In a word - Inspired

If I had to choose one word to describe my experience as the 2011 United Way Campaign Chair, the word would be; inspired.  From the time I was asked to take on this honoured volunteer role in 2010 to the energizing song and dance performance last night at the Red Tie Gala, Awards of Distinction, brought to us by Northlands.

I am inspired by so many different people on so many different levels.  I am inspired by the nearly 44,000 individuals who throw their collective support behind the community through United Way.  These are donors, volunteers, companies, governments, labour unions and community agencies and partners.  And I am inspired by the work United Way does in the community to help so many people have meaningful and fulfilling lives. 

The energy of the 2011 campaign was not to be rivaled.  Together, all of us – that’s you and I – raised more money for this community than we ever have in the 70-year history of United Way.  Not only did we exceed the 2010 fundraising achievement but we exceeded the $21.5 million goal set for 2011.   Last night at the United Way Red Tie Gala,  I had the honour to reveal that the 2011 Campaign achievement was an impressive $22.1 million.  This is truly a remarkable achievement – together, we can share in the pride and knowledge that many families and individuals will find their way out of poverty and into a life that holds promise and hope.

The Red Tie Gala, United Way Awards of Distinction is an evening to celebrate accomplishments. We gathered to celebrate the hard work that was undertaken in 2011 and make special presentations to those companies and individuals who exceeded goals and broke records.  Our media emcees for the evening were Global TV’s Shane Jones and Kevin O’Connell – we thank them for their professional contribution.   We also heard inspiring words from a number of community leaders, including Richard Andersen, President and CEO for Northlands and Mayor Stephen Mandel. 

For any of you who attended, you know I would be remiss if I didn’t make special mention of my onstage side-kick for the event, Dave Mowat, CEO of ATB Financial.  Dave has a quick wit and in addition to helping me present the Spirit Awards last night - and generate laughs - he held the position of 2011 Vice-Chair  -  it certainly made for a fun year and evening.  Dave now assumes the role of 2012 Campaign Chair and I want to wish him the same great experience as I had.  Dave – it’s a volunteer job full of memories and unique experiences and it’s one you’ll always remember with a smile.  The best of luck to you and your campaign team in 2012. 

For a full list of award winners please be sure to buy a copy of this Saturday’s edition of the Edmonton Journal (Saturday, February 25).  The Journal has very generously sponsored a four-page advertising feature to help us spread the great news of this collective achievement and continue the celebration with the entire community. 

It has been an honour to serve as the 2011 United Way Campaign Chair and I look forward to working with the dedicated team of volunteers and professional staff in the future.  

And, once again, my thanks go out to you – the community – for your unwavering support.   I want to leave you with this energetic video by the artists from PLANit Sound and the very talented students from Dance Alberta.  This is a recording of the live performance from the Red Tie Gala.  The song, ‘Change Starts Here’ – is presented in a brand new way -  revised and re-mixed to say thank you for all you do for community.  If you look closely, you will see Mayor Stephen Mandel dancing in the front row audience.  Now that's inspired.    

Thank you.  Change starts here, and it started with you.