This article is sponsored by the Ottawa Senators Foundation.
From the moment fans walk beneath the larger-than-life photos of the Ottawa Senators players towering over the doors of the Canadian Tire Centre to the time the final buzzer sounds, the spotlight is focused on the on-ice talents of the city’s NHL franchise.
But those same players are also part of a much larger and less visible off-ice team – one that directly touched the lives of some 60,000 youth in Eastern Ontario and West Quebec in 2018-19 alone.
With the support of local business leaders and fans, the Ottawa Senators Foundation partners with the community to create social recreation opportunities, fund SENS Rinks, invest in educational initiatives as well as improve youth physical and mental wellness. The Foundation is also an ardent supporter of Roger Neilson House, a pediatric respite and palliative care home for children.
To date, the Ottawa Senators Foundation has raised some $65 million through a range of fundraisers and activities such as the recently expanded 50/50 draws and the annual Sens Soirée gala, which gives attendees the opportunity to meet the NHL players.
In only his second season with the club, Senators winger Brady Tkachuk is already playing an active role with the Foundation through his involvement with the gala and other events.
“Since the day I got here, there has been a big feeling of community,” Tkachuk says. “Ottawa is a big city, but it has that small-town feel. We are lucky to have great fans that create a team with us off the ice to give back and help those in need.”
Community is No. 1
Well-known Sens alumnus Chris Neil was heavily involved with the Foundation during his playing career and, following his retirement, became an ambassador for the club. He and his wife, Caitlin, serve as honorary co-chairs of Roger Neilson House and he says he’s fortunate to have been able to see the Foundation’s impact first-hand.
“Community has always been No. 1 for me,” said Neil. “Seeing the families at Roger Neilson House and other programs and having an opportunity to see them get the support they need is incredible.
Neil says the Foundation does great work, but adds there is a growing need for its support across the region.
To address the challenge, the Foundation is putting an emphasis on community partnerships that extend the organization’s reach and impact.
The volunteer board of directors, for example, is made up of prominent members of the business and non-profit community including EY’s Ian Sherman, BMO vice-president Roxanne Bouchard and Welch LLP’s Connor McGarry, among others.
Additionally, the Foundation works with local employers to engage their staff and find opportunities to volunteer with children and at-risk youth.
Support from the business community – as well as individual donors and fans – has also been instrumental in allowing the Foundation to construct 15 outdoor SENS Rinks and plan for five new facilities, creating accessible recreation and sports opportunities for children across the region.
Similarly, donations enable the Foundation to help local families overcome financial barriers and send children to summer camp as well as assist young adults attending post-secondary school.
All told, the team consistently ranks among the top NHL clubs for community investment, player engagement and support of community activations, says Danielle Robinson, the president and CEO of the Ottawa Senators Foundation.
“They engage and interact with the community in a positive way that motivates the donations and philanthropy that allows us to make an impact,” she said. “We are very fortunate for our long history of players eager to engage with us through the club or our Foundation and even on their own.”