The needs of children and youth in eastern Ontario and western Quebec have never been greater. With that thought in mind, the Sens Foundation works around the clock to improve the quality of life for these children, with needs addressed in the areas of education, health, sport and recreation. Our vision is “for greater goals” in making these off-ice “assists” a reality.
The Sens Foundation is largely supported through event fundraising, corporate partnerships, and private donors. Earlier this summer the Sens Foundation hosted one of its largest fundraisers: The Scotiabank Walk, Roll & Run for Roger’s House, which is the Sens Foundation’s charity of choice. The facility provides a comprehensive paediatric respite and palliative care program with elements of outreach, residential hospice, pain and symptom management; grief and bereavement counseling and research.
The event, which took place June 19 at Scotiabank Place, saw more than 800 participants take part in the Irving Oil Tot-Trot, PwC 2K and Enterprise 5K routes. Senators forward Chris Neil joined the festivities and signed autographs for participants.
With a helping hand from the community, participants and corporate partners, more than $192,000 was raised for the paediatric palliative care facility. Title sponsor Scotiabank encouraged its staff to participate and collect pledges for the event. The bank raised more than $62,000 from more than 10 branches spread across the region.
“Being associated with a great event and raising funds for such a wonderful place like Roger’s House made our sponsorship choice an easy one,” said Emily Farrell, vice-president of Scotiabank’s Ottawa River District. “Our entire staff and customers have done whatever they could to help make such a significant contribution.”
Walk, Roll & Run honours the memory of Roger Neilson, a former Senators assistant coach who died June 21, 2003, after a lengthy battle with cancer. This year the event paid tribute to Neilson by asking children to draw a colourful tie for the event T-shirt. Neilson was renowned for wearing a crazy assortment of colourful ties. The contest was a huge success, with more than 100 submissions. Kanata resident Madeleine Visser drew the winning design.
This year’s event featured Roger’s Dream Team, an innovative fundraising campaign that encouraged local businesses to sponsor one of 10 courageous children currently receiving care from Roger’s House, and Roger’s All-Stars, a group of families who have come together to support fundraising efforts and celebrate the lives of their deceased children. Both campaigns were a success.“This year’s Walk, Roll & Run was a tremendous success for Roger’s House,” said Sens Foundation president Danielle Robinson. “The strong support shown is a testament to the character and compassion we have in our community.”
The Sens Foundation has made a long-term commitment to cover 30 per cent of the annual operating costs for Roger’s House. Walk, Roll & Run provides an opportunity for members of the community to get involved and support the Sens Foundation, while making an important and lasting contribution to countless children and their families in a time of need.
The Sens Foundation and Roger’s House had some more good news to share in July as Chris Neil and his wife, Caitlin, were officially named co-honorary chairs of the pediatric palliative care facility at a reception held in July.
They’ll follow in the footsteps of Neil’s former teammate and good friend, Mike Fisher, who was honoured at the event for his long-term contributions to Roger’s House. Fisher was named to the position in 2004, when the house was under construction.
While Neil and Fisher “talk all the time,” the event marked the first time they saw each other in person since the latter was traded to the Nashville Predators back in February.
“We always stay in touch,” said Neil, who became emotional at a reception at Roger’s House as he spoke about his former teammate. “To be able to spend some time with him … it’s like whenever one of your best buddies comes back. Having him there just felt right.”
As co-honorary chairs, the Neils will help promote awareness and fundraising for the facility, which relies on the Sens Foundation for 30 per cent of its annual operating budget.
“Chris and Caitlin have shown their commitment to the Senators family and our community, and they make a perfect fit to continue as honorary chairs of Roger’s House,” said Erin Crowe, chair of Roger’s House and executive vice-president and chief financial officer of Senators Sports & Entertainment. “We’d like to thank Mike Fisher for the contributions he made, both to help raise awareness and to invigorate the spirits of so many children and families.”
“The Senators are very fortunate to have a roster of out-going, community-minded players,” said Cyril Leeder, president of Senators Sports & Entertainment and a Sens Foundation board member. “The addition of Chris and Caitlin to the Roger’s House team is wonderful news for the house, its staff and, most importantly, the children and their families.”
“Chris is the ultimate Senator, he’s been committed on the ice and plays a very important off the ice and in the community,” said Senators general manager Bryan Murray “He cares greatly about the City of Ottawa and we’re very pleased for Chris and feel that he’s a great selection as honorary chair of Roger’s House.”
Fisher was presented with several farewell items, including a Dancing in the Rain umbrella from staff at Roger’s House.
Dancing in the Rain for Roger’s House is a major gift program developed to raise an additional $1 million over three years for the facility.
To learn how to Dance in the Rain for Roger’s House or other Sens Foundation initiatives, please visit www.sensfoundation.com.
The Sens Foundation is also part of a very COOL new initiative called the Rink of Dreams, which was officially launched in the spring. The Rink of Dreams is an open-air skating facility which will be constructed at Marion Dewar Plaza in front of Ottawa City Hall.
The Sens Foundation has pledged to cover $1 million of the design and building costs for the Rink of Dreams, which has a total price tag of $1.25 million. The City of Ottawa is taking care of the remaining $250,000 and will operate the facility.
Helping the cause in a major way is the Hockey Canada Foundation, which held its annual gala in June at the new Ottawa Convention Centre, along with a golf tournament the following day at the Marshes and Eagle Creek Golf Course. A portion of the proceeds was earmarked toward the Rink of Dreams, with the Senators and Sens Foundation hopeful to receive $350,000 worth of assistance for the project.
The gala, which celebrated some of Hockey Canada’s championship teams during the past year, brought together the who’s who of the hockey world. One of the main mandates of the Hockey Canada Foundation’s initiatives is supporting grassroots hockey, which makes the Rink of Dreams an ideal fit.
“It’s great for them to come into this city and want to partner with a local sports foundation or a hockey club and split the proceeds,” said Robinson. “We really appreciate the support and recognition they bring to the project.”
The Rink of Dreams is designed to be an artificial outdoor facility with its own refrigeration system, which will be professionally maintained by a Zamboni. That makes it far less susceptible to the whims of Mother Nature during an Ottawa winter.
“What that allows for is a consistent ice surface throughout the winter season,” said Robinson. “So really it’s almost an indoor ice quality of experience, but it’s outside in the downtown core … it’s going to provide one of the largest ice surfaces in all of the region for people to come and skate every single day. While we’re aware that the (Rideau) Canal is located close by, it’s very weather dependent, as are the 300 community rinks in this region.
“This is something in the capital right downtown that people will be able to come and enjoy every day for five months (from November to March). I think it’s going to be a really great community meeting space, a really nice opportunity for children and youth and their families to come down and experience skating.” – Danielle Robinson
Leeder said he hopes skating at the Rink of Dreams will become “one of the must-dos” for tourists visiting the city in the winter.
“We hope it will be a real people place and right at City Hall couldn’t be a better place for that,” he said. “We hope most of the time it’s used for free skating, so it’ll be open to all the residents of the community. But we hope there will be some hockey scheduled and played there as well.”
The Senators and Sens Foundation plan to use the rink for a number of community programs such as I Love To Skate, an initiative unveiled earlier this year in partnership with the city and Canadian Tire Jumpstart.
“The thing that we’re going to be doing as we move forward on this rink in our next season is partnering with school boards and schools that are in priority neighbourhoods to get kids out and learning how to skate on this rink,” said Robinson. “We’ll have skills workshops, provide them with an opportunity and get them into skates with helmets on, just to experience what skating is like.
“It’s a great Canadian passion and pastime, and it’s something we want to do in the heart of Ottawa.”
The Rink of Dreams is likely to become a centrepiece of NHL All-Star Weekend celebrations next January.
“We’re hoping we can have some kind of tie-in with the all-star game, so we can showcase the new facility,” said Leeder. “So that’s why we’re in a bit of a rush here to get this thing going. It’s a tight schedule, so we have to complete the fundraising in the next few weeks and then get the approvals done and get started in the fall. It’s ambitious, but we think we can get it done.”
To learn more about the Rink of Dreams and other Sens Foundation events and initiatives please visit www.sensfoundation.com.