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Make A Buzz Ottawa 2017: What A Night!

Make A Buzz Ottawa evolved out of a merger of two events, the former Recipe for Success (a fundraising auction) and Engines of Success (awards banquet). The change began in 2015 when LiveWorkPlay celebrated its 20th anniversary. The event now raises about the same amount of money ($30,000) but the focus is more on community than it is on fundraising. We celebrate individuals with intellectual disabilities, families, volunteers, community partners, employment partners, and more.

Many people have asked about staff recognition: by request of the staff team, employees are now recognized as part of the Annual General Meeting proceedings (every September) as they did not want to take away from the community focus of Make A Buzz.

The Make A Buzz Ottawa evening begins with a pre-party that includes a silent auction, cash bar, and free photo booth! Below, perhaps a new record for packing the picture frame. Then Peter (right) enjoys seeing his famous brother Graham, and raffle ticket aficionados make their prize choices.

The pre-party runs from 6-7 and it’s pretty wild! People start to select out and head into the main dining hall which is great, because we need everyone to move in there for 7pm for the sit-down dinner and four-course meal.

Below, Fraser Maher (Captain, Retired) uses the bagpipes to effectively silence the crowd and get us ready for the evening. This year, in celebration of Canada 150, we were thrilled to have talented young singer Brenden MacGowan (who many will have seen opening Ottawa Senators games) sing the national anthem, and appear later for a set of popular songs. As you can see, it was a packed house! After Brenden, our talented co-hosts Sandy Sharkey (radio personality and incredible photographer) and Derick Fage (formerly an Ottawa television personality who now works for Breakfast Television in Montreal) took over. These two are a real dynamic duo who have hosted previous versions of this event in the past and they are a real draw with our audience.

We usually start the formal portion of the event by recognizing all of our members (people with intellectual disabilities who have honoured us with the opportunity to provide them with support) and their family members. Senior staff members Grace Hudson and Allison Moores delivered tributes at the microphone, but also, each person received a personal card at their table. We end up missing a couple of people each time due to the mad rush for tickets that is usually in the last week, but our intention is that all 350 people know that their attendance was noted and appreciated.

Next up Barry Wellar of Wellar Consulting continues the tradition of the My Own Home bursary, a contribution of $200 per individual for any member who has moved to a home of their own for the first time in the past year. There were five recipients, with Daniel, Ali, and Shelby appearing in person to receive their cash. Dr. Wellar has always been clear that “They can do whatever they want with it!”

The awards portion of the evening starts with the Ambassador Award (to a member who has represented LiveWorkPlay values to the public) and the Rob More Good Life Award, honouring member Rob More who died tragically in the bus-train crash of 2013. David Keay and Constance Hudak sponsored and presented the Ambassador Award to Phil Landreville, who appeared in a very popular video and also contributed to the New Leaf Community Challenge (see Innovative Funding Partnership Award below).

Rob’s parents Julie and Mike presented the Good Life award to Tim Siebrasse, who has been working successfully at Shopify for many months, has been living in his own apartment for many years now, and has expanded his social relationships while being active in his community with sports and recreation. That’s the essence of the award: living a good life, just like Rob was living before he left us far too soon.

LiveWorkPlay is governed by volunteers, benefits from task forces and committees of volunteers, counts on volunteers to support our Friday night meetups, and last but not least, we match citizens from the community with our members to enjoy shared interests and sometimes this develops into long-term friendships!

Alex Darling, our People Connector and volunteer coordinator, got the Volunteer Recognition segment of the evening going with some words from MP David McGuinty, who provided awards to ten of our volunteers (nine were able to make it in person) to receive the Ottawa South  Volunteer Recognition Initiative award (on account of LiveWorkPlay being located in MP McGuinty’s riding). Congratulations Carole Shppard, Tan Bokhari, Madelaine Ressel, Joel Hayward. Zofi Malik. Emily Rothwell (not in attendance), Rachel Rhoades, Sandra Villeneuve, Vanessa Horti-Rogers and Sophie Zhang!

Next up was the Celebration of Friendship award with Jalynn Plaus and Nathalie Prowse, it requires no further explanation: we matched them up and they have become awesome friends! Laurie Hogan (unable to attend) and Kaye Kwok were recognized with Volunteer Leadership awards, Kaye for her amazing support of meetups, and Laurie for one-to-one volunteerism as well as supporting LiveWorkPlay travel.

Last but not least, board member and Employment Task Force member Daniel Spagnolo did a wonderful job of honouring Task Force colleague and volunteer Mary Gusella for her spectacular leadership in developing the LiveWorkPlay employment relationship with the federal government and federal agencies, which has opened doors to many new high quality jobs for our members.

The art of the surprise…as has become a tradition at LiveWorkPlay events, sneaking in a United Way Ottawa Community Builder Award for a deserving but unsuspecting recipient. In this case, Ken Sparks, who has a long list of volunteer credentials but is perhaps best known for his work with Rotary clubs (including a golf tournament that benefits LiveWorkPlay and other charities) and in recent years the LiveWorkPlay Employment Task Force. Seated in the front row, Ken was certainly surprised (video), and brought to tears by this special moment, which included Derick changing into a red United Way jacket without missing a beat! It was the first standing ovation of the evening.

We took a few moments to remember Sheri, who was always laughing and smiling and a huge supporter of Make A Buzz going back to the days when it was known as Recipe for Success. We miss you.

Next up Brenden belted out some tunes, finishing with Hallelujah, and the audience erupting with their second standing ovation! Sandy was quite starstruck!

We used to have a lengthy live auction, but now we call it a mini-auction. This year there were three items: WestJet travel for two, VIA Rail travel for two, and a Lansdowne sports, dining, and shopping extravaganza. There was some excitement and controversy as Andrew Bearss appeared to have won the WestJet trip but (see him pointing?) Sandy overruled Derick, announcing that another bidder came in just under the wire! We don’t want to name the winner without permission, but they clearly enjoyed the moment with no regrets, and in the end, LiveWorkPlay was the big winner!

Our co-leader Keenan Wellar introduced the partner recognition portion of the evening, and also talked about the Community Foundation of Ottawa, who were unavailable due to hosting their own event at the same time. The innovative funding award was an easy choice, given the dynamism of the New Leaf Community Challenge (check it out on video). With the $125,000 LiveWorkPlay is not only developing jobs, but also a marketing plan (see new logo and tagline!). Last but not least Keenan thanks Matt Van der Velde for his amazing photography that contributed so greatly to our New Leaf presentation.

Presented and sponsored by Quickie Convenience stores, the Social Innovation Community Partner Award went to the MoneyWise program, which helps people in financially challenging situations overcome issues such as debt, bills, or service contracts that are making it impossible to make ends meet. They have helped many LiveWorkPlay members and always work collaboratively with our staff while respecting confidentiality.

Presented and sponsored by Business Network International, the Community Partner Awards went to OSSC for being welcoming of our members and supporting inclusive recreation, and to Valor & Solutions, who have worked closely with LiveWorkPlay in support of the mental health needs of our members.

The employer recognition portion of the evening with introduced by Manager of Employer Partnerships Jen Soucy. The Inclusive Employer awards sponsored by Dow Honda and The Capital’s Driving Force went to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, Shopify, and St-Laurent Volvo, in recognition of their inclusive values and hiring of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Stephen, Scott, and Tim joined their co-workers on stage for the award.

It’s Jalynn again! She’s been working for TEN YEARS at Value Village and we could not let that go by unnoticed! Jen Soucy and Ken Sparks presented the award on behalf of the Employment Task Force.

The final award of the evening went to ISED and we celebrated with ISED representatives and their employers connected through LiveWorkPlay: Carl, Tara, and Marie! Although the hiring of three employees with intellectual disabilities is not insignificant, this award is all about leadership, and the impressive work done by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to promote inclusive hiring with other departments and agencies.

The evening wrapped up with an airing of the documentary demo “Just Like Us” by Anaid Productions, which is seeking support from a Telus initiative to create an entire web series! Julie thanked Derick and Sandy with donations to two of their favourite charities (not LiveWorkPlay, they help us enough already!). Oh, what a night. And of course thanks throughout the evening to our amazing sponsors (see below).