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Make A Buzz Ottawa 2016: Hive of Inclusive Activity and $30,000+ Raised!

Change can be difficult, and the merger of the former Recipe for Success fundraising auction and Engines of Success recognition banquet into one new event “Make A Buzz Ottawa” on May 12 left many questions to be answered. First and foremost, if we build it, will they come?

This question was answered and left no doubts! Doors opened at 5:30 and the pre-party with 70-item silent auction, raffles, fresh bruschetta, David’s Tea, Quality Entertainment photo booth, and selfies-with-bees posted to #MakeABuzz quickly filled the room. Those looking for quieter surroundings simply drifted into the dining hall. This cocktail hour format worked very well and we plan on keeping that going in future years.

We learned to start moving people from the pre-party into the main hall a bit sooner, as the transition took longer than anticipated and co-hosts Sandy Sharkey and Dylan Black from BOOM-FM 99.7 (and Dylan is also from Daytime on Rogers 22 who recorded the event which will air on Podium later this month) had to hold the start of the event.

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Mind you when seating 350 people it does take a while! But it sure felt good to have everyone in the room together. As LiveWorkPlay events have evolved over the years, the audience has grown increasingly diverse – as is appropriate to our mission of helping the community welcome people with intellectual disabilities to live, work, and play as valued citizens!

After a welcome from longtime presenting sponsor TD Bank represented by Christine Felteau, LiveWorkPlay Co-Leaders Julie Kingstone and Keenan Wellar were joined by board chair Cathy Velazquez to pay tribute to all LiveWorkPlay members (individuals receiving support from the organization), their family members, and LiveWorkPlay staff. 

There was hearty applause for all three toasts and then it was on to keynote speaker Mark Wafer, who quickly captured everyone’s attention with a riveting message.

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Mark shared his journey as a business owner (currently seven Tim Hortons franchises in the Scarborough area) and how he learned the value of employees with disabilities, including dozens of employees with intellectual disabilities. Mr. Wafer made a fact-based and passionately convincing business case for inclusive hiring practices that brought a tear to the eye of many, particularly parents of those who are not yet in the labour market. “I am so inspired about the possibilities for the future,” remarked one teary-eyed mom.

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Before Mark could leave the stage, Ken Sparks from award sponsor Rotary Club of West Ottawa swooped in to the microphone and announced surprise recognition in the form of a Legacy Leadership in Disability and Employment Advocacy Award, which was presented by LiveWorkPlay employment team lead Jen Soucy.

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Next up, for many years we have struggled with how to recognize great outcomes from our “matching initiative” whereby we facilitate LiveWorkPlay members getting together with citizens in the broader community to share activities of mutual interest – could be video gaming, hiking, anything at all!

In consultation with our People Connector Alex Darling, the awards committee figured out that the answer was a Friendship Award sponsored by Quickie and presented by Mary Ann Wilcox, to be given to both individuals (they each got their own award with both names on it). Ian Murphy and Tim Wieclawski took the stage and Tim’s entire family joined in, since Ian often spends time with all of them. It was a perfect moment!

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The Member Ambassador Award and Community Ambassador Award were presented together this year, sponsored by TD Bank. Member Janet Balcome was the lead LiveWorkPlay representative in supporting the Algonquin College Public Relations (ACPR) students of 2017 fundraising and awareness campaign “Dreams Worth Living.

The campaign itself received the Community Ambassador Award in recognition of 11 events that raised $29,000 in about four weeks during March and April. Janet and the enthusiastic ACPR students packed the stage, except for Christopher Blood-Rojas, who stuck to his volunteer station at the balcony spotlight (Riley Evans and Mikhaila Leech from ACPR also volunteered at Make A Buzz Ottawa). If you have some PR hiring in your future, keep your eye on this group, they are sure to be snapped up quickly a year from now!

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LiveWorkPlay supports one-to-one matching of our members and other citizens, but also facilitates an incredible Friday Night Meetups initiative that results in some 300 (yes, three hundred!) gatherings per year. LiveWorkPlay staff provide a coordinating function, and volunteers who take part in the meetups provide natural supports and from time to time some critical interventions. Sponsored by Pylon Electronics and presented by Jim Mullins, the Volunteer Award recipient Joelle Perrier was chosen not only for her enthusiasm, but her broad involvement in meetups and support for LiveWorkPlay events.

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Next on the agenda was a time-honoured tradition, the presentation of the My Own Home bursary. This is a $200 cash award to LiveWorkPlay members who have moved into a home of their own any time since last year’s banquet. Sydney Bearss, Gillian Gillespie (not present), Amy Spirak, Matt Suttie, Stephen McPhee and Ashley Lavigne all made their way to the stage where My Own Home sponsor Barry Wellar of Wellar Consulting provided them with a note and a cheque. “And you can save it or blow it on anything you want!” said an enthusiastic Mr. Wellar.

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The Community Partner Award recognizes other non-profit organizations that provide volunteer opportunities to LiveWorkPlay members. In some cases these are opportunities to learn and practice some specific skills on the way to a future career opportunity, but often LiveWorkPlay members volunteer for the same reason as any other citizen: they want to spend time alongside others giving back to their own community. Sponsored by VIA Rail, this year’s recipients The Good Companions and Parkdale Food Centre were cited for their welcoming atmosphere as well as their important contributions to the well-being of the community at large.

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Sponsored by Constance Hudak and David Keay, the Inclusive Housing Award is presented to an individual or group that has demonstrated outstanding leadership in supporting inclusive housing. Presented to the Multifaith Housing Initiative (MHI) LiveWorkPlay is very pleased to be partnering with this incredible organization in the development of their latest project and the construction of a brand new inclusive community, the Haven in Barrhaven.

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The Rob More Good Life Award was established to celebrate the life of LiveWorkPlay member Rob More, who died tragically along with six others in the September 18, 2013 bus/train crash. Presented this year by mom Julie and sister Beckie, the award is given each year to an individual who has experienced significant life transitions in pursuit of their own goals and dreams. This year’s winner Ashley Lavigne was celebrated for moving to a new home, volunteering at Good Companions, and working at Invest Ottawa. She also made the choice to work hard on her personal health and has made many new friends!

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The always very popular employer awards were saved for last.

First up, presented by Mark Wafer, the Leadership in Employment Diversity award was accepted by Louis Beauséjour on behalf of The Honourable Minister Duclos. M. Beauséjour serves as Assistant Deputy Minister of the Integrity Services Branch at Service Canada.

Under the auspices of the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, in partnership with the Integrity Services Branch of Employment and Social Development Canada, LiveWorkPlay has been able to leverage its model of support for adults with intellectual disabilities.

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This has occurred alongside dedicated Employment Diversity Champions within the department who have identified additional employment opportunities. We have leveraged those Champions to engage with National Defence, Elections Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and Industry Canada.  It seems every day we have a new opportunity to work with a different department. That’s real leadership!

Joining M. Beauséjour on stage were Integrity Services Branch Senior Advisor Dan Carleton and LiveWorkPlay member Heather McAdam (who also works at the Integrity Services Branch) one of the first success stories from the partnership.

Next, sponsored by Business Network International (BNI) Eastern Ontario/Western Quebec, Jocelyne D’Aoust presented the award for a small or medium business that has demonstrated inclusive hiring practices was presented to McDaniel’s Your Independent Grocer.

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This will be their second year for hiring a summer staff from LiveWorkPlay, and they had already hired LiveWorkPlay member Gage Emond before our employment supports team approached them. More recently in 2015 they hired member Patrick Doyle. All of the employment team talk about what a pleasure it is to work with them, and that is because they have hired many people with disabilities without any need of encouragement, because they believe in the advantages of workplace diversity. Not only they, they hosted an amazing community event and raised $1000 for LiveWorkPlay!

Last but not least, sponsored by DOW Honda and presented by Andrew Bearss and special guest Alex Mateas of the Ottawa RedBlacks, our award for a large business or corporation that has demonstrated inclusive hiring practices went to the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG).

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While we can say without a doubt that this organization was always planning to be an inclusive employer, we were at their door before they even started hiring, and they were nice enough let us in! Whether it is working Ottawa RedBlacks, Ottawa Fury, or Ottawa 67’s home games, music concerts, or with the Levy food and beverage vendors or Precise Parking on the site, LiveWorkPlay members are an important part of the new workforce at Lansdowne Park.

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There was a live auction item associated with each of the awards throughout the night. The RedBlacks package certainly generated a great deal of buzz as the finale for the evening, while the WestJet and Kauai Banyon Inn trip to Hawaii brought in the high bid at an even $3000!

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The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro in Westboro contributed a private party for 16, the Hamilton Family came in with an amazing Glamping Package, Kent Browne Broker/Owner Royal Lepage offered up suite tickets to Selena Gomez and DNCE, the beautiful Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast in Canning (Nova Scotia) offered up a two-night stay, VIA Rail contributed return travel to Quebec City, there was a Niagara package assembled from multiple generous donors including Antique Slumber Old Town Bed and Breakfast, and City of Ottawa Councillor Scott Moffatt rolled in with a foursome, cart, and dinner at any of three golf tournaments supporting LiveWorkPlay (BNI on June 15, DOW Honda/Star Motors/Kanata Honda on July 24, and Rotary Club of West Ottawa on  September 15). Click here for our complete list of sponsors!

Special thanks to the brilliant photographer Matt Van der Velde (see an exclusive album of Matt’s photos from this event).

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