Ottawa becomes city of snow angels as Snowsuit Fund launches campaign to get everyone outdoors, having fun

Province's Family Day to be proclaimed Snow Angel Day in Ottawa
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Camila Suvaric, human resources manager with Pythian, makes snow angels with her three kids in the front yard of their Kanata home as part of the Snowsuit Fund of Ottawa's first-ever Snow Angel Challenge. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Sorry pandemic snowman but, unless you learn how to take selfies, you're going to lose your social media spotlight to trending snow angels this month.

The Snowsuit Fund of Ottawa has just launched its first-ever fundraising and awareness campaign, the Snow Angel Challenge, presented by Ottawa’s local Canadian Tire dealers. Residents are being encouraged to bundle up, get outdoors and have some whimsical fun throughout the month of February. Participants are invited to create their own angels in the snow and then post images and videos of their wintery works of art on their favourite social media platforms with the goal of drawing attention to the cause, inspiring others to get involved and raising a little money. 

The event is open to individuals, groups, community challenges and corporate challenges. It’s free to register. Prizes have been donated by such sponsors as Canadian Tire, Giant Tiger and Gabriel Pizza. Photos should tag the organization with the hashtag #SnowAngelChallenge. As well, participants score a limited-edition Snowsuit Fund toque if they raise at least $20.  

Mayor Jim Watson will be proclaiming this year’s provincial Family Day on Monday, Feb. 15, to be Snow Angel Day in support of the Snowsuit Fund of Ottawa, a totally lovable organization that purchases and distributes more than 16,000 snowsuits each year to children and youth in need.

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Snowsuit Fund board member and treasurer Andrew Watson, an audit partner at KPMG, and his two younger boys, Ryan, 11, and Alec, eight, made snow angels on the hockey rink in their backyard. Photo by Caroline Phillips

No child should be excluded from winter fun because they don’t have warm outdoor winter clothing, said planning committee member Vanessa Simmons, vice-president of development at Pythian, an Ottawa-based data analytics and cloud consulting firm with more than 360 employees. 

They should all have the same opportunity to enjoy winter, she continued. “That’s kind of a great equalizer for kids, that they can just go outside and play in the snow together and it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. Everybody can go out and have a good time and really enjoy our great Canadian winter.”

Simmons has registered herself in the event and has been recruiting colleagues to participate on a Pythian team, either on their own or with members of their household. Pythian has also issued a corporate challenge to Tehama, an Ottawa-based enterprise software startup founded by serial entrepreneur Paul Vallée after he left Pythian.

"We’re just trying to spread the word about the challenge in its first year and just encourage people to get out, to enjoy some fresh air, enjoy the sunshine and do something fun."

“We’re just trying to spread the word about the challenge in its first year and just encourage people to get out, to enjoy some fresh air, enjoy the sunshine and do something fun,” said Simmons.

During the recent cold snap, Simmons was making snow angels out by her waterfront home in Lanark County. The nostalgic activity reminded her of the bright one-piece snowsuits she used to wear as a child, and of spending time with her siblings. 

Simmons said she found a deep area of snow and just allowed herself to fall backward into it, with a loud "whoomp." She moved her arms up and down and her legs from side to side. The tricky part, she said, was getting up without destroying the pristine outline of the angel.

“I hadn’t done it since I was a kid,” she said of the experience. “It was just wonderful.”

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Vanessa Simmons, who hadn't made a snow angel since she was a kid, got into the spirit of the Snowsuit Fund of Ottawa's Snow Angel Challenge, which runs all month to raise awareness and funds for the nonprofit organization.

Snowsuit Fund board member and treasurer Andrew Watson, an audit partner at KPMG’s Ottawa office, was out making snow angels with his two youngest boys on some fresh snow that had recently fallen on the family's backyard hockey rink in Kanata.

There’s something about making snow angels, he said, that’s so calming and peaceful. “It’s easy to do, and it just takes you away from the every day.”

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Snowsuit Fund board member and treasurer Andrew Watson, an audit partner at KPMG, and his two younger boys, Ryan, 11, and Alec, eight, made snow angels on the hockey rink in their backyard in Kanata. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Watson said the organization’s new event has the potential to introduce the Snowsuit Fund to a new and younger generation of supporters. He praised organizers for coming up with a creative alternative to in-person galas, which have been put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic. Making snow angels is not only fun and simple but entirely safe in these socially distanced times.

“That’s what I really like about it,” said Watson. “We don’t have to do anything that anybody feels worried about. There’s no getting close to anybody if they don’t want to.”

The Snow Angel Challenge might be just what people need, following weeks of provincial lockdown and stay-at-home orders, he added.

“Everybody is feeling cooped-up. This could be a refreshing change.”

Watson said the organization remains fortunate to continually receive such strong support from the public. He's already seeing that enthusiasm continue with the Snow Angel Challenge.

"It's really neat to see the community and businesses get behind it."

John Findlay and his business partner A.J. Pratt are supporting the Snow Angel Challenge by donating $1,000 to the cause. They’re also organizing a challenge within their office and trying to get other companies to participate. The pair got involved through Findlay’s wife, Julie Findlay, a.k.a. Ottawa’s Mom in the Know. 

John Findlay is the CEO of LemonadeLXP, a digital transformation platform, and Pratt is the vice president of business solutions.

In addition to the donation, the two dads demonstrated they’re also willing to lie down in the snow – on one of the coldest days of the winter – and make angels.

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LemonadeLXP CEO John Findlay and vice president of business solution, A.J. Pratt, get into the spirit of the Snowsuit Fund of Ottawa's first-ever Snow Angel Challenge. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Admittedly, snow angels weren’t their first choice of fun outdoor activity.

“If I could pick snow angel versus throw a snowball at your friend I might choose throw a snowball at your friend,” quipped Pratt.

The pair had fun ribbing each other afterward while inspecting their angel imprints and pointing out the minor flaws: a missing head, flimsy wings. "It was eye-opening to my lack of flexibility," Findlay joked.

The Snow Angel Challenge is being co-chaired by Sahada Alolo, manager of community engagement with Multifaith Housing Initiative, and independent media professional Jon Stewart. Serving as honorary chair is well-known Ottawa artist Katerina Mertikas.

And remember: every time a snowplow beeps, another snow angel gets his or her wings.

— caroline@obj.ca