Local good comes in all shapes and sizes. From creating escape rooms designed to encourage Indigenous youth into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects to hosting the year’s best Stampede party in support of a local women’s shelter, inspiring young professionals are never hard to find in Calgary.
Every year, United Way of Calgary and Area gets to celebrate these individuals through the Culbert Family Award for Philanthropy. We wanted to take a moment to showcase some of our past winners and remember the incredible ways they have given back to their local community.
Take Brennan O’Yeung, for example, one of the 2019 recipients. At just 19 years old, the University of Calgary student has an impressive philanthropic resume. After noticing how few Indigenous students there were in the engineering faculty, he decided to combine his passion for community involvement with his love of puzzles and logic games, and he created Escape with STEM. The non-profit organization provides volunteer programs and facilitation services to schools, youth organizations, and community events through STEM-based “escape room” challenges. Brennan has so far partnered with the Piitoayis School and Boys and Girls Club of Calgary (BGCC) to deliver Escape with STEM to hundreds of youth, the impact of which has been described as “tremendous” by the director of Indigenous initiatives at BGCC.
Joining Brennan last year to take home the award was Adam Le Dain, a young associate at Azimuth Capital Management. Adam is a perfect example of someone who uses the skills and opportunities from his professional life to give back to his community. Game to Give is Adam’s solution to high-priced, medium-efficiency fundraisers. The non-profit volunteer organization helps local charities run unique “tournament-style” fundraisers targeted at young philanthropists, where a high percentage of the entry fee makes its way to local charities. At the time of taking home the award, Game to Give had raised over $5,000 for local charity partners within the community. His commitment to doing local good and partnering with United Way also saw him successfully run a workplace campaign that boasted 100 per cent employee participation.
As further proof of the variety of young philanthropists in Calgary, the Culbert Family Award for 2018 was awarded to local small business owners Connor Curran and Dustin Paisley, whose business model focuses on building community. Together, they created Local Laundry, a Calgary-based clothing company that prides itself on selling 100 per cent Canadian-made products and giving 10 per cent of all profits to local charities. They have already donated over $10,000 across Canada and have a goal to raise over $1 million for local charities in the future. But money isn’t the only way Local Laundry does local good — they also contribute their time, resources, and network through quarterly charitable events, and they hope their unique business model can inspire others to pursue a similar mission.
A look further back into the Culbert Family Award hall of fame brings us to Michelle Moon and Lourdes Juan, the two recipients from 2016. Despite only moving to Calgary in 2011, Michelle Moon wasted no time embracing her community, creating YYC Do-Gooders on the back of a New Year’s resolution. YYC Do-Gooders was a dynamic group of individuals aiming to increase awareness about family violence and crimes against women and raise funds for the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter. Their endeavours included a “Roundup for Her” Stampede party and a special Mother’s Day flower sale in aid of the shelter.
Lourdes Juan also supported local agencies, but in a different fashion. She is the founder of Leftovers Foundations, an organization working to eliminate food waste while alleviating hunger in the city. They deliver excess food to dozens of service agencies in need across Calgary, through the generosity of local vendors and volunteers. Lourdes used the $2,000 prize money to invest in an app for Leftovers, allowing volunteers, service organizations, and vendors to connect and track their impact more effectively.
These past winners are just a small reflection of the creativity, diversity, and innovation that exists among Calgary’s young philanthropists. What surprises and stories will 2020 present? Stay tuned to our social media channels in March to see who wins this year’s award.