Business leaders Jeff Clarke and Sarah Grand team up to co-chair The Ottawa Hospital's President Breakfast

Upcoming signature event will raise funds for The Ottawa Hospital as it prepares to build new state-of-the-art health and research centre in Ottawa
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Jeff Clarke and Sarah Grand, seen outside the Civic campus, are the new co-chairs of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation's President's Breakfast scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 14th. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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The fundraising arm of The Ottawa Hospital is getting a healthy injection of new blood.

Jeff Clarke, president and CEO of Inflector Environmental Services, and Sarah Grand, a sales representative with real estate brokerage Engel & Völkers Ottawa Centre, are taking on the roles of co-chairs of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s 20th annual President’s Breakfast, scheduled to return to a virtual format this Tuesday, Sept. 14. They’re totally pumped about it, too.

Supporters of The Ottawa Hospital have been bubbling with excitement these days over plans to build a state-of-the-art new Civic campus — arguably the most significant new development for our city. The $2.8-billion project is scheduled to be completed in 2028.

The young, energetic and well-connected leaders will be tapping into new donors and business networks and helping to build awareness and appreciation for the world-class care and research that’s happening at The Ottawa Hospital. Supporting them is a stellar team of cabinet volunteers from the local business community.

“As business leaders in the community we have an obligation to do this,” explained Clarke, 31, during an interview alongside 45-year-old Grand on the front lawn of The Ottawa Hospital’s aging Civic campus, on Carling Avenue. “We’ve had so much success and luck in our lives, and we’re so fortunate to be in the place that we are. The best thing we can do is share it with others, and try and promote more giving.”

The pair, who will be chairing the signature event over the next two years, say the fundraiser will revert to an in-person event at the Shaw Centre for 2022. 

They have ambitious goals for the President’s Breakfast. It normally raises in the $700,000 to $800,000 range.

“We’re really going to do our best to exceed that,” vowed Grand.

That’s not an empty promise. Clarke single-handedly hauled in by far the most amount of money to date for Fight for the Cure when he stepped in the ring to box in 2019, in support of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. “He’s a force to be reckoned with,” said Grand.

The breakfast, which brings together hundreds of business and community builders, is full of extraordinary and inspiring stories focused on leading-edge patient care and medical breakthroughs at The Ottawa Hospital, which is led by its president and CEO, Cameron Love. Ottawa physician Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, who has his own podcast, will be emceeing this year. The virtual format means there's no limit to the number of people who can participate.

Michael Runia, board chair of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation and partner and chief investment officer at Nautical Lands Group, said they couldn’t be more thrilled to have Clarke and Grand take on such significant roles.

“The two of them are rock stars,” he said of their passion, energy and excitement. “They represent the next generation of community leadership.”

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Sarah Grand and Jeff Clarke, seen on the front steps of the Civic campus, are the new co-chairs of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation's President's Breakfast, taking place Tuesday, Sept. 14. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Grand, who really enjoyed being a guest of the breakfast in the past, said it was her friend Natalie Raffoul, managing partner of Brion Raffoul LLP and a board member with The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, who suggested she consider the role of co-chair. 

“At first I thought she was out to lunch because, I mean, we’re all in this pandemic,” Grand recalled of her initial reaction. “I have two young kids learning from home and I have a full-time job. Do I need another thing?”

But, the more Grand thought about it, the more she realized how much she’d like to focus her community involvement on one meaningful cause, such as The Ottawa Hospital. She received full support and encouragement from her husband, Chris Vivone, a former senior executive with Edelman. He recently left that job to become director of federal government relations for TC Energy. 

Grand also has deep ties to The Ottawa Hospital. Not only were she and her children born there, but it treated her father during his times of illness. Sadly, her mother, long-time realtor Lisa Grand, spent the last six months of her life at The Ottawa Hospital battling an aggressive form of leukemia, despite a stem cell transplant. She passed away Jan. 15, 2020 at the age of 69.

Watching last year’s virtual breakfast was the decision-making clincher, said Grand.

“I was moved to tears listening to the patients' stories and seeing what these caregivers were doing, especially during the pandemic. It was an easy ‘Yes’ for me at that point,” she said.

Clarke’s participation in the breakfast stretches back years, beginning as a guest, to hosting his own table, to being asked to join the cabinet by his friend and mentor, Paul McCarney, president and CEO of Clean Water Works. Clarke, who's also on the board of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, continued to volunteer on the cabinet under the most recent co-chairs, Cyril Leeder and Janet McKeage

Similar to Grand's personal history with The Ottawa Hospital, both of Clarke’s parents were treated for cancer there. His father, Jeff Clarke Sr., who founded Inflector Environmental, passed away in 2014 due to the disease. His mother, Margie Clarke, is a cancer survivor.

“She just had another surgery here, as well, and that also was successful,” he added.

Additionally, the hospital has taken care of employees of Clarke's who contracted the virus during the pandemic. He caught it, too, but didn't need to be hospitalized.

In order to build its larger, more modern facility, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation is working to raise a portion of the costs – $400 million – from the community. Leading that campaign is well-known Ottawa business and community leader Roger Greenberg, executive chairman of Minto Group and of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group.

The new Civic campus “is going to be the single biggest economic booster that we’ve seen,” said Greenberg of the “hundreds of millions of dollars in spinoffs” for Ottawa, including the creation of thousands of new jobs. “Any business that relies upon the economic health of the region should be a supporter of The Ottawa Hospital.”

The President’s Breakfast cabinet includes Gord Cudney (Gowling WLG), Lindsay Hockey (Avison Young), Adam Kane (Scotiabank Private Banking), Sean Lundy (MP Lundy Construction), Peter MacEwan (MacEwen Petroleum), Paul McCarney (Clean Water Works), Janet McKeage (RBC Phillips, Hager and North Investment Counsel), Natalie Raffoul (Brion Raffoul LLP), Matthew Rinfret (PCL Construction), Emily Segal (Gilmour Psychological Services), Jacob Shabinsky (Glenview Homes), Mohamed Sheibani (Deloitte Canada), and Cathy Worden (Cisco).

Incidentally, Clarke was named a recipient of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 for 2020, an annual recognition of the exceptional achievements of 40 outstanding Canadians under the age of 40.

"It was super humbling," the successful businessman said of being celebrated alongside the other winners. “When you’re looking at the list of people and you’ve got people who are curing brain cancer and stuff like that, you’re like, ‘What am I doing here?’"

Um, how about growing and operating a leading company in environmental contracting, executing some of the largest-scale remediation projects in Canada’s history, while helping to build a new hospital for the region?

— caroline@obj.ca