Growing up in small-town Newfoundland, Michael Maidment would regularly witness incredible acts of kindness and generosity, with neighbours helping neighbours and complete strangers alike.
He saw the folks of Grand Falls open their hearts and homes to those in need. They'd not only give someone the shirt off their back, they'd make sure it fits. It was Maidment’s grandmother who made the biggest impression, teaching him by example how to find purpose and meaning through service to others.
“I grew up watching my grandmother cook for someone who was sick, who'd had someone pass away, or who had lost a job. Every day, she was doing something to help someone in the community or a neighbour in need.
“I think later in life I realized that I was kind of meant to do that. I think it really was due to her influence. I didn’t realize how powerful it was, as a kid, but that was part of who I was, growing up in that town and growing up in Newfoundland.”
This week, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation announced it hired Maidment, a respected nonprofit leader in Ottawa, to be its new president and chief executive officer. He officially starts Sept. 21 but will be making his debut via video at the Cancer Foundation's Cancer Champions Breakfast, to be held virtually on Sept. 16th.
After 14 years of helping to lift people from poverty through his work at the Ottawa Food Bank, Maidment is making a leap into healthcare. It’s a chance to make a tangible difference, says Maidment, while pointing out this sobering statistic: nearly one in two Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
“Cancer is all around us. Everyone of us knows someone touched by or affected by this.”
Over the past 25 years, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation has worked alongside local donors and supporters to fund investments in local cancer care. It has granted more than $42 million to research projects and cancer clinical trials in Ottawa, and more than $13 million to its cancer coaching services.
The ORCF opened Canada’s first ever Cancer Survivorship Centre in 2011, and has since expanded cancer coaching services to serve communities across Eastern Ontario.
“I’m super excited for the opportunity to lead such an important organization, knowing the impact that it makes on people’s lives,” said Maidment, 46, who takes over from Linda Eagen.
Maidment will be saying goodbye to the Ottawa Food Bank, where he’s been CEO for the past seven years. He's also sat on a couple of boards and previously worked for the Salvation Army as its area director of public relations and development.
“Anyone of us working in this sector would describe Ottawa as an amazing city," said Maidment. "It’s very philanthropic, very caring."
In a release, the Cancer Foundation identified Maidment as having a "strong understanding" of how important it is to invest in the Ottawa community's health and well-being. “We are incredibly fortunate to have someone with Michael’s unique skills, expertise, and passion for this community joining us to lead the team at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation," stated board chair Carl Marcotte.
Interestingly, Maidment wasn’t originally headed toward a career in the nonprofit sector. He studied audio engineering in college before climbing the ladder to success in the retail industry. It was marriage and kids – now ages 14 and 18 – that led him to charitable organizations.
"When I started working in the nonprofit sector, it felt like home."
“When I started working in the nonprofit sector, it felt like home,” said Maidment. “To be able to do this in a city like Ottawa, a larger city, and the joy and satisfaction of being able to make a broader impact, is amazing. It's something that I love to do.
“I almost can’t imagine not working in the nonprofit sector.”
Maidment may have big shoes to fill – Eagen retired this past spring after 16 years as president and CEO – but he believes change can be refreshing every now and then.
“As leaders, we each bring something different to organizations when we move into new opportunities like this. I think the same is true for the Food Bank. When I leave, someone will follow me and they’ll have different skills and different ideas and bring something that I could never bring to the organization.”
Maidment said the tricky part of fundraising during a global health pandemic is trying to get the message out to the public about the importance of the cancer foundation’s support of lifesaving research and its essential programs for cancer patients and their families.
“I think the challenge becomes to communicate what the need is, to cut through all that noise and connect with people," he said.