For those who have the means, it’s easy to donate to charity with just a few simple clicks of the mouse.
But what’s made Ottawa business leader Greg Graham such a valuable supporter of the Children’s Aid Foundation of Ottawa (CAFO) is not only his personal involvement with the charity but also the way in which he reaches out to others and invites participation.
Graham, who was born and raised in Brockville, is the chief operating officer of Cardel Group of Companies and the Ottawa president of Cardel Homes. He also used to be on the board of CAFO.
Each year, he buys a table and invites his staff to the annual Salut! dinner in support of CAFO. The foundation is the fundraising arm of the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa, an agency that protects children in our community from abuse and neglect.
This year, the sold-out dinner is happening Wednesday, May 19.
“It’s really easy to write a cheque,” Graham acknowledged. “It gets you in and off the hook, and you move forward.
“Cardel’s philosophy and my own philosophy about charity is, I don’t want to just write a cheque; I want to engage my staff, engage my customers, engage my trade partners and see if we can have them benefit from the enjoyment that we get from working with these charities, and also expose them to the charities, so that they may become contributors as well.”
CAFO is known for helping youth in foster care pursue a post-secondary education through the foundation’s Dare to Dream bursary program. The foundation is also there offering its support to young people when it comes time for them to transition out of foster care at age 18.
Cardel Homes previously established a scholarship fund at Algonquin College through the Children’s Aid Foundation of Ottawa to help youth who are interested in a career in the trades.
For the second year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Salut! dinner is being hosted online via Zoom. The three-course meals are being prepared by catering company Thyme & Again and will be delivered to 90 homes of about 180 supporters. They will feast on a main course of smoked duck with cornbread pudding, red cabbage and grilled spring onion with a ginger fig duck jus.
The dinners also come with three bottles of Ontario wines from Rosehall Run, Redstone and Pillitteri wineries, paired by Ottawa wine critic and author Vic Harradine of winecurrent.com. Business sponsors include TD Bank and law firm Emond Harnden.
This year’s event is expected to net as much as $70,000, which would make it the most successful Salut! dinner to date. The money is needed, given that the foundation has seen the cancellation of many third-party events due to the pandemic.
An anonymous donor has agreed to match up to $20,000 in donations in memory of Ken Odell, while another supporter, John Connolly with the MATT Foundation, has also pledged $10,000 in matching donations.
“Our donor community really understands the challenges and the resiliency of these youth who are in foster care,” said CAFO executive director Walter Noble. “They have stepped up over the last year and they continue to help.
“It’s spectacular, and we’re really thankful for it.”
Participants will learn more during the dinner about the Dare to Dream bursary program from one of its beneficiaries. The young people’s stories are “remarkable,” says Graham, marvelling at how the youth are able to persevere with just a little bit of help.
“Their tenacity, and being able to pull themselves up from the bootstraps and take ownership of who they are and what they want to be is incredible.”
Cardel Homes, which builds homes in Ottawa, Colorado, Florida and Alberta, also participates in the foundation’s annual golf tournament and World Trivia Night, and supports its holiday gift program.
“(CAFO) has become something that’s near and dear to my heart, and certainly we want to see these kids succeed in their future endeavors,” said Graham. “We just think Walter and his team are doing a fabulous job, and they’ve increased the profile of the Children’s Aid Foundation of Ottawa.”
Most of the kids who get a helping hand from CAFO live with their families or with kin care providers but need necessary items identified by front-line social workers. CAFO helps out with those specific and immediate requests, whether it’s by providing a bed, a baby gate or clothing. As well, the foundation gives these children opportunities to participate in recreational and sports activities or camps.
During the COVID-19 shutdowns, CAFO has been providing special activity kits to children of all ages – some of whom are living in motels or tiny apartments with their parent while waiting to get into public housing. Last spring, the foundation provided 360 kids in the community with activity kits.
Next month, another 200 activity kits are being planned for kids as part of a "get active" campaign, with funding received from the OSEG Foundation.