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Honouree Profiles


We are very excited to announce our 2017 Generosity of Spirit Award honourees!  Please come back every week, as we release a new honouree profile.  There are so many touching and inspirational stories that we are so proud to be able to share, and we hope you enjoy them too.


Helps us celebrate all of these stories and more at our National Philanthropy Day Luncheon on November 15, 2017 at the BMO Centre.  Register Today!




Jim Gray - Prominent Calgary businessman Jim Gray to be honoured for lifetime of helping the community

September 26, 2017
Mario Toneguzzi

Jim Gray - Web version
Photo by: Monique St. Croix, Unique Perspectives Photography

Well-known Calgary businessman Jim Gray learned the importance of giving at an early age.

Gray grew up in Kirkland Lake, Ont., and his father was involved with the Children’s Aid Society there.

“It always impacted me that he was working with young children, homeless families and things of this nature even though I didn’t realize it at the time,” says Gray, this year’s recipient of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Calgary and Area Chapter’s Lifetime Philanthropist Award.

“You get more out of this than you put into it of course. But the seeds were planted way back there in northern Ontario in the ’30s and during the war.”

The 84-year-old Gray, with Brookfield Asset Management, was nominated for the Generosity of Spirit award by the YMCA and Bow Valley College. He has spent a lifetime giving back to the community, making philanthropy a cornerstone of his life. While his father put him on the right path, Gray’s support of philanthropy became entrenched when he moved to Calgary in the late 1950s and stayed at the YMCA.

In those days the Y had small one-room apartments for single men who moved to the city. Many of his friends in the oil industry also started the same way.

His first introduction to philanthropy in Calgary was through the youth programs at the Y.

Asked why it’s important for people to give back, he says: “It’s so terribly satisfying and it’s so enjoyable — you meet interesting people…. People are so thoughtful and altruistic and so helpful.”

An exploration geologist for more than 50 years, Gray was a key player in the oil and natural gas exploration business in Western Canada. He co-founded Canadian Hunter Exploration Ltd., which became one of the country’s largest natural gas producers, in 1973.

Since then, he has experienced the ups and downs of the oilpatch and the city including the most recent recession. Gray believes that it’s more important then ever to give back to the community during challenging times.

“Those of us who can give back to the community and are interested in doing that have to fill a void because many volunteers find it very, very hard. They may have to take a second job in difficult times.

“They don’t have as much free time to volunteer. When times are difficult, sometimes finding volunteers is a tougher job so those of us who are interested, we just have to be more engaged in the community and we have to do more,” says Gray.

Shannon Doram, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA Calgary, says Gray truly believes in making the community better.

“He has been incredibly supportive of the YMCA. He is incredibly impassioned about the impact our programs have on young people and their development and their leadership potential. That has always been something he’s been quite passionate about. But he’s also been very passionate about health and wellness,” says Doram.

“His commitment and his sincerity and his selflessness around community and contributing to the larger community is something that inspires me and I think it inspires many others…. He’s never been one to put his needs before anyone else or his name out there. He just quietly goes about his work. That’s one of the things people respect about him so much.”

Gray was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1995 and received the Energy Person of the Year Award from the Energy Council of Canada in March 2001. He was also inducted into the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame, was named a Member of the Alberta Order of Excellence, and inducted into the Calgary Business Hall of Fame and the Canadian Business Hall.

“Calgary is a wonderful, caring city,” says Gray. “I’ve met wonderful people I wouldn’t have otherwise met and if I’ve been proof that my working with them can improve their quality of life, and the quality of life in the city, just a tiny, tiny little bit, then that’s a wonderful reward.”

 This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial cntent division, on behalf of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Calgary and Area Chapter.

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The Kinsmen Club of the Stampede City - Kinsmen Club of the Stampede City honoured for quietly stepping up for charities

October 2, 2017
Erika Stark - Postmedia Content Works

Kinsmen Club of the Stampede City
Photo by: Monique St. Croix, Unique Perspectives Photography

The members of the Kinsmen club of the Stampede City are the kind of folks you’d want to have as your neighbours.

At least, that’s how Mary Ellen Neilson describes them. As the executive director of the Association for the Rehabilitation for the Brain Injured in Calgary (ARBI), Neilson has seen first-hand how committed the club members are to their community.

“They’re such a good group,” Neilson says. “I’ve never seen such collegiality. They just have a great time and they do so much good in the community.”

For nearly 30 years, the Kinsmen club of the Stampede City has supported ARBI by providing funding to a variety of essential programs for those in Calgary living with from brain injuries.

“What I love about the Kinsmen is they don’t miss the little (charities), the ones that just need a hand up,” Neilson says. “They also get out and help — they’ve done so many building repairs for us, and they have been doing our Stampede breakfast for 25 years.”

The club, which has quietly been contributing to communities and organizations in Calgary since 1964, was honoured this year with the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Generosity of Spirit Award in the “philanthropic group” category. The club was nominated by ARBI.

“It feels great,” says club president Tom Maclean of the honour. “We don’t often get that much public recognition. As a service club, we tend to work under the radar, so it was very exhilarating to be recognized.”

In 1972, a woman named Audrey Morrice began helping her friend Alice Laine’s son recover from a serious brain injury. By 1978, those two women had founded ARBI and were working out of a church basement to help others dealing with brain injuries. Now, they have helped to rehabilitate thousands of Albertans.

Maclean says he was honoured to hear that ARBI wanted to nominate his club for the Generosity of Spirit Awards.

“They’re in some ways a bit like us,” he says. “It started as a small group of ordinary people that saw a need, and we’re kind of a group of ordinary guys that like to help fulfil needs in any way we can.”

The Kinsmen have funded the music program at ARBI, as well as an aphasia group for those dealing with language impairments.

“They just really believed in the healing power of music,” Neilson says. “They’re just so open to finding different ways to help us.”

The Kinsmen club of the Stampede City is likely best known for its long-standing support of children’s health through the Kinsmen Lotto for the Alberta Children’s Hospital. The club has also raised funds for the Brenda Strafford Foundation for seniors’ care and donated to the Simon House Recovery Centre in Bowness, which helps men struggling with addictions.

This year, the club made a special $100,000 donation to the Calgary Emergency Management Agency to replenish supplies for Canada Task Force 2, a team of volunteer first responders that assists during disasters such as the Fort McMurray wildfire of 2016. The $100,000 donation was then matched four times by the federal government.

“That was a really awesome group to support,” he says. “We get to hear about many smaller charities as well as large charities and the work that they do, and then we have the opportunity of supporting them and partnering with them.”

But the concept of being in the limelight isn’t one that Maclean and the club are used to.

“Now we’re in the limelight, but we realize that our work is that important to other people,” he says modestly. “We’re doing the right thing, we do it quietly and, every once in a while, we can put the spotlight on ourselves.”

Spoken like a true neighbour. 


This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.


Helps us celebrate this story and many more at our National Philanthropy Day Luncheon on November 15, 2017 at the BMO Centre.  Register Today!



Jay Westman’s community leadership benefits many Calgary causes

October 10, 2017
Mario Toneguzzi - Postmedia Content Works

Jay Westman - web version
Photo by: Monique St. Croix, Unique Perspectives Photography

When people talk about Jay Westman, the word leadership is often used to describe the successful Calgary businessman.

Westman, an instrumental part of the city’s housing market for many years, has demonstrated his leadership as chairman and chief executive officer of Jayman BUILT, one of the city’s most prominent homebuilders.

Westman has also provided leadership in his philanthropic pursuits over the years, becoming a shining example to the community of what it means to give back, both in time and money. For that, he is this year’s winner of the AFP Calgary and Area Chapter’s Doc Seaman Individual Philanthropist Award.

“I truly believe that you’ve got to start to roll up your sleeves and not just philanthropically give money, but you’ve got to start to take a look at and see what you’re going to impact basically through your personal leadership,” says Westman.

“That’s really what you try to do. Leadership by example — that’s been very rewarding.”

Westman was nominated for the award by the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, the RESOLVE Campaign and the Mustard Seed.

Jim Dewald, dean of the Haskayne School of Business, has known Westman for 30 years, doing business with him when Dewald was in the real estate industry.

“He is such a great Calgarian and such a really dedicated person to this community and he puts his money where his mouth is. He’s really quite amazing. His leadership is outstanding. He’s so generous in so many areas,” Dewald says.

“Jay totally gets and really understands the importance of philanthropy and there is no control. The gesture isn’t tied to anything. He’s always looking at bringing others to the table to help out. It’s so fantastic to have somebody in his position who has that wisdom and maturity about what philanthropy is.

“He’s a leader, but he’s always bringing more people in making sure it’s a broad impact and that it touches as many people as possible on both the giving side and the receiving side.”

In 2013, Westman gave the Haskayne School of Business a $5 million gift to develop and deliver real estate education, research and community engagement initiatives through the Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies. In 2015, together with his sister, Diana Joseph, the Westman Charitable Foundation gave a $1 million gift to support MS research at the Cumming School of Medicine’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

Westman is also one of the Founding Builders for the construction of the Trades and Technology Complex at SAIT with his $1 million gift.

He’s a cabinet member of the RESOLVE Campaign to create affordable rental housing in Calgary and he and his wife, Karen Westman, have been key supporters of the Mustard Seed’s gala fundraising event.

Westman says that people get to a certain stage in life when their bowl is full with all the things they have achieved and accumulated — their goals are fulfilled — and they turn to philanthropic giving.

“Part of that probably starts off with things that touch the family first. And it usually comes with regards to health,” he says. “And for us it was about MS. Multiple sclerosis. Many of the women in my family have been touched and impacted by MS. My grandmother had a version of it. My mother. My sister does. Her daughter. That was probably one of the bigger areas we gave to initially.

“So then we moved on to other things, things you started to develop a passion for. It’s really developed a passion in the business of housing and started to become aware of homelessness and housing affordability — social housing affordability for people who have some sort of inability for either health reasons or circumstance reasons. So I really got involved heavily with the Mustard Seed and then we got involved as well with the RESOLVE campaign.”


This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.


Helps us celebrate this story and many more at our National Philanthropy Day Luncheon on November 15, 2017 at the BMO Centre.  Register Today!




Clothing store owners go above and beyond for breast cancer foundation

October 12, 2017
Erika Stark - Postmedia Content Works

Something2Wear - web version
Photo by: Monique St. Croix, Unique Perspectives Photography

To Debbie Patrick and Melanie LaBlanc, philanthropy means a great deal more than simply writing a big cheque. For the owners of Something2Wear, a ladies’ fashion boutique, it’s about personal involvement for a good cause.

In Patrick and LaBlanc’s case, that cause is the Breast Cancer Supportive Care Foundation, an organization that supports breast cancer patients and their families in the Calgary area.

Each year, the pair brings together “an army” of volunteers to organize Fashion with Compassion, a fashion show and silent auction fundraiser. As the organization’s premier fundraising event, it brings in as much as $100,000 annually — about one-fifth of the supportive care foundation’s operating budget.

That’s one of the reasons the Something2Wear is being honoured in the Small Business Philanthropist category of this year’s Association of Fundraising Professionals Generosity of Spirit Awards.

“It’s not just writing a cheque,” says Cammie Kaulback, executive director with the Breast Cancer Supportive Care Foundation, which nominated Something2Wear for the award. “It’s combining the two — the volunteer time with their money, that’s very special.”

Patrick and LaBlanc began supporting the foundation more than 10 years ago while working for a clothing store that started putting on Fashion with Compassion. After leaving the store Patrick and LaBlanc launched their own boutique in 2010 and they opted to continue supporting the organization.

“It was just something that we needed to do,” recalls Patrick. “We knew it was important. We take quite an ownership over it.”

This year’s iteration of Fashion with Compassion took place at the beginning of October and featured patients of Breast Cancer Supportive Care Foundation and their families as models.

“It’s very celebratory for the models because they’ve gotten through breast cancer and that brings with it a whole host of doubts about your body,” says Kaulback. “These women (Patrick and LaBlanc) are so supportive and so respectful of the journey that people have been through and want it to be a positive, celebratory event.”

If organizing a fashion show for hundreds of people while also running a small business wasn’t already enough, LaBlanc and Patrick also donate their time and money to a variety of other causes in the city, including Make-A-Wish and Inn from the Cold.

“Through our business, we have a policy that whenever people come in from non-profit orgs that are within our community, and they ask for an auction item, a donation, or some help with an event, we rarely, if ever, say no,” says LaBlanc.

“It’s kind of our “say-yes” policy,” she continues. “When someone asks, we just want to help.”

The pair’s commitment to giving has also boosted their own success — Patrick says a number of women they’ve helped through their philanthropic work have become customers of Something2Wear.

“When we give to those organizations, it gives back to us,” says Patrick. “It gives us a big part of our community that we do business in.”

That kind of commitment has gone a long way for the foundation, and Kaulback says it’s vital to the organization’s success.

“It’s tough to fundraise when you’re a little group,” she says. “It’s very challenging to get your name out there, to get your cause out there. There were years that, without (Something2Wear’s) support, I don’t think the clinic would have gone on.”



This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.


Helps us celebrate this story and many more at our National Philanthropy Day Luncheon on November 15, 2017 at the BMO Centre.  Register Today!




Shell Canada’s social investment felt by communities across the country 

October 13, 2017
Mario Toneguzzi - Postmedia Content Works

 Shell Canada - web version
Photo by: Monique St. Croix, Unique Perspectives Photography

Shell Canada sees its philanthropy as social investment and through the years the company’s wide-ranging efforts have helped organizations and communities in Calgary and across the country.

Because of its long-standing involvement, Shell Canada is the 2017 Generosity of Spirit Award honouree for Corporate Philanthropy.

Shell Canada president and country chair Michael Crothers says it’s a great honour for all of the company’s employees to receive this award, especially in a city like Calgary, which is known for its generosity and has some amazing examples of corporate and individual philanthropy.

“We have a real culture of giving back to the community which I cite as part of our DNA. We have kind of this culture of caring and it’s been really something that has been part of our way of working for many decades,” says Crothers, adding the company operates by sharing benefits with communities and society as a whole.

“Our people really value this and it resonates with them really strongly. I know the award is for philanthropy, but we really see these types of commitments as investments, if you will, social investments in the communities where we operate.

“What’s vital for us is that we’re building capacity and capability in a way that’s sustainable and that we can build on year on year. That provides a framework actually for our people to volunteer and to stay connected with the communities and contribute in ways that actually go far beyond the actual funds that are donated.

“To have our people giving of their time and their talents, their enormous talents, is actually in fact probably even bigger and more impactful than the funds themselves.”

Crothers says Shell Canada builds relationships in communities by connecting with people.

Shell Canada’s community social investments are staggering:

• $100 million in social investment and sponsorships for communities across Canada over the past 10 years;

• $85 million given to United Way chapters across the country over the past 30 years. Shell Canada is one of the Top 10 contributors to United Way in Canada;

• $2.2 million in contributions across Canada in 2016;

• $1 million to Canadian Red Cross efforts in 2016 in response to the Fort McMurray wildfire ($500,000 raised by employees and matched by Shell). Plus 1,000 volunteer hours; and

• Shell Canada was the first energy company to sponsor the Calgary Pride Parade. About 200 staff, family and friends walked in this year’s parade – its best turnout ever.

Shell Canada was nominated for the award by United Way of Calgary & Area and the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre Society.

Karen Young, president and chief executive officer of the United Way, says the organization has been impressed by Shell’s social responsibility over the years.

“They have an incredible commitment to social change and they’ve been in partnership with United Way for over 30 years,” says Young. “They’ve also been one of our top funding partners in Calgary and they’re also a top funding partner — they’re in the top 10 — across Canada.

“What’s neat about working together with Shell, with their workplace campaign, is they have a real culture of giving.... They also work hard to engage millennials. They have a lot of retiree involvement. And one of the things they really do well is they encourage their employees to volunteer,” explains Young.

“Donating financially is one part of it, but also volunteering and being part of the community is that other part.”

Crothers says the company wants to make sure that the communities that are Shell’s neighbours are benefiting from its presence.

“It’s being part of the community. Being a good neighbour,” he says.


This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of the Association of Fundraising Professions.


Helps us celebrate this story and many more at our National Philanthropy Day Luncheon on November 15, 2017 at the BMO Centre.  Register Today!




Couple’s philanthropic efforts turn ‘tragedy into triumph’

October 17, 2017
Shelley Boettcher - Postmedia Content Works

 Porter Family
Photo by: Monique St. Croix, Unique Perspectives Photography

Calgarians Fran and Andy Porter have been named this year’s Outstanding Philanthropic Family, for their volunteer commitment to many groups in and around Calgary.

“Fran and Andy have worked tirelessly so that individuals and families affected by mental health know that they are not alone and that it is OK to ask for help,” says Soraya Saliba, executive director of McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Calgary, the group that nominated the Porters for the Generosity of Spirit Award presented by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

“By advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves, the Porters are helping write new beginnings for those facing mental health challenges.”

The Porters’ philanthropic journey hasn’t been an easy one, however. When their daughter, Colleen, was young, the Porters realized she was struggling from a mental illness, eventually diagnosed as Borderline Personality Disorder. Treatments didn’t help, and over the years, Colleen struggled with addiction.

During those times, the team at McMan Youth, Family and Community Services was there with support for the family and for Colleen when she needed it.

But in June 2010, Colleen died of a drug overdose.

While some families would crumble under the weight of such a tragedy, the Porters channelled their grief into helping others in similar situations.

As a way of explaining Colleen’s illness, Fran, a retired teacher, started to write a letter to Colleen’s young daughter. The letter turned into a book, When the Ship Has No Stabilizers, and Fran included resources for other families dealing with mental illness.

They decided to sell it to raise money for McMan, which had given them so much in their own time of need. To date, they have raised more than $40,000 for McMan, money that has been used for programs helping young people like Colleen.

“By courageously sharing their story, Fran and Andy are turning tragedy into triumph and giving young people access to the supports they need,” Saliba says.

Indeed, the Porters have a commitment to volunteerism that extends into many aspects of their Calgary community. They’re helping to bring the Affirm program to their church; the program seeks to include people of all backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities within the United Church and within society as a whole.

“It’s about saying we’ll be welcoming to members of the LGBTQ community, but also welcoming to people of different ethnic backgrounds, people with mental health issues, all people,” says Andy.

Fran sings in her church choir and in the High Country Chorale, and she loves to deliver cookies with her church group at Christmas to people unable to leave their homes.

And Andy can often be found at Spruce Meadows, where he enjoys talking to school groups about horse care and pond life.

“It’s so much fun. It’s just a riot,” he says.

The couple sponsors a meal at the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre, too.

“A lot of homeless people, they just can’t cope with the world,” says Fran. “There’s a real gratification in knowing you are helping.”

They say they get as much out of volunteering as they give.

“Volunteering has returns which we don’t even know how to measure when we start,” Fran says. “Not only do you benefit others, but you benefit yourself.”

Both Fran and Andy grew up in families that were committed to helping others.

Fran’s mom volunteered with breast cancer survivors, while Andy’s parents were active in their church.

“They firmly believed in the value of every single person, and they lived a life of trying to be open and friendly and caring about everyone,” Andy recalls. “That value system was certainly taught to both me and my brother.”

They’ve passed those values on to others, too. Their eldest daughter, Lisa, is a teacher and guidance counsellor in British Columbia, and Colleen’s daughter is now studying to become a nurse.

“The total inclusion of people in our community — that’s very important to us,” Fran says. “We want all people to feel included and accepted and loved and wanted.”


This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.


Helps us celebrate this story and many more at our National Philanthropy Day Luncheon on November 15, 2017 at the BMO Centre.  Register Today!







Youngster saw children in need, so she created a solution

October 19, 2017
Shelley Boettcher - Postmedia Content Works

 Sutton Garner
Photo by: Monique St. Croix, Unique Perspectives Photography

In 2015, 11-year-old Sutton Garner was watching the news on TV with her mom when she learned that many American children go hungry over the summer because school nutrition programs aren’t available.

After researching, Garner discovered the same thing was true in Calgary, so she decided to do something about it. With the help of her parents, she created the I Can for Kids Foundation.

“Thousands of kids who rely on school nutrition programs during the school year don’t have the same access to a free meal during the summer,” Garner says.

“We had to do something.”

The foundation’s goal is to ensure all Calgary children get the food they need during July and August — not just when they’re in classes.

Three times a week, for 10 weeks during the summer, Garner, now 13, and her parents rent a cargo van and load it up with food packs — fresh fruit plus non-perishables such as cans of tuna, beans, pasta, peanut butter and granola bars — and drive around to partner agencies such as Cornerstone Youth Centre and The Alex Youth Health Centre. Those agencies then distribute the packages to families with children in need.

That first year, 2015, they delivered 8,800 meals. Then, in 2016, they delivered 30,000 meals. This summer, they provided about 36,000 meals to hungry kids across the city.

Perhaps it’s not surprising to hear that Garner has been named Calgary’s Youth Philanthropist of the Year.

“She’s an incredible young woman,” says United Way volunteer lead Heather Innes, who nominated Garner for the Association of Fundraising Professionals Generosity of Spirit Award.

“Sutton has completely inspired me and both of my children to do more to give back to the community.”

One of the amazing things about Garner, says Innes, is that she saw a problem and she made the decision to do something about it.

“And she didn’t stop there,” Innes notes. “She went out into the community and she engaged other people.”

Starting the foundation wasn’t hard, but it was time-consuming.

“It was a great learning process,” Garner says. “I’ve learned so much and I’ve had tons of fun.”

At first, Garner didn’t tell her friends and family what she was doing, but as I Can For Kids got larger, they eventually found out, and now many of them volunteer with the organization, too.

In fact, the meals are paid for by donations from family and friends, as well as corporations in Calgary. Even Calgary Police Service has volunteered time and supplies, Garner notes.

“They are all very supportive of us,” she says. “When people learn about summer hunger and how it affects kids, they’re super excited to jump on board and help.”

Born in Calgary, Garner is a Grade 9 student at R.T. Alderman School in southeast Calgary, and the proud owner of two small Papillon-Chihuahua dogs. She also plays volleyball and Royal Conservatory-level flute.

When she’s finished high school, Garner says she hopes to perhaps go into medicine.

“I’d like to be a neonatal care nurse or go into forensic science and work with the FBI,” she says.

As for her role models? It won’t come as surprise to hear she’s a big fan of the young Pakistani human rights activist and Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.

“She was willing to risk her life for what she believes in, and she wasn’t going to let anyone stop her,” Garner says. “She’s so headstrong and outspoken. I really love her.”

Ditto her parents, who are “my other role models,” Garner says. “They’re great people and I aspire to be like them when I’m older.”

Like her role models, Garner says she just wants to make the world a better place.

“It makes me feel good, to see the difference I’m making,” she says. “When people are struggling, we can all lend a hand. It’s just the right thing to do.”


This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Helps us celebrate this story and many more at our National Philanthropy Day Luncheon on November 15, 2017 at the BMO Centre.  Register Today!