Guess who woke up this morning feeling like a million bucks? BGC Ottawa.
For the second year in a row, the nonprofit organization is believed to have reached its seven-figure fundraising goal, following its 12th annual breakfast held today. The event was once again presented by Mark Motors Group but with a friendly new name, The Morning Social.
Business and community leaders roused themselves early to support a local charity that gives thousands of at-risk children and youth in our city a safe and supportive place to go after school, where they can have fun, be inspired, learn new skills and hang with friends. Audience listened to heartwarming stories about how BGC Ottawa has positively impacted, even transformed, the lives of its young members.
Organizers were still counting donations on Friday afternoon but were feeling confident that the breakfast had raised $1 million.
“This is such an impressive milestone, and we couldn’t be more grateful,” said Adam Joiner, who became CEO of BGC Ottawa just a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is going to help so many kids in our community.”
Said board chair Stephen Beckta, owner of Beckta, Play and Gezellig restaurants: “It’s game changing for the organization. Without this, we’d be in a huge deficit for the year. It allows us to keep our life-changing programs happening for our members now that we’re re-open again."
Announced during the event was a $300,000 donation made by Michael Wilson, on behalf of him and his family. He's the co-CEO of financial services holding company 1251 Capital Group, as well as a BGC Ottawa board member and passionate supporter.
During the morning's program, he expressed his concern over the potential long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the children and youth in Ottawa, especially those living in vulnerable neighbourhoods. "I believe now more than ever those who are more fortunate in this city need to step forward and help those who are less fortunate," said Wilson. "Boys and Girls Club need our help today. They're doing amazing work providing support and assistance to children and families in need, but the reality is: their resources are limited."
Wilson said he normally prefers to give anonymously. "But, given everything that's happened, I feel that doing it publicly might inspire others to give whatever they can, no matter how big or small. Every gift helps."
While the 75-minute event seemed to fly by, there were months of behind-the-scenes work that went into planning, raising awareness and getting support for BGC Ottawa’s only fundraiser this year. A small online auction was also added.
A limited number of guests met at the Ron Kolbus and Tomlinson Family Foundation clubhouses. The French Embassy and the Audi West Ottawa and Audi Ottawa dealerships were also small host sites. As well, there were hundreds of supporters watching the live streaming program from their homes and workplaces.
Emond Harnden LLP lawyer Jock Climie, who’s also on the BGC Ottawa board, took on hosting duties with well-known social media influencer Katie Hession.
BGC Ottawa board member Derek Noble, a partner with Huntington Properties, invited a bunch of his associates to the Ron Kolbus site while fellow board member and Tamarack Homes vice president Michelle Taggart drew members of the construction industry to the Tomlinson clubhouse. She played a major role in her family’s donation of $1.4 million to help with programming and services at the new south-end clubhouse currently being built on Heatherington Road. It will be called the Taggart Parkes Family Clubhouse.
The breakfast was once again led by founding event chair Gary Zed and his partner Liza Mrak, executive vice president of Mark Motors.
Mark Motors’ long-standing relationship with BGC Ottawa goes beyond the giving of money and the volunteering of time. The family-owned group of luxury car dealerships also has hired former BGC Ottawa members.
“Mark Motors is part of the community that helps the community,” said Mrak. “The fact that we have alumni in our organization that have come from the Club, and are very successful in our stores, goes to show that your support with the Boys and Girls Club goes a long way.”
The co-chairs acknowledged that they felt pressure to pull off another blockbuster benefit. In 2020, the breakfast raised $1,067,000.
“Last year we thought was exceptional; we weren’t sure if we could do it again,” said Zed. “But, the community has been very resilient, even during COVID, and a lot of people in Ottawa are stepping up.”
The purpose of the Morning Social goes beyond dollars and cents, he added. The event is also about growing networks and strengthening donor relations. All of the organization’s top donors were first introduced to BGC Ottawa by attending one of its breakfasts in the past, Zed told OBJ.social.
“Our personal preference is to get away from the virtual world because people, fundamentally as human beings, want to spend time together. People want to be connected, they want to hang out together.”
While BGC Ottawa has been running virtual programs and youth outreach programs during the pandemic, it’s now welcoming kids back to its clubhouses, in limited numbers. The organization was once again able to give youth the experience of going to sleepaway camp at its Camp Smitty this summer. “It’s super exciting to be back to some form of normalcy,” said Joiner.