the popular British darts-themed television game show Bullseye, involving an amateur darts player and a trivia expert competing against each other in darts and quizzes to win cash and prizes.

Donna Baker demonstrates her strong aim while playing darts at Manor Lounge, the host venue for the inaugural Darts for Charity tournament happening on Wednesday, June 5 in support of the Senators Community Foundation. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Darts is an important part of pub culture in the U.K., added James, who also has a soft spot for snooker and lawn bowling. As one of his first jobs, he managed the quaint Plume of Feathers village pub outside Welwyn Garden City. “You’d finish your night, you’d clean the bar, you’d grab yourself a refreshment, and you’d throw the darts. That was just the way it was.” 

The hosts are hoping to raise at least $10,000. They chose to support the Senators Community Foundation because of its focus toward providing barrier-free access to recreational activities for children and youth in our community.

The organizers — all former Forty Under 40 Award recipients — are grateful to have played competitive sports growing up. Donna was into national-level tennis, and track and field; James did soccer, and Turk played with the Peterborough Petes U16 AAA (one his teammates was current NHL player Corey Perry).

Said Donna, who also won a 2018 Businesswoman of the Year Award from the Women’s Business Network: “Sports provide kids with so many life values. You’re learning how to be part of a team, how to work under a coach, how to improve your skills.”

Keynote Search has a connection to the Senators Community Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Ottawa Senators hockey club. It played a key role in the recruitment of foundation president Jacqueline Belisto, a former executive at CHEO Foundation. 

If Darts for Charity goes well, the organizers said they would “love” to host the charity event again next year. For them, it’s their way of giving back to Ottawa, a city in which none of them was born or raised, but which they have all chosen to call home and to raise their children and run their businesses in.

Organizers won’t have any trouble selling out Darts for Charity. Since the event has only just launched, there’s still availability (for now, anyway) for teams of two to enter, for purchasing spectator tickets or for joining as a sponsor.

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