Since 2015, Make A Buzz Ottawa has been a two-room St. Anthony’s Banquet Hall extravaganza. We start with a cocktail hour with appetizers, silent auction, and photo booth, and then make our way into the dining hall for a sit-down meal, recognition ceremonies, and awards to individuals and organizations who promote inclusion in Ottawa and beyond.
We’ve had some amazing host/MC individuals and pairings over the years, including Derick Fage, Sandy Sharkey, and Dylan Black, and we can now add comedian, actor, and podcaster Graham Kay to the list! Being the brother of LiveWorkPlay member Peter certainly helped in persuading him to make the trip from New York City, and his passion for the cause was evident throughout the evening.
Make A Buzz always starts with the heart of the organization: our members and their families. Some of the individuals who have honoured LiveWorkPlay with the opportunity to support their life journey have been connected with the organization for as long as 20 years! For others in the room, it might only be a matter of weeks. But no matter who it is or how they found their way to the LiveWorkPlay community, an important goal for the evening is a welcoming environment where people are cherished for their gifts and assets.
The room was also packed with family members, who somehow find the time not only to focus on their own families, careers, and life’s ups and downs, but also to contribute to LiveWorkPlay in any number of ways. In the beginning, this event that would grow to become Make A Buzz Ottawa was carried almost 100% by family members, who recruited donations and made most of the auction bids too! Over the last 15 years, as wider representation of the community has joined in and attendance has grown to sell out crowds of more than 300, the event is now more about celebration and fun than anything else. As is tradition, senior staff leaders Allison Moores and Grace Hudson led the toast to members and families.
Next up it was time to recognize an individual with the Community Inclusion Award, which celebrates a family member of a person with an intellectual disability who has contributed not only to LiveWorkPlay, but to supporting significant change that benefits others in the Ottawa community and beyond. Daniel Pinsonneault and Paul Knoll, co-presenters from this year’s World Down Syndrome Day commemoration, presented the award – they did not know who would be receiving the award, and the recipient was just as unaware – which made for a fun situation when Paul’s sister Helen Ries was called to the stage! Her long (and not complete!) list of accomplishments related to this award can be read here.
The Ambassador Award is presented annually to a LiveWorkPlay member who publicly represents the LiveWorkPlay mission through traditional media, social media, and participation in community events. David Keay presented the award to Tara Pahwa, who had a very busy year promoting inclusive employment. She appeared in a video as part of a joint project with LiveWorkPlay and Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada, and in an article with the Ottawa Business Journal, thanks to funds provided as part of our New Leaf Community Challenge grant from the Ottawa Community Foundation. She was also featured in our celebration of World Down Syndrome Day and was included in countless conference presentations about LiveWorkPlay employment supports.
LiveWorkPlay member Rob More was taken from us in the Barrhaven bus-train tragedy of September 18, 2013. Rob was on his way to work at IBM, a job he loved, enjoying the company of his fellow Route 76 bus passengers, probably engaging someone in a discussion about his beloved Ottawa Senators. Rob’s family, including his mother Julie, his father Mike, and his sister Beckie, wanted Rob’s memory to live on in honour of other people with intellectual disabilities who are living included lives in the community. This includes a special cup which is kept at LiveWorkPlay headquarters and is brought here for a photo with the winner each year. The More family could not attend this year, so LiveWorkPlay co-leader Keenan Wellar and Caroline Matte, the 2015 recipient of this award, co-presented on their behalf.
This year’s recipient Marie Stanfield was an ideal representative for honouring Rob’s legacy. This past year she helped her family deal with loss, helped her father find a new home, and at the same time started a new job, yet another step in her long career that began with completing multiple diplomas at Algonquin College, and working with various child care agencies. Marie has been living in a home of her own for many years, has developed many meaningful relationships, started her career in the federal public service with Innovation, Science, and Economic Development, and is now fitting in brilliantly in her new job with the Canada Revenue Agency.
Continuing with the theme of community inclusion, next up was the Legacy Community Inclusion award, recognizing one or more individuals with a lengthy track record of work and/or volunteerism in support of the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. Jim Mullins, representing Pylon Electronics, sponsor for this portion of the evening, assisted in the presentation.
The two recipients Kathy Riley and Brian Tardif have worked on many of the same issues over the course of many years, including accessible transit: one of them from within our municipal government, and the other as leader of a local non-profit organization. Brian came to Citizen Advocacy more than 30 years ago and has been a persistent champion for individuals and families, as well as for systemic changes at all levels to advance the opportunities and possibilities for people with disabilities. In her role as the City of Ottawa Accessible Transit Specialist, Kathy has done her best to stretch that mandate in support of any opportunity to advance the quality of life for people with disabilities, including championing improved employment practices.
LiveWorkPlay Volunteer Coordinator and People Coordinator presented the volunteer awards, along with Mary Ann Wilcox, representing sponsor Quickie Convenience. Alex has the privilege of working with our amazing team of volunteers, 150 strong, who help support our Friday night meet-ups, represent our board of directors, participate on our community and employment task forces, and enjoy our matching program that brings people together to enjoy mutual interests, and sometimes, develop into a wonderful friendship.
First up was the Volunteer Leadership award, recognizing Sophie Zhang. She has been with LiveWorkPlay for more than three years and is a reliable, welcoming, warm and positive presence at our Friday night meet-ups. She also helps gather donations for Make A Buzz. Sophie generally goes above and beyond, whether it is her own initiative, or responding to a request. In other words, leadership!
The celebration of friendship award, given each year to two people who were introduced through LiveWorkPlay and have gone on to form a lasting friendship, went to Daniel Pinsonneault and Zvonko Krupilnicki. These two were brought together way back in 2012 – it will be 6 years this fall! They are true pioneers of our matching initiative. They come together for their mutual enjoyment of playing pool, checking out events around town, swimming, and more. There were few dry eyes in the house when Daniel shared his feelings for Zvonko, who returned the heartfelt sentiments.
The Community Partner award was presented by Brigid FitzPatrick, a representative from another fabulous community partner, Valor & Solutions. When this award was first discussed, it had to do with the support LiveWorkPlay received when our office building was flooded in the fall and remained closed from November to March. Our good friends at St. Anthony’s Banquet Hall not only stepped up with some temporary office space but provided it free of charge! But as often happens when community-minded groups of people spend time together, the partnership has gone beyond office space, and this month they have also become employment partners, establishing part-time positions for two of our members, Peter Keay and Phil Landreville. Norm Wiggan stepped out from behind the bar to accept the award!
Jen Soucy, LiveWorkPlay Manager of Employer Partnerships, presented the final three awards of the evening, recognizing inclusive employers. Business Network International (BNI) represented by Jocelyne D’Aoust and Denis Brisson presented the first two awards, to small and medium businesses.
First up was Andrew Scott, owner of three local Pita Pit franchises. He not only hires people with intellectual disabilities, Scott participated in the Hire for Talent videos, hosted a Disability Employment Awareness Month Event, and successfully nominated LiveWorkPlay for an award and $1000 cash.
Next up, local corporation Déménagement Outaouais Moving based in Gatineau has worked closely with LiveWorkPlay to develop a unique employment opportunity that has proven a perfect fit for one of our members. They have 50 employers, and most of them have been with the company for 15 years or more, and with good reason! Kym Leroux, Michael Kolberg, and the rest of their leadership team work hard to ensure a welcoming and inclusive workplace.
For the final award of the evening, Jen called up representatives from Dow Honda, Star Motors, and Kanata Honda, our event presenting sponsors. This year’s recipient of the Inclusive Employment Leadership Award, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, not only hired three LiveWorkPlay members in the past year (including Ali Wilcox who was in attendance) they have committed to additional hires. Their commitment also extends beyond their own agency, as their team are active partners with the LiveWorkPlay Federal Employment Strategy Group (a task force with a mix of current and retired federal public service inclusive employment champions) to help champion adoption of inclusive hiring practices across the federal government. Senior Director Jag Dhanda was on stage along with other members of the CFIA team, including Melissa Struthers, who wound up the awards portion of the evening with a wonderful speech touching on her own passion for inclusive employment, which is both personal and professional.
There was also a lot of fun throughout the evening, including a brief live auction. Although Graham readily acknowledged his auctioneering was somewhat unorthodox, competitive bidding ensured $4000 was raised! When added to the silent auction, 50/50, and sponsor contributions this pushed us above the $20000 target. The 50/50 of $500 played out like a game of Where’s Waldo! as LiveWorkPlay co-leader Julie Kingstone never gave up searching the room for the winner. In the end, Melanie Manion was holding the matching stub, and the crowd had whipped themselves into quite a frenzy by the time the mystery was solved!
A special thanks to our sponsors. Thank you for helping presenting our awards, and providing the financial backing to make this incredible evening possible.