What a funny time to be ending charity work. Embroiled in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic, most people’s minds and hearts are moving toward more charity and not less. However, the news out of Ottawa is sad. A once-active Ottawa Senators institution – the Ottawa Senators Foundation – is reported to be succumbing to dis-ease.
If you look at the website of the Ottawa Senators Foundation, it’s mission reads:
“The Ottawa Senators Foundation empowers children and youth to reach their full potential by investing in social recreation and education programs that promote both physical and mental wellness. With support from the community, the Foundation is breaking down the barriers to sport and recreation, educating youth about the dangers of substance abuse, and ensuring that specialized physical and mental healthcare services are available to those who need them most. Thanks to the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club, alumni association, donors, sponsors, and fans, the Foundation was able to reach 60,000 kids with programming support this past year.”
All This Charitable Work Is Ending
As reported in the Ottawa Sun yesterday, it seems as if the Ottawa Senators Foundation will be no more after Thursday’s split with Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk. This is not a small loss in the Ottawa community and many worth causes once supported by the foundation will likely lose their primary source of funding. (from “’IT DID SO MUCH GOOD:’ Redden laments end of Ottawa Senators Foundation,” Ken Warren, The Ottawa Sun, 05/06/20)
In a phone call from his home in Kelowna, British Columbia, former defenseman Wade Redden expressed his shock that the foundation would likely close its doors and hopes the worthy causes supported by the foundation don’t lose their funding.
What makes Redden so sad about the loss of the foundation was that he believes the foundation was a significant reason the team grew into a competitive franchise between 1998 and 2008. It was the players’ connection with the foundation’s causes that spurred their relationship both to the Ottawa community and with each other.
Personally, Redden was a contributor himself. Specifically, he used his salary as a hockey player to lease a luxury box for Senators’ home games called Wade’s World for the 65 Roses campaign to support those suffering from cystic fibrosis. For people who don’t know the campaign, “65 Roses” is a phrase coined by child cystic fibrosis sufferers who couldn’t pronounce cystic fibrosis.
Redden was clear that “Everything was intertwined (with the foundation), it did so much good.”
How Did the Franchise Help the Players and the Team, and Vice Versa?
Because Redden knew that Ottawa was a small franchise and a small community (as opposed to most other NHL markets), he and the other players knew it was important that they got involved. And, they centered much of their community engagement around the Ottawa Senators Foundation.
Redden believed that engagement allowed the team to thrive. He noted, “We grew as a team. We had a special bond. With (Mike) Fisher and (Chris) Neil and (Daniel) Alfredsson and (Jason) Spezza, it was stressed to us how important it was to help out. The foundation helped facilitate things.”
He went on that the charitable aspect “was a focus for all of the guys. The guys were proud to be involved and help where they could.”
The Foundation Isn’t Dead, But …
After the foundation’s split from Senators owner Eugene Melnyk on Thursday, there are many questions about what happens next. Although the current Ottawa Senators Foundation’s contract with the Senators expires on July 31, it could continue on in some capacity. But that would be difficult. The formal affiliation the foundation has had with the team has allowed it to support many charities around the Ottawa area.
Because the foundation will no longer be able to utilize the Senators brand, fundraising will be tough. As well, will the Ottawa Senators team engage in charitable actions? And, if so, what?
The Senators team is reported to be welcoming requests for proposals from other groups that would be interested in operating a new charitable foundation. The team and owner Melnyk say they will support a number of charities; however, the team’s statement on Thursday noted that its mandate would focus on raising funds for education about organ donation.
That’s obviously a tie to the team’s owner who made a public plea for help in 2015 and then received a liver transplant that saved his life. In 2017, he started his own private foundation, The Organ Project, to raise funds for the cause.
The Ottawa Senators Foundation Made a Difference for Redden
The entire issue is up in the air; however, Redden hopes that so many worthy causes the foundation once supported won’t go wanting for funds.
On a personal level, Redden talked about his own engagement with families and children who were recipients of the foundation’s work.
He ended by noting, “It was so rewarding for me. There were a lot of friends I gained from that … I still keep in touch with some of them.”
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