The Ottawa RedBlacks players aren’t the only ones who can make a pass. Community leader Nalin Bhargava is in the midst of making his own perfect handoff to the next generation of volunteers as they organize a new summer social that aims to be the largest networking event of the season while also helping underprivileged kids.
RedBlacks Summer Rush is taking place at the Infinity Convention Centre on Thursday, Aug. 17. It will support the OSEG (Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group) Foundation and the work it’s doing with other community groups to make sure kids have the necessary school supplies and essentials for when they return to the classroom this fall.
Attendees will include the RedBlacks players, who may be providing some special entertainment of their own.
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The 24th edition of the World Partnership Golf returned to Camelot Golf & Country Club on Sept. 11 with a sold-out event and a record-setting fundraising total.
The $75-a-ticket gala is being co-chaired by four promising prospects: Keaton Ambrose, director of business development with Chandos Construction; McMaster University mechatronics engineering student Kishan Bhargava; Josh Raganold, business development manager with Welch LLP and Welch Capital Partners; and Victoria Ungeitis, assistant branch manager for TD Private Wealth Management in Ottawa.
The foursome will be joined by dozens of NextGen volunteers, each tasked with a role as they build the fundraiser from the ground up. Mentoring them is Bhargava, an Ottawa dentist with a flair for fundraisers. He was behind The Maharaja’s Ball, Tiki Beach Gala and Fury for the Heart, and had a guiding role with the Talk Hockey benefit in 2019.
His son, Kishan, 22, learned about gratitude and giving at a young age. He grew up listening to his dad talk at the dinner table about his charity events. So, when the young man first heard about the latest fundraiser, he told his dad he’d like to get involved.
“I said I wanted to co-chair the event, and he said, ‘Just don’t let me down’,” recalled Kishan. “I really love Ottawa. I’ve grown up here and I’d love to be able to give back any way I can.”
Kishan is hoping RedBlacks Summer Rush provides young business leaders with the tools and experience they need to become future community leaders, and to seamlessly fill the positions left vacant when his dad’s generation retires. “I think this event will help make the transition smoother.”
Raganold caught wind of the event from Bhargava while participating in some weekend recreational pickleball. Bhargava was keen to tell him more. “We ended up meeting for breakfast about a week later,” recalled Raganold. “I was ready for an informal conversation about this event, about life, and how things are going. He had a slide deck ready for me.”
(Bhargava often includes visuals, charts and diagrams when he makes his pitches)
Raganold signed on as a co-chair. Coincidentally, he’d been looking at different ways to bring younger people together. “I think Ottawa has lacked a good platform for young entrepreneurs and professionals to connect, to feel like they’re amongst peers in a networking room, to feel included in conversations.”
He knows how hard it can be when one’s just starting out. “I’ve been in their shoes, going to your first or your third or your 10th networking event, and you walk into a room of, often, old white guys that you don’t know. It feels like a boys club that you haven’t been able to get into.
“At the end of the day, I thought this event was very interesting, and I liked that there was a big charity component to it,” said Raganold, who’s also on the board of Kids Up Front, an organization that helps kids attend concerts and sporting events through donated tickets.
“An event like this is a really good way to show people how fun it can be to give back. Maybe it’ll inspire them to do it again next year, or maybe it’ll inspire them to join a board and organize more events. The more events we have like this, the better off all these foundations and community groups are going to be, I think.”
Ungeitis will be getting all the young associates from her office out to network. TD Wealth is a sponsor. “You can’t teach networking, you can’t provide a network – you have to build that,” said Ungeitis while pointing out that the shift toward more remote and hybrid work has resulted in fewer face-to-face interactions.
“It’s nice for work-life balance but it definitely takes away from that getting together over coffee to have a conversation. I think it will be really neat to meet people from all different areas and backgrounds, in person.”
She also likes that Summer Rush is being created from scratch by volunteers. “I’m excited to get to be able to start something from the beginning and watch it grow in future years.”
For Ambrose, RedBlacks Summer Rush is right up his alley. “As someone who wants to continue growing and continue learning and to move toward a bigger senior leadership position in the community and in my business, [becoming co-chair] was just kind of a natural progression,” said Ambrose, who’s also chair of the Ottawa Young Construction Leaders (OYCL) and on the board of Ellwood House, a provider of safe and affordable housing for seniors. “It’s about leveraging the power of professional networking. I mean, we’re all out spending money doing things anyway, so why not give back to the community?”
Bhargava is a long-time football fan. As a kid, he sold five-cent programs at Ottawa’s stadium during the games, scoring a free ticket every time he sold 100 programs. He’s currently one of the team dentists for the RedBlacks.
“It’s been such a pleasure to meet and work with this next generation of community leaders,” said Bhargava. “I believe it is our duty to inspire, engage and mentor the NextGen.”
Volunteering has surprise benefits, including social connection, he said. “You go to Newfoundland and why is everyone happier there? Because they have community. We’re chasing the wrong stuff — the material things. You want to chase relationships, community. It’s the building of community that’s going to solve many of the problems that ail our society today.”
Bhargava believes volunteering helps to grow “roots, not shoots” formed from friendships rather than business transactions. “Because one day you’ll retire, and if your relationships are only based on the business, on the transactions, when the business goes away, you have no relationships. But the roots — the people who are your friends, who are based on actual relationships – will be there forever.”
Summer Rush is also working with such community partners as Ottawa Young Black Professionals, Beyond Networking, the Women’s Business Network, OYCL, Ottawa Community Housing Foundation, and the Ottawa Business Journal.