From West Coast to Best Coast: My Philanthropic Journey
Sometimes you meet the people that inspire you the most by accident. This was certainly the case for me when I met Michael “Pinball” Clemons. I was working as a Community Engagement Coordinator at the local Canadian Tire store in Prince George, British Columbia. The University of Northern British Columbia was hosting its 3rd annual Breakfast fundraiser to benefit its student athletes and invited "Pinball" to be the key note speaker for the event. The local Canadian Tire store was the presenting sponsor and had the benefit of a private meet and greet with "Pinball" prior to the event.
Not being very sports savvy and growing up on the West Coast, I had no context for who “Pinball” was and didn’t really consider the impact he was about to have on my life. The evening before the event, he talked with the other guests around me about his time as an Toronto Argonaut and the positive experiences he had throughout his football career. But then he mentioned that he was the Co-Founder of the Pinball Clemons Foundation with his wife Diane. I was immediately intrigued. He told me about building schools in Kenya, India, China and Ecuador. He shared amazing stories about working with under-resourced youth in the Jane and Finch area. He shared about the Ambassador School that provides education and opportunity for youth in care. He told me that his team cooks monthly at a youth shelter and that that experience gives perspective to the situations of others. These stories lit a fire in me.
Little did he know, I was looking for some inspiration myself. I had graduated University three years prior and based on my education and previous work experience I had known that I wanted to pursue working in the non-profit sector. This was the organization I wanted to work with! What other group works to make a difference both locally and internationally with their ongoing projects? What other Foundation focuses so specifically on ensuring that youth are given the opportunities to get to career every step of the way.
Within 18 months, I had my bags packed and I was moving to Toronto to work with "Pinball" and his team to continue the mission of bringing youth from the margins to the mainstream. After 6 months of being the Development Coordinator at the Foundation, I have seen first-hand how generous people can be and how the Clemons family and the Foundation work tirelessly to make donor dollars go as far as possible to change the story for these youth.
I’m glad "Pinball" came to Prince George because it offered me the inspiration to come to Toronto.