If there were a few noticeably empty work desks around your office on Thursday, it was probably because the slopes were calling.
Some 300 members of the business community loaded their cars and headed up to Mont Ste. Marie ski resort, about an hour north of the region, for a fun and exhilarating day outdoors at the 28th Annual Skifest for Ronald McDonald House Ottawa.
The ski event is the largest single fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House, a temporary home away from home for out-of-town families of children with critical illnesses. The non-profit organization also provides respite rooms inside the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario to family members, whether local or not, of CHEO patients.
Organizers of Skifest successfully reached their fundraising goal of $130,000 at this year's event, bringing their cumulative amount raised to more than $2 million.
Scotia Wealth Management was back for its fifth and final year as presenting sponsor, with Alex Charette once again chairing the large volunteer committee that puts the fundraiser together each year. He's a wealth adviser at ScotiaMcLeod and a former competitive ski racer.
Charette is passing his leadership role on to Ron Armstrong, portfolio manager and investment adviser with CIBC Wood Gundy Private Wealth Management, and Erin Brown, a litigation and regulatory lawyer with Norton Rose Fulbright.
When Armstrong learned that Skifest was going to need a new presenting sponsor, he coaxed CIBC Wood Gundy into coming on board for the next five years. Armstrong has been part of Skifest for years now and loves the lasting impact that the fundraiser has on Ronald McDonald House Ottawa, a local charity that relies entirely on donations in order to do its good work.
For Charette, being chair of Skifest has been so rewarding.
“It’s the most amazing experience in the world,” he told OBJ.social. “When you go to the House, you see the families who are using it and what it means to them for us to come together and do this event so that they can have some sense of peace. I can’t imagine what it must be like, what they’re going through.”
Charette says he generates so much of his energy and drive from Skifest. “I sink a lot of who I am into this because I believe so firmly in the House,” added Charette.
He's still got his charity work cut out for him; he's competing in the 2020 Fight for the Cure white-collar boxing fundraiser for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. He will also remain on the organizing team for Skifest.
“He’s been a great leader,” said Brown of Charette’s ability to motivate her and their fellow committee members. “He makes everyone excited about Skifest. I always leave the meetings thinking, ‘Who else can I contact? Who else can I try and get donations from?' Alex has done a phenomenal job.”
The skiers enjoyed superb snow conditions, and the temperatures were balmy compared to last year's frostbite-friendly weather. There was a panel slalom course set up for teams to race against each other. Later, the ski lodge was buzzing with friendly and sociable skiers enjoying après-ski appetizers, beer tasting, dinner and auction bidding.
Spotted in the crowd were Linebox Studio senior architect and principal partner Andrew Reeves and Casa Verde Construction president Paul McElligott, both of whom skied that day. The pair are working together on building a spectacular new ski chalet at Mont Ste. Marie, a privately owned ski hill. The new build is part of a flurry of recent interest among successful Ottawa entrepreneurs, with young families, to own new high-end recreational properties at Mont Ste. Marie.
On hand was Ronald McDonald House Ottawa chief executive officer Christine Hardy with her volunteer and development manager Paige McCabe. From the board were its chair, consultant Danny Baldwin, and former board chair, McDonald’s restaurant franchise owner Perry McKenna.
Ronald McDonald House Ottawa is a 14-bed facility located near CHEO at 407 Smyth Rd. It serves families who live at least 80 km away from the city, allowing them to stick close to their sick child while they're hospitalized.
The cost of hosting a family for a night at Ronald McDonald House is about $95 but families are asked to pay $10, if they can afford it. “We help to alleviate the financial pressures when you live too far away to be able to commute but need to be close to your child for — in many cases — months at a time," said Hardy.
Of top priority are families of pediatric oncology patients because of the lengthy period of treatment involved.
The House is currently at capacity and has a waiting list.