Canadian Spotlight: My Interview With Kurt Browning

Kurt Browning 2013

When I found out that Investors Group Stars On Ice was coming to Ottawa’s Scotiabank Place (4pm on April 21st), my first thought was about how great it would be to be able to interview one of it’s stars, Kurt Browning, who is also a Canadian Dad and one of the best skaters that has ever come out of Canada. He is definitely the most entertaining figure skater I have ever watched and is actually the reason I ever got into watching figure skating in the first place. Honestly, he oozes Canadian in everything he does and I’m proud that he’s one of ours.

Kurt has always had a knack for entertaining crowds with his amazing routines, crazy footwork and infectious personality. Seriously, this guy seems to be always smiling and it’s something that I try to model my life after as well. Kurt was gracious enough to grant me the said interview and I have included his answers below. They are a mix of skating and fatherhood questions and it was an honour corresponding with him. I’ll be heading over to Scotiabank Place with my daughter today to catch the show and we are both very excited.

1. How do you feel about the state of Canadian Figure Skating at the moment and do you feel there is enough support from fans and government alike?

After the World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario it would seem that the fan base is strong for Canadian skaters and that the skaters themselves are doing very very well. With medals in 3 of the disciplines and even our lady skating to a wonderful standard in the short program shows a strong all round team.

2. Are there any charities that are close to your heart, and why?

I have never really supported one charity more than another actually. It seems that as a skater I have been pulled down certain paths by my career or by the people that I have met along the way.

3. How has fatherhood changed you and has it affected your skating, whether it be the types of routines you do or ability to train as much as you’d like?

Fatherhood has made training harder because I get caught up in lego or tag and sometimes don’t even make it to the rink to practice. Lego is really tough on training :) On a more serious note I have made a few programs that were for my sons and will skate with them in a show featuring skaters with children this fall. My boys don’t really take serious lessons, but they can certainly skate and have fun on the ice.

4. What has been your biggest challenge as a father?

My biggest challenge has been my schedule. Because of what I do I have to travel to do shows and being away from them has been the toughest part.

5. Other than skating, what is your favourite activity to do with your kids?

Other than Lego, we enjoy video games and bouncing on a trampoline as well as playing in the snow in winter. My family in Alberta own off road vehicles and any visit out west is very high on their list of ‘cool things to do’.

6. If you could only choose one, would you rather be a friend or a hero to your children, and why?

I would be selfish and choose friend but maybe a bit of both would be great if it was not asking too much.

7. How hard was it to learn how to jump on hockey skates? Were you scared?

Jumping on hockey skates is super tricky but I have been skating on them since I was a kid and actually enjoy the challenge.

8. Often in sports, we talk about home ice advantage. Have you found that the quality of ice in different rinks around the world creates an advantage for the hometown skaters?

Actually, we very rarely train on the exact ice we compete or perform on so we hardly ever have an actual home ice advantage. It is mostly the fans that create our advantage when we compete.

9. Finally, what is next for you after Stars on Ice? Any plans to hang up the blades? Maybe a Major League Baseball career?

After Investors Group Stars On Ice I will switch back to fatherhood and enjoy a couple of weeks off before going to China and Korea for 3 weeks to skate more shows.

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I’d like to say thank you to Kurt for taking the time to answer all of my questions. It’s just one more reason why I love this space so much. The Investors Group Stars On Ice hits Scotiabank Place in Ottawa at 4pm on Sunday, April 21st and tickets are still available by visiting the Scotiabank Place website. Along with Kurt Browning will be other Canadian stars such as Patrick Chan, Joannie Rochette & Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. I hope to see you there!

How Canadian Tire Made One Family’s Wish Come True

Canadian Tire

I believe very strongly in the power of giving. In the past few months, I have quietly started practicing a daily random act of kindness. It sometimes involves spending money but often is something as little as opening a door for someone or letting someone in line ahead of me. I never expect anything in return for any of this but I was lucky enough to be the recipient of some excellent news yesterday and I have to share it with you.

You may remember back in February, I posted an awesome commercial from Canadian Tire, that depicted a father and son going to the outdoor rink to skate and bond together. It was, and still is, my favourite commercial of all time. One of the commenters on the post mentioned that they hadn’t been able to afford skates for their boys but hoped it would happen someday. I’ve deleted that portion of their comment for their privacy.

The post faded into obscurity, as most blog posts do, until yesterday when I received an email from the people at Canadian Tire. They thanked me for sharing their commercial and asked for the contact info of the above noted commenter because they wanted to outfit her family with new skates. I’d be lying at this point if I said my eyes were completely dry after reading through their email and they didn’t get any dryer after speaking to the recipient of the gift. If I ever questioned what the ROI of sharing other people’s amazing content was, Canadian Tire answered it in incredible fashion.

I was already impressed with Canadian Tire for the way they portrayed the Dad in their commercial, but helping a family in need just put them way over the top in my books. When you do awesome things, especially in business, awesome things will come back to you. I hope creating two new life long loyal customers was enough for Canadian Tire in this instance, because they absolutely earned it!

Cheers!

Canadian Spotlight: When Children Inspire – Earth Hour Edition

Earth Hour Pledge

I’ll cut right to the chase here, I am no environmentalist. I know about Earth Hour but I really don’t know anything ABOUT Earth Hour, if you catch my drift. I try to be conscious about the usual things, such as turning off lights, not littering and conserving energy where possible but overall I am pretty clueless about the process. To my credit, I am interested in learning more about Earth Hour and began to do some research. That research quickly brought me to a 10 year old girl named Hannah Alper.

If that name sounds familiar it is because I just wrote about her Mom, Candace, on this very site last week. Hannah has decided to start an Earth Hour pledge, called the “Stop, Start and Continue Pledge“, that stretches out far beyond the one hour allotted for the Earth Hour event. Hannah is asking people to fill out one of her pledge forms, where you will commit to stop, start and continue doing something that is good for the environment.

It’s an incredibly smart initiative for a 10 year old and when I saw this interview she did on CTV, I was blown away by how comfortable she was with being on camera and explaining what her pledge was all about. After reading through her blog a little, I can now say unequivocally, that Hannah is an amazing young lady and her parents should be extremely proud.

Now, all that said, I never did get around to reading more about Earth Hour because I got sidetracked by all this awesomeness! I did, however, find a great article on Earth Hour from Yummy Mummy Club writer, Gwen Leron, and will be checking that out later this evening. I have also started filling out my Stop, Start and Continue Pledge, which includes the following:

1. I will stop throwing out what can be donated or reused (clothes, toys, books).
2. I will start using my voice, as young Hannah has demonstrated.
3. I will continue to read up and share amazing stories of people who are going out of their way to make a difference in the world.

I want to close by saying thank you to kids like Hannah and the charity group kids I have previously featured, for being the young voices that are going to lead the next generation. Your work does not go unnoticed and I commend you for everything you have done and I’m sure will continue to do. You have inspired at least guy to take a more active look at what I contribute to the earth, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I encourage you all to stop by Hannah’s website and take her pledge. It only takes a minute and it may even inspire you to take action for yourself.

Canadian Spotlight – Stompin’ Tom Connors

Stompin Tom Connors

Canada lost a legend tonight. A message on Stompin’ Tom Connors’ official website confirmed that the singer of the wildly famous and amazingly Canadian, The Hockey Song, has passed away from natural causes at the age of 77.

He left this message for his family to pass along to his fans upon his death:

“Hello friends, I want all my fans, past, present, or future, to know that without you, there would have not been any Stompin’ Tom.”

“It was a long hard bumpy road, but this great country kept me inspired with it’s beauty, character, and spirit, driving me to keep marching on and devoted to sing about its people and places that make Canada the greatest country in the world.”

“I must now pass the torch, to all of you, to help keep the Maple Leaf flying high, and be the Patriot Canada needs now and in the future.”

“I humbly thank you all, one last time, for allowing me in your homes, I hope I continue to bring a little bit of cheer into your lives from the work I have done.”

Sincerely,

Your Friend always,

Stompin’ Tom Connors

Stompin’ Tom was probably most famous for 1973′s, The Hockey Song, which I have probably listened to and performed about 3,000 times and have also attached below. Please feel free to share your Stompin’ Tom stories below. My favourite thing about him was that he was wildly in love with his country. You can’t ask for much more than that! RIP Tom.

Canadian Spotlight – My Favourite Commercial of All-Time

Canadian Tire

I realize it’s a couple years old but this Canadian Tire commercial absolutely wrecks me every single time. I wish more brands would consider portraying fatherhood in this way because these guys have earned my business based solely on how powerful this commercial is.

Do you know why it’s so powerful? Because it’s real!! And real isn’t boring! I think of this commercial every time I take my kid to the outdoor rink. I think of my Dad, who spent many winters building a rink in our backyard so that we could have fun anytime we wanted. That is what real fathers do. We don’t play with our kids because they bribe us with chips (looking at you, Doritos). We do it because we love them and want them to be happy.

I want to say thank you to Canadian Tire for getting it right and I hope we will see more of this in the future. It’s easy to go for the cheap laugh but it’s far more beneficial to tell it like it is. I hope you like this one as much as I did.

Canadian Spotlight – Todd Churchill’s Charity Rink Of Dreams For Carter

Todd Churchill Rink for Carter

I came across this story on the CBC website and it was too amazing to not write about. Todd Churchill lives in Portugal Cove – St. Philips, NL with his wife Kimberly and their two sons Hunter and Carter. His youngest son, Carter, was diagnosed as profoundly deaf in December 2011 and then subsequently diagnosed with cerebral palsy in January 2012.

Since that time, Todd and his wife Kimberly have become very active in various fundraising efforts for local charities and non-profit organizations associated with or helping with their son Carter’s condition. This past July, they both participated in Easter Seals’ Drop Zone event in St. John’s and personally raised over $8,000 dollars.

Todd then decided that the logical next step would be to build an outdoor rink. This, however, was not just going to be any outdoor rink. Todd had a dream of designing and building a 95’ x 46’ outdoor ice hockey rink in his backyard, complete with boards, painted lines, nets, lighting, etc. His goal was to sell ad space on the boards and also on the ice surface, just like an NHL rink, with the proceeds going to support the three charities that have helped and continue to help his family the most. Those charities are:

1. The Easter Seals of Newfoundland & Labrador
2. Rainbow Riders
3. Mazol Shriners

I’ve included links to the donation pages of all three in case you are compelled to contribute. Todd’s got a website all set up that lists all the amazing sponsors, supporters and news about the rink and his family’s charitable efforts. The website is called Reason For The Rink and I hope you’ll stop in to check it out. I was also fortunate enough to interview Todd for this feature and here is what he had to say.

CD: Where did you get the idea to do this? It’s quite brilliant!

Todd: I received a photo of a similar, albeit smaller, rink done out in western Canada and I always wanted to do one as a personal challenge being an engineer. When my son was born and was diagnosed as deaf and with CP, my wife and I became very proactive in organizations dedicated to assisting children like Carter, namely Easter Seals NL, Rainbow Riders and Mazol Shriners. We both participated in the Easter Seals NL Drop Zone event (9 storey rappel) in July, personally raising over $8,000. As a result, I was invited to participate in the Easter Seals Toronto Drop Zone (17 storey’s). There are links to videos of both events on my website under “Other Fundraising Efforts“. My wife has a small home business called Carter’s Cupcakes, which makes cakes and cupcakes with 25% of the profits going to children’s charities associated with Carter. I started my rink as both a fundraiser and a way of increasing awareness of these organizations which I myself had no awareness of prior to Carter being born.

CD: Was the rink a community project or more of a solo effort?

Todd: It was a solo project that I started planning last winter but actually physically started in June building a prototype corner and straight section to work the bugs out of my design.

CD: Now that the rink is built, what are your goals for it? Will there be more fundraising or is it a community rink?

Todd: I am going to have to some fundraisers for people at work. I am currently working on the Hebron project here in NL so I am going to have a hockey tournament for employees of the major companies, ie. ExxonMobil, WorleyParsons, KCAD and Kiewit-Kvaerner Contractors. I have also been receiving a lot of offers to rent ice time with proceeds going to charity.

CD: How difficult was it to sell the ad space?

Todd: It was slow going at first as companies didn’t really know what to make of what I was doing. Some companies jumped right on board, while others needed some convincing and others never responded at all. After I launched my website, I had more demand than available spaces so City Honda here in St. John’s offered $1,000 for an in ice ad, which is something I never considered before. I was only going to have the charity logos in the ice, but I could not turn down that type of donation. Provincial Airlines, ExxonMobil (Hebron Project) and Ranstar* soon followed and took the remaining three in ice logos for $1000 as well. I have now raised over $16,700 to date.

Rink BoardsRink DrawingRink Frame

 

 

 

 

 

This was such a great story and I was so glad to be able to speak with Todd about it. For more information about Todd’s charity rink or on how you can donate, you can visit his website, Reason For The Rink, and you can follow him on Twitter @Reason4TheRink.

I wanted to leave you with one last look at the finished product. Admittedly, this photo makes me want to hop on a plane and fly out to Newfoundland to take a lap on the ice. So, if anyone has an extra plane ticket to Newfoundland… Yeah, didn’t think so! I want to thank Todd Churchill for the interview and also for being an Awesome Dad and human being, along with his entire family. Keep up the great work!

Churchill Rink Night

Cheers!

Here’s A Double Shot Of Business Awesome!

I’ve always appreciated excellent service and ethical, client centered business practices. That said, it wasn’t until I went to one of the presentations for Scott Stratten’s, “Book of Business Awesome”, that I truly understood the value of sharing some of the everyday, cool things that some businesses do for us, as consumers. I want to share one of those stories today.

While wasting my life away doing blog research on Facebook recently, I noticed a status update from my friends at Mabel’s Labels. It was a letter from one of their customers, that read as follows:

“Dear Mabel, Last week my car got broken into. Sadly our GPS and my son’s hockey bag were taken. I was sad to tell my son about it. It takes a lot of time effort and money to gather all the items for hockey equipment. My husband and my son decided to go to a second hand store called Play it Again Sports to find some new equipment. When my son tried on a neck guard, what does he see: Yes! his name on it with your label. He points this out to the store owner and tells him the story of the loss. They were able to find all his equipment and they returned it without charge. To top it all off, the store owner caught the thief on his video camera, gave us a copy and we were able to give it to the police.”

Pretty awesome, right? I realize that by returning the boy’s equipment, “free of charge”, the owner did the right thing and probably what was expected of him, but this is where I get to add an extra dash of awesome to the story. You see, I help run a charity called, The Gil Read Memorial Foundation, named after my father. Our goal is to provide monetary assistance to children who can’t afford to compete in sports. This includes equipment, registration and other costs associated with playing a sport.

When I approached Play It Again Sports about becoming our official supplier of sports equipment for the charity, not only did they agree immediately but they also offered a generous discount to all the families we sent in. I can’t say enough good things about this company and the people they have working there. On top of all of that, their Regional Manager, Rob Lavoie, was an integral member of our Movember team that helped raise over $12,400 this past month.

Keep up the excellent work, guys! You make our community a better place to live and I appreciate it! I’d also like to thank the awesome people at Mabel’s Labels for sharing this story. It’s nice to read about the positive, inspirational stuff every now and then. Plus, you know, your labels are awesome and clearly help catch criminals!

Cheers!

Movember Update And A Birthday Wish!

I’m struggling with writing today’s post for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I wanted to attempt to accurately capture how proud I am of the Movember team I am Captain of. I’m guessing typed words won’t begin to show my passion for this cause or how excited I am that we have already raised $4,836 towards our goal of $5,000, with 16 days left to go.

The other issue is that today is also my Birthday, and while I realize the poor etiquette in pointing that out to everyone, I can assure you that my motives in doing so are pure. I wanted to share my Birthday wish with you all. If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you’ll know that I don’t believe in a lot of superstitions, so sharing my wish with you all shouldn’t be a big deal.

There are a million things I could wish for, with most of them being things that you would never see come true. Wishing for health and prosperity is nice but those are things that you can’t really control, except for following a healthy diet and going after your dreams. My wish today is a little simpler and a lot easier to obtain.

My wish, on my 34th birthday, is for our Movember Team to reach its goal of $5,000! That’s it. We’re $164 away and I know that this is an attainable wish for today, so let’s make it happen!

PS – Thank You for all the birthday wishes today! It’s only 8am and I already feel more spoiled than I deserve to be.

PPS – A special thanks to our Movember Corporate donors: Tag Along Toys, Play It Again Sports & Logs End Flooring! We couldn’t have gotten to this point without your support!

Cheers!!

Canadian Spotlight: The Ottawa Children’s Gala

This past week, I had the pleasure of meeting Spencer Warren, and we got to talking about a huge event he puts on every year. The event is called The Ottawa Children’s Gala and it is being held in support of CHEO’s “Plan-It Safe” program.

The Ottawa Children’s Gala is a formal gala, which is filled with entertainment for adults and children. The event, held in the Grand Ballroom at the Hampton Inn Ottawa, will have a red carpet, complete with a professional photographer, a classy meal, exciting entertainment and a dance.

The doors will open at 4pm on February 16th, 2013, where you can enjoy a cocktail with ambient music from Kimberley Dunn. Walk down the red carpet to have your photo taken with your family, get your face painted and enjoy the evening with performances by ‘Orpheus’, Kimberley Dunn, Brothers Dube, Pulse N’Limited and many more acts. The Gala will be hosted by the CTV Morning Show’s Lianne Laing.

The longer we talked about the Gala, the more excited I was for it to actually get here. Spencer assured me that the tickets will sell out, so if you are interested in attending, I suggest you head over to the Ottawa Children’s Gala Website soon, to stay on top of the info. You can also skip right to the ordering tickets part by Clicking Here!

This promises to be a great time for the whole family and it also supports a great cause in CHEO’s Plan-It Safe program. For updates on the Ottawa Children’s Gala, you can follow them on Twitter and Facebook. In the meantime, check out this great video from last year’s Gala, so you can see what it’s all about. Hope to see you there!

More About CHEO’s “Plan-It Safe” Program

Corrine Langill and her team are dedicated to eliminating preventable childhood injuries in our city. Their mission is to increase local capacity, strengthen public policy, ensure effective programming and advocate for the creation of safe environments to reduce the toll injuries take on children and youth in our communities. The Centre works in collaboration with many of the community partners who deliver injury prevention programming. Its core competencies are injury surveillance, research and program evaluation, consultation on program planning, implementation and evaluation, advocacy and professional and public education.

CDN Spotlight: Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Unveils Blog

Ben Franklin has been quoted as having said, “In the world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” While I don’t want to be the one to disagree with the great Mr. Franklin, I do have one more thing to add to his list of certainties.

That addition would be the certainty that you can trust the caring people at Ottawa’s, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, to take the best possible care of your children while they are there. I speak from personal experience, not only as a father but also as a former patient. The people at CHEO have never been anything but extraordinary each and every time I have had to take my little one’s in there.

Both my children screened for Biotinidase Defficiency at birth, so my wife and I have spent many hours in the Genetics department at CHEO, worrying about the effects it will have on our children. It takes a special kind of person to work in a children’s hospital and it’s evident from our time spent there that all the staff at CHEO have that special something to make parents and children feel at ease.

I’ve been starting to realize lately, that people are actually listening to the things I have say. With this realization came an opportunity to use that voice to do some good and that’s fully what I intend on doing. When I contacted CHEO a month ago to see if I could help out in any way, I was excited to hear that they were starting a blog. I mean, what better way to help that to do for them what I have already been doing for the past 7 months!

They even let me help out with the design of the site by running ideas by me and actually listening to my input, which was a surreal time for me. You’ll see the results of my efforts throughout the site and also on the main banner, as what started as CHEO Moms has now become something that all parents (Dads included) can be proud to be a part of. There are even 3 Dads on the Featured Bloggers list, which is amazing!

Without any further ado, I am proud to present to you, my first post as a member of the CHEO parenting blogger team! I wrote about my CHEO experience as a father and hope you’ll stop by to say hi.

I hope you’ll bookmark CHEO’s new blog as has some amazing writers working on it and promises to be an invaluable resource for parents. I’m so proud to be a part of the CHEO team and can’t wait to read more from everybody involved!

You can access the blog by visiting CheoMoms.com OR CheoDads.com ;D You can also connect with CHEO on Twitter @CheoHospital and on the Main CHEO site.

Cheers!