Tipping my hat to those who make a difference

The Calgary Herald oversees an annual Christmas Fund that addresses acute social problems in our city such as addiction, hunger, abuse and mental illness. Over its 25 year history, the campaign has evolved from a forum for Herald employees to give back to their community into a city-wide fundraiser. To date, Herald readers have donated over $24 million to help the less fortunate.

This year’s Christmas Fund campaign runs from Nov. 25th to Dec. 31st. I was invited to write a message of giving that was published in yesterday’s newspaper. I was pleased to help. This is what I had to say:

I am sometimes asked what is the most fulfilling aspect of my role as chancellor of the University of Calgary.

The best part is that I work with remarkable people – students, faculty and staff members, alumni, and volunteers – who aspire to make our university and city better places to work and live. They are part of a community that looks out for the well-being of each other.

Dr. Janice Heard, for example, is a beloved professor and pediatrician at the Cumming School of Medicine. I recently had the pleasure to bestow on Heard the prestigious Order of the University of Calgary at our fall convocation. The Order recognizes individuals who have provided exemplary service to our university and community. In her convocation address, Heard said, “Seek opportunities that bring meaning and value to your life. You will impact others.”

Dr. Janice Heard delivers the convocation address to grads at our Nov. 10 morning ceremony.

Dr. Janice Heard delivers the convocation address to grads at our Nov. 10 morning ceremony.

Heard has done just that. Since 2006, she has worked at the Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS), one of the 12 agencies benefiting this year from the generosity of Calgarians through the Calgary Herald Christmas Fund. CUPS helps adults and families living with poverty and trauma to become self-sufficient.

At the CUPS Kids Clinic and One World Child Development Centre, Heard provides clinical care to marginalized children. She and her colleagues provide a nurturing and caring environment for disadvantaged preschoolers and students, as well as their families. Without this kind of medical support, an impoverished child faces a higher risk of developmental delays, behavioral disorders and lifelong health problems.

I am also privileged to know Linda and Mike Shaikh, who have both volunteered for decades in a variety of roles at our university. They bleed Dino red. Their generosity and service extends outward from campus to several social service agencies in our community. Linda is a director on the CUPS board. I was pleased (but not surprised) to read in a recent Herald article that the Shaikhs had been awarded a lifetime philanthropy award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. What a well-deserved honour!

Linda and Mike Shaikh honoured with the Lifetime Philanthropist Award during the Generosity of Spirit Awards in Calgary on November 15. Photo credit: Calgary Herald

Linda and Mike Shaikh honoured with the Lifetime Philanthropist Award during the Generosity of Spirit Awards in Calgary on November 15. Photo credit: Calgary Herald

Heard and the Shaikhs do their good work with compassion and humility. They inspire us with their desire to make a difference in the world. There are hundreds of other Calgarians who are equally passionate about their city. Although they are all busy people, they somehow find the time to serve and contribute the financial means to help those in need.

What is it about Calgary that engenders this distinctive spirit of volunteerism and giving? I think it has something to do with long-standing tradition. Calgary is located on the territory of the Blackfoot nation. For hundreds of years, the Blackfoot people have upheld honour and respect at the heart of their culture. They believe that each person has inner beauty and integrity, and that everyone deserves respect whatever their age or standing in life.

Chief Crowfoot, the late great Blackfoot warrior, once said, “What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time.” Life is indeed brief. Let’s use this holiday season in particular to help those who need it most.

From the University of Calgary, we wish you health, happiness and success for 2017.

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