What a rewarding experience to see $225,000 in net proceeds raised in one night, thanks to the generosity of those who attended, our sponsors, volunteers and, of course, to Jay Leno, an inspiring philanthropist in his own right.
For many years I’ve held the belief that giving back is one of life’s pleasures, but like most of you reading this article, I have often wondered: can one person really make a difference? The answer, of course, is a resounding yes. The myth is you have to be rich to be a philanthropist. While it is true that many of the most celebrated philanthropists are also some of the wealthiest – think Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, Bill Clinton, and even Vancouver’s own Frank Giustra – we can all contribute in our own way. Sometimes, just a simple idea will do. An early story of philanthropy at work unfolded here in Vancouver in 1943. Alice MacKay, a secretary, had saved $1,000 from her salary, earmarking it to help homeless women trapped in a cycle of poverty. At the same time, local industrialist and philanthropist W.J. VanDusen knew the potential of building a permanent endowment that could benefit multiple charitable activities. As Director of the Vancouver Welfare Federation (now the United Way of the Lower Mainland) and Chair of its Endowment Committee, VanDusen had studied models of community foundations for several years. By 1943, he had overseen the establishment and incorporation of Vancouver Foundation, but at the time, it was nothing more than a name, with virtually no capital. Inspired by MacKay’s generosity, VanDusen added $10,000 to her endowment and encouraged nine friends to match his own gift. They did – 16
brian JESSEL HOLIDAY 2010
and the Vancouver Foundation was on its way. The original $101,000 investment has since grown into $722 million – the largest community foundation in Canada and one of the largest in North America. It’s just one example of how a single person can inspire others and start something big. Another inspiring study in philanthropy is the story of “Penny Girl” Jeneece Edroff from Victoria, whose spirit and generous fundraising efforts have seen her named to the Order of B.C. Born with a rare genetic condition, Edroff pledged at the age of seven to raise funds to give back to the charity that had helped her family with medical expenses. She spearheaded a penny drive and over the years has raised $1.5 million for the Variety Club Children’s Charity. She also fundraises for Easter Seals’ 24-hour relay, the Neurofibromatosis Foundation and B.C Children’s Miracle Network telethons. Edroff hasn’t let her health difficulties slow her down – most recently she started the Edroff Society with the aim of supporting local projects that help families of children with special needs. Truly an inspirational story for all of us. As part of the business community in Vancouver, the team at Brian Jessel BMW has a responsibility to give back and support local causes. Throughout my tenure, I’ve witnessed first-hand how Brian contributes both personally and professionally to various charities and organizations, and his generosity has inspired me to play a larger philanthropic role. Last year Brian approached me to co-chair our annual Brian Jessel BMW Cabriolet Charity Gala, which was held at the dealership this past May
2010. While I’ve volunteered with the four previous Cabriolet Galas, this year as co-chair I had the honor of helping to select the charities. It’s not always easy to choose from all of the worthy organizations out there, so we selected those that had personal meaning to us and that supported local causes. Among them was VGH/UBC Hospital Foundation’s pancreatic cancer division, chosen as a tribute to Brian’s father who was diagnosed with this disease and later passed away of the disease in September of this year. Our hope was that the event would not only raise money, but also heighten awareness. Arts Umbrella, another one of our beneficiaries, has been a highly respected model for children’s arts programs for over 30 years. We chose it because many of us are parents who appreciate that it reaches thousands of children annually through its community and outreach programs. Our third charity, Canucks Autism Network (CAN), was founded by Paolo and Clara Aquilini after learning their son was diagnosed with autism in 1996. CAN provides year-round, innovative sports, recreational, social and vocational programs for individuals and families living with autism. We wanted to help CAN build awareness through community networks across British Columbia. What a rewarding experience to see $225,000 in net proceeds raised in one night, thanks to the generosity of those who attended, our sponsors, volunteers and, of course, to Jay Leno, an inspiring philanthropist in his own right. Toward the end of the night, he set out to auction four tickets to “The Tonight Show” and a tour of his private garage, with over 300 collectable cars. When the bidding reached $2,000, Jay stopped and
asked the crowd how many of them would pay that amountfor the package. Over 50 people raised their hands and in an instant, Jay raised $100,000 by awarding them all winners. Now that was powerful. After eight months of planning by a group of dedicated volunteers and the support of a great leader, we raised a record amount for our charities. I encourage all business to support worthy organizations in whatever way they are able. On a personal level, small monthly donations to organizations that are meaningful to you can be helpful. But money aside, giving your time can be just as significant. Attending events like golf tournaments, galas and fundraisers is another easy – and fun – way to contribute to a cause. I recently attended the Peter Legge Golf Classic Charity Tournament, an event that Brian Jessel BMW sponsors. After a lovely day of golfing, Peter raised $43,000 for his designated charities (Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation, The Salvation Army and Variety Club). Charity work also includes volunteering behind the scenes; whether it’s helping to coordinate a fundraiser or simply stuffing envelopes, it’s a very meaningful way to contribute. The spirit of philanthropy involves using your means – not only money, but your time, special skills and passion – to further a cause, improve it, draw attention to it and ultimately benefit it, and, in the process, the many others who need assistance. You may just inspire someone else along the way, helping to continue the cycle of generosity. brian JESSEL HOLIDAY 2010