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When his community needs him, Rudi Asseer goes the extra mile – and then some.
Asseer, president and CEO of IMI Global People Company, has supported the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa since 2017. Like many local charities, BGCO’s fundraising efforts were disrupted by COVID-19.
“A lot of our core funding comes from that, and it pays for the basics of what we do – our daily operations, getting kids in the door,” says Adam Joiner, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, which serves 4,500 children and youth every year. With schools closed, many are experiencing significant isolation, Joiner says.
“Our in-person, safe and supportive programming is what's most important for some of these kids,” he says.
Asseer, a self-described “start-up philanthropist,” raced onto the scene with a special – and gruelling – charity run.
Sponsored by IMI and held on Saturday, July 11, Asseer brought the Quarantine Backyard Ultra to Ottawa: a global event held in more than 50 countries, with athletes each covering 100 miles in 24 hours.
“I've always been an individual who likes to push the limits, whether in work or physically,” Asseer explained. Two weeks before the big day, he had already raised $20,000 for BGCO from online donors and corporate sponsors including Arbique & Ahde Law Firm, Francis Pomerleau and Lockton Insurance, which offered a very motivating $75 for every mile Asseer passed.
Alongside teammates from K2J Fitness, Asseer was slated to run four miles every hour at Kilbirnie Park in Barrhaven.
“I've never done anything like this before,” Asseer said the day before the run. “I’m very nervous. The furthest I've run is just over a marathon. We'll be completing over four marathons consecutively.”
Despite any nerves, Asseer was in it for the long haul, not least because of his personal connection to BGCO. When he was eight, Asseer and his family moved to Canada from Belgium.
“My mom came from a separation and arrived in this country with four kids,” he said. “She was working a couple jobs, trying to go through school to become an addiction counselor.”
Asseer found community at the clubhouse.
“Providing a safe environment for inner city children is key,” he says. “Having that structure was so impactful at such a young age.”
On the day of the Quarantine Backyard Ultra, Asseer started running at 9 a.m. on Saturday, and finished close to the same time the next day. As well as raising an additional $5,000, he hit his personal goal: 100 miles completed in 23 hours and 39 minutes.
“It was getting a little bit tight, but I dug deep and got it done,” he says. “The Boys and Girls Club was always on my mind.”
Kyla Martin, Asseer’s wife, joined in the run, marking the event by completing her first-ever marathon. IMI crew chief Andrew Rosil was also present, keeping the athletes motivated and staying with Asseer over-hours.
“It was a big challenge, with a lot of people behind the scenes making it happen,” Asseer says. “The support was just fantastic.”
BGCO is set to reopen on July 20, 2020, and will use the $25,000 raised for its core operations.
“Rudi's support brings us out of what has been a really challenging time,” says Joiner. “We're excited to get back into our buildings and to start running programs with our kids again – not just in a virtual way, but in a real way.”
Asseer says his fundraising run was a “micro-event” in preparation for the BGCO’s Annual Charity Breakfast on Sept. 15, 2020. Participants can choose to host virtual guests in their homes, offices, local restaurants and more, with the aim of raising $1 million for BGCO.
Never one to sit idly by, Asseer will be hosting a breakfast himself.
“Business leaders are a product of their community,” he reflects. “If they have the capacity to help their community – this is the time.”