The OSEG Foundation’s Gourmet on the Gridiron, presented by Site Preparation Ltd. The popular dinner returned for its second year to TD Place Stadium at Lansdowne Park on Sunday to give more kids in our community a shot at playing sports.
Roger Greenberg, executive chairman and managing partner of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, was among some 300 community and business leaders who attended the relaxed, enjoyable and inclusive fundraiser. He was joined by Janice Barresi, executive director of the OSEG Foundation, and the entire football team from the Ottawa Redblacks.
OSEG owns and operates the Redblacks, the Ottawa 67’s junior hockey team and the Ottawa Fury soccer club. It also manages the TD Place stadium and arena.
Mayor Jim Watson expressed his gratitude to OSEG — in particular to Greenberg, executive chairman of Minto, and to businessman John Ruddy, another one of the OSEG partners — for creating jobs, and for the money, time and effort the business partners have expended to bring football back to Ottawa, along with a Grey Cup Championship in 2016.
As a reminder of the bad times that have been, the mayor dropped the names of former unpopular owners of the Ottawa CFL team, and briefly described the dilapidated state of Lansdowne prior to the urban park's redevelopment several years ago. “This park has gone through some rough times over the years,” said Watson. “This place was, by all accounts, a dump.”
Watson received louder applause and cheers than usual when he took to the podium that night. The day before, he officially come out as gay in his op-ed piece published in the Ottawa Citizen.
The Redblacks really brought their ‘A’ game to the event, from offensive lineman Alex Mateas and defensive back Antoine Pruneau helping out as friendly doormen, to athletes playing locker room tour guides, to defensive lineman Michael Klassen and punter Richie Leone providing play-by-play descriptions of the four-course gourmet dinner. They're self-professed foodies, “as in: I like to eat,” quipped Klassen, who’s six foot five and 275 pounds.
The football players were joined by their coaches, including head coach Rick Campbell, general manager Marcel Desjardins and OSEG president and chief executive Mark Goudie. Kicker Lewis Ward was there, having just ended his record field-goal streak of 69. His accomplishment earned him a standing ovation from fans at the team's home game the day before.
The OSEG Foundation’s honourary president is local sports hero Henry Burris, former Grey Cup-winning quarterback for the Redblacks. He easily grabbed and held the room's attention as he co-hosted the fundraiser with CFL host Brodie Lawson.
Burris spoke of the business community's responsibility to help remove the barriers, financial or otherwise, that prevent kids from participating in sports.
“If you look around this room, there’s a lot of success in this room, but none of you would be here if it wasn’t for somebody coming to your aid, having your back and giving you the resources to help make your dreams come true,” said Burris. “Now, it’s time to hand that torch off to the next generation.”
The crowd was on its feet, clapping, after it was announced that Andy McNeely, president of Thunderbolt Contracting, had pitched in an extra $10,000 toward the OSEG Foundation’s goal of raising enough money to help 100 more local kids take part in sports. Guests received thank-you gifts of jerseys and autographed footballs in exchange for their donations.
Seen were Site Preparation Ltd.'s Ersin Özerdinç, Kathleen Grimes and their daughter, Meral Özerdinç; Robert Rhéaume, a partner in the Ottawa office of BDO Canada; and Palladium Insurance Group partners Tim Snelling and Sylvie Forget-Swim. Also glimpsed were: Katherine Cooligan, regional managing partner of BLG law firm; Merkley Supply president Robert Merkley; Algonquin College’s new president, Claude Brulé, Ontario Sports Minister Lisa MacLeod, City of Ottawa Sports Commissioner Mathieu Fleury, and former Ottawa mayor Jim Durrell, who sits on the OSEG Foundation with the likes of former tech executive Rob Ashe.
“I love what they do,” said Durrell of his involvement with the two-year-old foundation. Durrell, who was once the quarterback and captain of his Acadia University football team, says he can appreciate the benefits of sport. “It teaches young people qualities that are essential, such as teamwork and discipline.”
The concept for Gourmet on the Gridiron is to have guests dine on the Redblacks' home field, but, due to Sunday’s rainy forecast, organizers played it safe and moved this year's dinner to the stadium’s lower concourse. The covered terrace, located right next to the field, was still very lovely.
“I know we’re inside but we’re still going to have one hell of a time," Burris promised everyone earlier at the indoor cocktail reception — where sponsor BDO Canada came prepared for all types of weather, including sunny. It offered up cool shades.