Joe Clark & Maureen McTeer

Joe Clark & Maureen McTeer have dedicated their lives to public service. Married for almost 45 years, they have both enjoyed remarkable professional careers and have inspired countless people to step forward and make positive change in Ottawa, and in communities across Canada.

For my final #150GreatPeople blog post, I wanted to profile the two people whose progressive, inclusive view of Ottawa, our country and our global community helped shape my own perception of the world around me. My parents have taught me many things: that a sense of community is the foundation of our strength as a nation, that diversity is to be celebrated, that every person has a story, and that if you want to make a positive change you have to be courageous enough to take a stand.

Those lessons are what inspired me to write this blog about people who work tirelessly to change Ottawa for the better, and I can think of no more fitting way to close #150GreatPeople than with my parents, whose example I cherish. Here, Joe Clark & Maureen McTeer answer the final questionnaire:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

(MM) I was born in Ottawa and raised in rural Cumberland, so the Experimental Farm and the Green Belt make Ottawa special for me. I know of no other Capital city that combines the urban and rural realities so well and successfully.

(JC) I was raised in – and, for 20-some years, elected by – rural Alberta, where the prevalent sense about their national capital was that it was far away, and not just geographically. Yet early on, I recognized that, when my constituents visited Ottawa, they were surprised to find the familiar sense of a welcoming community, a little like home. They were impressed by the national institutions, of course, and the rivers and the parks and the pace but, more important, they felt like neighbours not strangers. Not all capitals have that quality. Not all cities. Whatever our cosmopolitan aspirations, Canada is still a local‎ country, and Ottawa succeeds as both a capital and a community.

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

(MM) I have always had a passion for the arts so love the National Gallery and the NAC, which provide us access to the richest blend of cultural experiences. Ottawa is particularly fortunate to have such vibrant cultural institutions which reflect the best of our country.

(JC) Inevitably, there are enclaves of privilege and poverty and self-importance but generally the Ottawa community is remarkably egalitarian, and respectful of differences. That’s taken some work, over time, and of course has a distance to go, but the pattern is clear and encouraging.

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?

(MM) I was raised to be keenly aware of my good fortune, especially living in a peaceful, open country where as a girl I had access to education and boundless opportunities in life. In return, I am committed to volunteerism and community service.

(JC) I have come to know and admire Ottawa’s rich tradition of individual ambition and accomplishment – that’s what makes the city vibrant – but, to my mind, what distinguishes Ottawa is the extent and quality of its citizens’ commitment to public service, as a career, and as an aspiration, whether in the formal institutions of government, or in local communities and causes

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

(MM) As an advocate for greater access for women to high quality health services in our community, I am proudest of the role I played with others to build the Shirley E. Greenberg Women’s Health Centre.

(JC) Working in this city gave me the priceless opportunity to learn so much more about my country and my world and to help shape attitudes and events.

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

(MM) My hope is that Ottawa will respect and enhance the many communities’ architectural and cultural heritage.

(JC) That it becomes far-sighted. The risk of being welcoming and respectful and comfortable is complacency, and that is especially challenging in an age of such deep and rapid change.

Hannah, Sophie & Cece Weider

Hannah, Sophie & Cece Weider are trying to make youth homelessness a thing of the past in Ottawa. The three sisters, shining examples of the fact that age is no barrier to making a difference, were shocked to meet a young homeless person outside of their local grocery store six years ago, and to learn that over one thousand kids have no home to turn to in the city. Dismayed that the capital of a first world country still sees kids living on the streets, the sisters decided to sleep outside of City Hall – in the dead of winter – to raise awareness of the problem, and to highlight the work of the Youth Services Bureau in trying to end youth homelessness.

The dedication and example of these three remarkable young women struck a chord , and led to the creation of the annual YSB SleepOut for Youth, which now sees hundreds of people gather to spend a night to raise awareness and money – almost one million dollars so far – for the YSB and its work on behalf of at-risk kids in our community. Hannah, Sophie & Cece Weider are an inspiration – determined to make Ottawa a safer, kinder community for all – and for that they are three of #150GreatPeople. Here, the Weider sisters answer the questionnaire:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

We have lived in Ottawa our whole lives, so it is hard to compare. But in talking with friends and family who live elsewhere, it is clear that there is something special about Ottawa. As the nation’s capital, Ottawa embodies – and celebrates – what it is to be Canadian. It is home to our national institutions and has a sense of a patriotic, bilingual, multicultural community. At the same time it is made up of unique, tightly knit neighbourhoods where the sense of local community has the strength and atmosphere of small towns.

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

We love that Ottawa is a place where even kids can bring about positive change. There are tons of opportunities to get involved and make a difference in your community and supportive community leaders willing to help. The most amazing people have supported us time and again – people like MP Catherine McKenna, MPP Yasir Naqvi, Mayor Jim Watson, our City Counsellors, the staff at the Glebe Community Centre, our teacher and principals, and – of course – our parents! That is something we love about Ottawa – that so many leaders are willing to help out and so many people share a desire to make our city, and our country, a better place for everyone.

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?

Even though we are super fans of Ottawa, no city is perfect. There are more than 1000 homeless youth in Ottawa every year. People generally believe that there are enough safe beds and resources for all our homeless youth, but this is far from the truth – organizations around the city struggle to provide enough rooms for our homeless youth every year. In a country as great as Canada, especially in the Nation’s capital city, no youth – no person – should be without a safe, warm place to sleep and the food, clothing, medical help they need. This is why we have been actively involved with the Youth Services Bureau for the past five years – so that we can help put an end to youth homelessness in Ottawa.

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

Six years ago we had an encounter with a homeless youth outside our neighbourhood grocery store. This was a shock… Our family wanted to do something about it. That year, in February, we slept outside at city hall to raise awareness for homeless youth in our city and to spread word that the Youth Services Bureau (YSB) was there to help. After speaking at our schools, reaching out to friends and approaching organizations like the Glebe Community Centre, we saw that many people wanted to help out – and the annual YSB SleepOut for Youth was born! The next year the number of participants doubled. And the next year it did the same. And every year we were surprised to see the amazing support from out city – every one wanted to help, they just didn’t know how to before. This year we had over 750 participants – over half of them youth – on the TD Place field at Lansdowne (we had outgrown city hall last year). We raised over $250,000, bringing us close to a million dollars raised in support of youth homelessness shelters in the past five years! We’d be the first to tell you that this isn’t our doing – it’s just an amazing example of the Ottawa ripple effect at work! We are so grateful and proud of everyone who has participated, supported and helped organize the event year after year. Together we are making a difference!

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

Five years ago we dreamed of a future that had supportive housing rooms for every homeless and at-risk youth in Ottawa. Today we see this future coming true with YSB breaking ground on a new emergency shelter and mental health centre that will hopefully provide enough supportive housing for youth homelessness in Ottawa to be a thing of the past. We hope that this is just a first step towards a future Ottawa being a place where no person, of any age, is living on the streets. We also hope that more people realize the power they have to create meaningful and positive change – they’re living in the easiest place to do it!

Sylvia Cuhaci

Sylvia Cuhaci has been a champion for community-based mental health services in Ottawa for over three decades. As a volunteer and board member with Upstream Ottawa, Sylvia – with her gentle, gracious approach to everyone around her – has worked tirelessly to ensure that those struggling with the effects of mental illness in the city have a place to turn when they need it most.

Sylvia’s late son Hayq fought a valiant battle with mental illness until his death at the age of 29, and thus she understands all too well the toll that the disease can take on individuals and their families. She is committed, through her unstinting dedication to Upstream Ottawa, to providing a ray of hope to kids and adults living with mental illness in our city, and to ensuring that they have the support they need as they rebuild their lives. For her courage, her selflessness and her dedication to those in need, Sylvia Cuhaci is one of #150GreatPeople in Ottawa. Here, she answers the questionnaire:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

Ottawa is home. Ottawa is where our children were born, where we all gather on holidays and family occasions in our house in which we have lived for over forty years and where memories and experiences have shaped us.

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

Accessibility to places and people: In Ottawa you can live in a suburban setting and be at a stone’s throw from the urban core and the beautiful Parliament Buildings. Friends and family are never far away. Also, waterways, cycling paths and ample green spaces are special privileges that make our city unique.

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?

When you come to a city you eventually become part of its communities. It is natural to want the best for your community and to be proud of its achievements. No conscious effort is required besides dedication. It is truly rewarding to have the opportunity to make a difference in a place that was so welcoming when my husband and I arrived in Ottawa as a young couple a very long time ago ….

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

As a Board member of Upstream Ottawa I take particular pride in being able to continue its founders’ vision of rebuilding lives affected by mental illness. I take special pride in having gained the trust of my fellow Board members, staff and clients. Through our dynamic and collaborative approach we have engendered hope and facilitated rehabilitation. With the help of Ottawa’s generous donors and volunteers we have expanded our community-based support services to create new programs such as the successful Youth Matters Initiative. Personally, my work is a tribute to Nancy Smart who spearheaded Upstream in 1985 and to our late son from whom I learnt so much about courage and the intricacies of mental illness. I have been involved with Upstream Ottawa Mental Health Community Support (formerly Project Upstream) for more than 30 years and look forward to further growth and success. With additional financial support from Provincial and private sources, we can do it.

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

I hope that Ottawa will continue to be a welcoming place where communities thrive and respect their city and its residents. I hope that Ottawans will continue to take pride in its landmarks and achievements and that schools will make a greater point of teaching children about the history of their capital city and its environs. When those children grow up they will become contributing members to their own communities.
Thank you Ottawa.

Tanya Woods

Tanya Woods is working to create a more sustainable, connected world through kindness. As Chief Impact Officer for Kind Village, Tanya helps make positive social change more accessible to everyone by putting consumers, business owners and professionals in touch with the causes that most need their help,

Kind Village is a social enterprise, and Tanya inspires people to lend their expertise, their awareness-raising abilities or their funds to make things better for all, and she helps influence consumers to support companies and businesses that are dedicated to building better communities. For this, Tanya Woods is one of #150GreatPeople in Ottawa, and here she answers the questionnaire:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

Ottawa is special to me because it is home. I grew up in this city and have nostalgic memories embedded at every corner, it seems. It is the place I like to think of as my village, because at every outing the odds are high that I will run into people I know and have known for years, and that is pretty cool.

I remember growing up here and thinking Ottawa was a pretty city, a great place to raise a family, very cold (weather) and kind of boring. Over the years, the city has evolved and become reinvigorated with the vibrant energy of its incredible citizens and visitors! Having lived abroad and had the chance to visit world-class cities around the globe many times over, I can say that there is still no place that replicates the comforting feeling I get landing at MacDonald-Cartier airport – it’s that feeling you get when you know you are home.

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

I love interacting with the people who share this community with me. Ottawa is a very diverse, caring and kind community. Those who have lived here for some time, I hope know this to be true. I also hope that those who are newer to the city are discovering how much heart resides here. I want newcomers to feel welcome. As a local that really matters to me. I also love that I never cease to be amazed by the talented creators, entrepreneurs, business owners and community builders who are constantly finding new ways to make our communities stronger, more sustainable and kinder.

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?

Thank you! My values guide the work I do in the community, and values-based work is without a doubt the most fulfilling work one can do in their lifetime, which is why it is important to me.

I remember when I started my first non-profit (Artists Legal Services Ottawa). I worked closely with friends I knew who shared my love for the arts and who also wanted to empower creators by sharing essential knowledge to help them succeed at their craft. That was seven years ago and the organization is still going strong and has supported many creators in our community. The same values led me to join other friends to start Girl Force – a group of awesome individuals in Ottawa’s videogame industry who are voluntarily teaching girls and non-binary folks, ages 14+, the skills they need to make videogames and have careers in a field that they love. Again, the focus of this work is on empowerment through community and skills building.

The work that I have been able to do with these organizations, and many others, has provided me with lessons and gifts along the way that inform my most ambitious project, Kind Village. Kind Village has been a special project that I have been working on for five years, alongside so many of Ottawa’s kindest and brightest individuals, many of whom are on this list! 

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

I am most proud of what our Kind Village team and community has been able to achieve since our humble start in 2013.

For those who don’t know what Kind Village is, it is a social enterprise that two people started as an “audacious experiment” to see how much impact could be created using only in-kind resources. Today, the team has grown to 12 very talented individuals that focus efforts on harnessing the time, talents and things available from generous donors (in local communities) to help address big community issues like hunger, poverty, gaps in health and education, equality, human rights, and environmental challenges.

We have been able to help over 60 charities, while high-fiving thousands of incredible donors and supporters who care about their causes and the organizations – like charities and community non-profit groups – working to address the issues.
Since our start we have:

– Raised awareness and facilitated in-kind donations to many charities in Ottawa and beyond;
– Collected 400+ pyjamas for kids in need (Family Pyjama Party in the Capital, 2015);
– Inspired global youth attending the One Young World Summit by sharing the stories of incredible local change makers and Kind Village members (One Young City, 2016);
– Launched an initiative to tackle hunger in Canadian communities with top Canadian chefs and food industry trailblazers (Feed The City, 2017);
– Co-created one of Canada’s largest social impact, interactive art installations at Canada’s Science and Technology Museum with local artist eepmon (Yours To Discover, 2017); and,
– Launched our community giving platform (2017), which has been a core project (and big time labour of love) since our start.

2017 was a big year for us. A lot of our effort really started to materialize and we were fortunate to get recognized by great groups who are values aligned.
The local support we have had this year has been overwhelming and encouraging.

We were also fortunate to have some international recognition, including an invitation from the folks at the Obama Foundation, who selected us to attend the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago at the end of 2017 and meet President Obama and his team. The Kind Village journey never ceases to amaze and humble me. I am so eternally grateful for everyone who has been part of this story. Thanks to all of you!

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

I would love Ottawa to become known as the world’s kindest (and as a result most vibrant and sustainable) city in the world. With such wonderful people, like those on this list, but also those quiet and mighty champions out in our local communities who often go unnoticed, I know this is possible and I am committed to seeing it happen! In fact, I would love to see a global competition for this… I think we will start that in 2018… consider this the launch!

I believe that the most successful cities in the future will shine because they can successfully articulate and embed the values of their citizens in all corners of the city and through all points of citizen engagement – whether with government, businesses, schools and other organizations, or just at the ice rink.

Ottawa, like many cities, is growing quickly, and it is important to ensure we have some creative and values-based and collaborative discussions and activities, championed by local leaders and citizens from all walks of life, on an ongoing basis.

Everyone has a voice, every voice is important, and every voice deserves to be valued and heard – that happens in #MyOttawa in the future.

Yasir Naqvi

Yasir Naqvi grew up in a family firmly committed to the ideals of democracy and social justice, so it’s really no surprise that he would choose a career which allowed him to serve the public as an elected official. Naqvi, who is MPP for Ottawa Centre and Attorney General for the Province of Ontario, arrived in Canada in 1988 after his father was imprisoned in Pakistan for leading a pro-democracy march, and he has dedicated himself to building a strong, sustainable Ottawa since he came to the city to attend law school.

Naqvi, who is raising two young children with his wife, Christine, wants to ensure that Ottawa is an inclusive, innovative city which looks towards the future as it continues to grow and evolve. For this, Yasir Naqvi is one of #150GreatPeople in Ottawa, and here, he answers the questionnaire:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

Easy answer: the people. Ottawa is more than a city and the national capital — it is a tight-knit and generous community. From the moment I moved here as a student, I knew this city was my home. Ottawans have a generous spirit and deep pride in our community that I don’t think can be matched anywhere else.

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

Ottawa is an intersection of a bunch of worlds, and it has the best of all of them. What’s the saying, “big city with a small town vibe”? As the nation’s capital we have amazing arts and culture, visiting and local talent, great and expanding infrastructure, to name a few. Ottawa has a rich history but is also constantly recreating itself. It is a wonderful place to live and work, and I count myself extremely fortunate and humbled to represent part of this community.

But more simply: Ottawa is a liveable city for me and my family. It is a community that focuses on making sure its people have the best quality of life — and I hope my work and that of my colleagues contributes to that goal.

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place — why is this important to you?

As an immigrant to Canada, Ottawa welcomed me in and made me feel like I belonged. I found support, a sense of community, and a home here. And I want to make sure that everyone who chooses Ottawa has the same opportunities and experiences.

Ottawa is home for me and my family, and I couldn’t think of a better job than working to give back to the community that has given me so much.

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways — is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

I want to point out that everything I’ve been able to do is because of the support, advocacy, and hard work of the community I represent. I tell all my colleagues at Queen’s Park that Ottawa boasts the most engaged constituents anywhere in the province — you are truly a huge part of the work we do. So, I am proud of everything we have accomplished together, like:

• A new LRT — zero emission public transit system
• Hundreds of new affordable housing units in our community
• New and renovated schools in the downtown core
• World-class health care services at the Ottawa Heart Institute and Regional Cancer Care Centre at The Ottawa Hospital

But it’s the work we do on a daily basis — the work that doesn’t get media headlines — helping constituents with some of their most difficult challenges that, perhaps, makes me most proud.

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

The wrap up of the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation has given me a lot of pause to think about our next 50 years — which I believe are the most important yet.

We already lead the world in many ways, but two things for me rise above the rest in urgency and necessity — addressing climate change and reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. I want Ottawa to lead the way in a meaningful journey of reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples, and become a resilient community that is a beacon for a sustainable future.

Lastly, I hope that the 150 people on this list inspire all of us to get more motivated and engaged. I encourage you to act on whatever drives you, in whatever way you can — it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. I am constantly awestruck by the quiet leadership of our community — the volunteers, the advocates, the community builders. I hope we continue working together to create a better, more compassionate, sustainable Ottawa.

Mollypenny

 

Mollypenny is a therapeutic clown who brings joy, laughter and a bit of magic to children receiving care at CHEO.  A hospital stay can be a stressful situation for anyone – particularly young patients – and Mollypenny spends three days every week offering comfort, moral support and a terrific sense of fun to courageous CHEO kids and their families whom she visits throughout the hospital.

Mollypenny helps normalize the hospital environment, and even occasionally takes a “clown in training” along with her to do her rounds for a day (kid clown suit included). This commitment to the emotional health of children who are going through tough times – and the humour, positive energy and affection she spreads throughout the hospital – make Mollypenny one of #150GreatPeople in Ottawa. Here, she answers the questionnaire:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

The Kids. Kids make our city fun. My world revolves around kids and the joy they bring to our lives and the joy that I try to bring to their lives while they undergo their medical journey. I have met thousands of kids and their amazing families and caregivers in my years in this city and each and everyone of them is special. We all start out as kids and then grow into adults, so when you think about it, if Ottawa wasn’t made up of amazing kids, then it wouldn’t have all the amazing adults that it has today.

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

Ottawa is a caring place. I see many acts of kindness every day in my travels throughout the hospital. I see people at CHEO-OCTC always working as a team to give our patients the best possible care. I also see this in our community where folks regularly go the extra mile to help not only kids, but their families. This touches me enormously.

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?

It’s what I was meant to do. I feel I am making a difference in the life of a child by empowering him or her and helping grow their self-esteem and their ability to express themselves.

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

I have the honour of attending events that bring joy to kids. These include the Teddy Bear picnic, Candlelighters events, the annual CHEO telethon and many more. These are events that are equally important to our city and the kids and families that attend them.

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

It would be amazing if no child was ever sick again, however I know that’s not realistic. That being said, I hope CHEO-OCTC will always be there for kids and their families and that the community continues to support this wonderful organization.

Raymond Murray

Raymond Murray began playing music at the age of three, and hasn’t stopped since. Now a successful lawyer with Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP, Raymond is also a performer – his band Souljazz Orchestra has released 8 albums, three of which have been nominated for Junos  – and a musical mentor through Orkidstra, a program which provides kids from low-income families in Ottawa with free music lessons.

Raymond believes that music can help to build better, stronger communities – creating environments in which young people work together with respect, discipline and creativity to achieve their goals, building their self confidence as they learn new musical skills. For his commitment to supporting kids who might never otherwise have had the chance to make music a meaningful part of their lives, Raymond Murray is one of #150GreatPeople in Ottawa, and he answers the questionnaire here:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

My children were born in Ottawa and I have had the pleasure of watching them and the City grow together over the last 15 years. My children are bilingual in French and English. They go to school with other children who came here from all over the world. Their classmates come from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and includes refugees from places such as Somalia.

Beyond my children, I am excited by the growth in the music scene in Ottawa. I started playing souljazz, reggae, afro and funk in Ottawa in 2001. At that time, there were few other artists embracing alternative, underground and modern styles of music and even fewer venues willing to support us. Flash forward to today and there are excellent acts, artists, community programs, and centres supporting the Ottawa music scene.

I have watched as this City embraced multiculturalism and as it became more cosmopolitan while maintaining its small-city and community feel. I think this is one of Ottawa’s biggest strengths. I cannot wait to see how our music scene continues to grow and evolve as we welcome people here from all over the world.

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

Ottawa feels like a real living and breathing community. Many of us work hard, but lifestyle is also important to us. For myself, I want to show my kids that it is important to work hard at your job, but it is also important to be there for your family and the people you love as well. Ottawa is also a place that prides itself on being outside and enjoying nature. It is great to be so close to incredible parks and have sports programs for people of all ages and levels. I am also pleasantly surprised all the time to see the level of philanthropy in the community, even with the kids.

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?

As a lawyer and musician, it is important to me that I provide legal education to the community in my areas of experience, namely in estate and entertainment law. In both areas, it is important that I am approachable to people. Most people do not need a lawyer when they are in a good spot in life; they need a lawyer when something has gone wrong – sometimes very wrong. I try to accessible. It can be intimidating and confusing to speak with a lawyer, and we are not always the best communicators. I try to spend time in the community breaking down common legal issues. I want to help Ottawans feel confidence in the legal system again. I want the people in my community to know they can come to me if something has gone wrong in their life. I want them to feel I will do everything I can to maintain and protect their rights.

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

In terms of my volunteer work, my great love is for OrKidstra, which is a social development music program for children aged 5 to 18 living in under-serviced areas of Ottawa. OrKidstra combined two of my greatest passions, social development and music. I am a board member and am very proud of all that the OrKidstra organization has done to promote and provide music to children. I love that Ottawa has given me the opportunity to be part of an organization like this.

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

I hope that Ottawa keeps its small town feel as it grows. It is important that Ottawa continues to be a community that supports its peoples and identity. We have great talent, diversity, community and business here. With all the positives, I cannot wait to see what we accomplish.

Leanne Cusack

Leanne Cusack has spent much of the past three decades informing and entertaining CTV Ottawa viewers, first as a reporter, then as the respected host of CTV News at Noon – a role she continues to this day. Leanne is part of the fabric of Ottawa, committed to highlighting the people and causes which contribute to the well being of the city and its citizens.

Leanne also hosts CTV Ottawa’s Amazing People series, which profiles the work of individuals who take it upon themselves to help make Ottawa a better place – a perfect role for a woman who, when not on air, can just as easily be found leading charitable events and fundraising significant amounts of money for dozens of worthy causes. Leanne Cusack, with her boundless enthusiasm, energy and warmth – and her unrelenting dedication to making Ottawa the best city it can be – is one of #150GreatPeople. Here, she answers the questionnaire:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

Ottawa is a “big” small town; a world-class city with nature escapes just minutes away. Where else can you leave a downtown core and be on a hiking or ski trail in a National Park within minutes? Ultimately, what makes this city special isn’t just the exquisite architecture, the landscape, the rich history, or the beauty of the seasons. It’s the people. Those raised here, those who, like me, arrived for a while and stayed. It’s a city of creators, debaters, doers and givers. There is a kindness here, and beauty everywhere. It’s rare to go anywhere without bumping into someone you know. Everyone is connected.

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

I feel so appreciative of this beautiful place that has become my home. I arrived in Ottawa from Halifax as a first year journalism student in 1986. A few years later, when I moved to a farm in Pakenham, I began to know, love and understand the wonderful people of the Ottawa Valley. Twenty years later New Edinburgh became home. It was then I discovered all of the phenomenal walking trails and neighborhoods. This is a great city to discover on foot. I love art and food. Creative and delicious offerings abound! Ottawa has every vibe you would want. I now live in Chelsea, so close to Gatineau Park, one of the best elements of life here. We are constantly hiking, snowshoeing, and kayaking. More recently, I’ve begun exploring my love of landscape painting. My commute feels pretty exquisite. Every morning when I drive across the bridge from Quebec, my heart skips a beat at the cityscape. Looking at the view of Parliament on the cliffs above the river takes my breath away.

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?

Being part of this community is such a privilege I feel the need to give back. My role as a television host enables me to highlight organizations in need, and the quiet “difference makers” who create change. When I can host a telethon, or an event, I feel the opportunity is a gift to help share stories of transformation and transcendence. It is a great honour to shine a light on the people who are so deserving.

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

I am most comfortable highlighting the work of others. Any role I have played has been part of a greater team. I have been so proud to work under the leadership of many community and health-care visionaries. I am privileged to have contributed, in some small way, to CHEO, Bruyère, Roger Neilson House, The University of Ottawa Heart Institute, The Youville Centre, The Ottawa School Breakfast Program, The Ottawa Humane Society, the Jane Goodall Institute, St. Joe’s Women’s Centre and various other organizations. I love to do a little bit of matchmaking to bring together great causes and great people. And I’ve match-made a few of my friends, too. (But that’s for another article.)

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

I work downtown. There are serious issues of homelessness and addiction. When I see people in need struggling with their personal battles I always say that each of us is an addiction, an accident or a mental illness away from that reality. I am in awe of the many people working in these areas to make a difference. Ottawa, I feel, is a city where we know we need each other. As Mother Teresa reminds us, “if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other”. I hope there is more hope for the hopeless in our town.

Photo: Valberg Imaging

Jim & Shana Perkins

 

Our 14th Anniversary!

Jim & Shana Perkins make Ottawa a better, more inclusive place every single day. As the founders of the Capital City Condors, they offer over one hundred Ottawa area kids with developmental disabilities the opportunity to play hockey in a safe, supportive environment tailored to their needs.

Jim and Shana started the Capital City Condors from scratch, and have steadily grown it over the past ten years, providing a sense of joy and belonging not just to the children who might never otherwise have had the opportunity to be part of a team, but to their proud families as well. Jim and Shana are not just kind and generous human beings, they are the type of people who form the building blocks of a great community, and for that they are truly two of #150GreatPeople in Ottawa. Here, they answer the questionnaire:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

Ottawa is a place of new beginnings for us. We were married here, started our family here, and have called it home for over 20 years now. But the thing that always makes a place most special is the people! We’ve been blessed to meet the most incredible people here in Ottawa, people who have become like family to us, and have literally shaped and deepened our lives.

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

Again, we’d have to say it comes down to people and relationships. We love the little street we live on, and are thankful for great and friendly neighbours. We love living in Canada’s Capital City, a place that has much to offer, but isn’t so huge that you lose the closeness of tight-knit community. We love that many here have tremendously generous natures, and really do care about making this an even better place to live. The opportunities to meet with heart and soul genuine people, to consider all that we have to be grateful for, and then to see that gratitude turned into generosity, we love those moments.

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?

We’re beyond thankful that so many families in the Special Needs Community have welcomed us into their incredible lives, and enabled us to learn and grow with them, sharing in their triumphs and struggles. They’ve blessed us with their amazing kids! We can’t begin to describe the perspective they have each brought to our lives and to our own family. We get to work each day with perhaps the greatest group of heroes in this city, people who brighten up every day, and bring out something good in all the rest of us. We love seeing these kids who face significant challenges, be over-comers, defying the odds, and experiencing things they were told would never be a part of their lives. We love seeing the smiles on their faces, not to mention the smiles they bring to all the rest of us!

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

Wow, that’s a hard one. We were thrilled to host the Special Hockey International Tournament here in Ottawa in 2015, which saw over 1600 special athletes from across Canada, from New Jersey to California, and even from London, England, spend 5 fun-filled days together playing hockey and making new friends. That was amazing for sure. But maybe more meaningful are those moments we get to share with a player as he or she sees their first hockey jersey with their name on the back, and their favourite number, and then to hear how proud they were to wear it to school on jersey day, just like all the other kids. Maybe it’s that moment standing beside a Mom who chokes up a bit as she watches her child out on the ice, and says, “I never thought I’d get to be a hockey Mom.” Maybe it’s those moments when a young person on the ice moves their legs and begins to propel themselves forward, something the doctors said they’d never do. Or maybe it’s the hug you get from a player who just a few months earlier couldn’t make eye contact with you, but now wraps you up in a squeeze. Maybe it’s seeing student volunteers giving their time every week, smiling as they leave the rink, talking about how these kids are changing their lives. Maybe it’s seeing an NHL player and his young family embrace these amazing kids and their families, and thank them for shaping his life. Or maybe it’s the size of the smiles, or the frequent “I love you’s”. These don’t really have anything to do with us accomplishing anything, it’s about being blessed enough, to be close enough to those we’re really most proud of.

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

We hope and believe that Ottawa will continue to be a city that prioritizes the well-being of those with special needs. The support we have witnessed here has been remarkable, and has become a benchmark we proudly reference when speaking with those in other cities who are considering starting up programs similar to the Condors. We deeply appreciate the support from the city, and how they understand that what happens in a special community like this is so much #biggerthanhockey – it’s about people’s lives being encouraged and enriched.
Ottawa is a great city – a fun city – and a fantastic place to call home!

Dr. Alayne Main

Dr. Alayne Main is a busy family physician in Ottawa’s west end, but her commitment to the community she serves continues even when she leaves her practice at the end of the day. Not only does she work with her patients and their families to care for their personal and mental health, but she founded Draggin’ Docs in 2008, a group of over two dozen female doctors who participate annually in the Tim Horton’s Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival.

Not only do they compete, but Draggin’ Docs has been the top fundraising team – out of almost 200 – for the past seven years, raising significant money for dozens of Ottawa charities, and Dr. Main commits extra time as a member of the Dragon Boat Foundation Board of Directors. For her commitment to care in all its forms – health and philanthropic – Dr. Alayne Main is one of #150GreatPeople in Ottawa. Here, she answers the questionnaire:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

I never thought that I would fall in love with Ottawa. I am from Windsor, the most American City in Canada, where my family reads the Detroit Free Press every day and they still talk about the weather in Fahrenheit! I have been living here, in the most Canadian City of Canada, since 2001, and what is most special to me is the fierce Canadian pride that I have developed as a result of being surrounded by so many proud Canadians. And I can’t believe that I have developed a huge love of WINTER! Windsor is almost tropical in comparison, where there are 6 extra weeks of summer on either end of ours. But Ottawa does winter soooo well – the most special month of the year for me is February, when the Rideau Canal Skateway and Winterlude are absolutely MAGIC!

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

Ottawa has been a wonderful city for my husband and I to raise our family. It is safe, clean, and there are so many activities, museums, theaters, events, green spaces and waterfront for young families to be active and do things together. It is a big small town with the added flavour of interesting people from all over the world, who sometimes just pass through and sometimes stay. I love that Ottawa has a great downtown, many successful sports teams and great concerts. And I love how the wild wilderness of both Ontario and Quebec is so accessible. I have travelled extensively, including 4 years on a sailboat circumnavigating the globe through 42 countries, and 2 years of living in gorgeous Switzerland. Yet at the end of all that, I feel this city is a true gem – this is a really beautiful part of the world. Working as a doctor in Ottawa has been very rewarding as well. My colleagues, staff and patients are so kind and always appreciative of every little thing. And they feel like I do – that we are all so lucky to live here!

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?

My work as a family doctor is important, but equally important is the example I set in the community. I encourage all people to work hard, to be reasonable, open, inclusive and kind to each other, to take care of both their physical and mental health, to set goals and push themselves towards what they really want, and to find ways to give to those who need our help. As a family doctor, both professionally and personally, people look to me for guidance and I feel it’s important for me to be a leader in healthy living, making good choices and living a meaningful and diverse life.

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

I am most proud of being the founder of the Draggin’ Docs, which began in 2008. We are an Ottawa team of 28 female physicians who compete annually in the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival every June at Mooney’s Bay. This wonderful group of women have been the top fundraising team for the past 7 years – the top team out of up to 200 teams! The Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation supports many important Ottawa charities, and I am also very proud to be on the Board of Directors. This year we celebrated Canada 150 by hosting the first ever Ice Dragon Boat Festival in North America. And we were incredibly proud that Rick Mercer featured this event on his show in February, by joining our Draggin’ Docs team for a day!

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

I hope that Ottawa continues to be an attractive place for hi tech and other businesses, and for their families to come and live. I also hope Ottawa continues to provide its current high standard of medical care. And I really hope more and more people in Ottawa will join the Draggin’ Docs in giving to our wonderful Ottawa charities!