KT summer reads bonus post: Barbara McInnes

By Rebecca Peng –

“People say that I’m recently retired,” says Barbara McInnes, former President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Ottawa, “but I don’t think it’s anyone’s definition of retirement really.”

One thing McInnes never retires from, however, is a good read. If you ask her about her summer reading list, McInnes returns with an armful of books she’s planning to get through this season.

 Barbara McInnes’ book list is inspired by her travels. Photo by Rebecca Peng.
Barbara McInnes’ book list is inspired by her travels. Photo by Rebecca Peng.

Her choices are influenced by her travels: a novel she happened upon in a fair in France this past week; four books connected to Newfoundland, the province she visited earlier this summer; one novel – just finished – that delves into aspects of Asian history, a continent she’s loved. A map seems to unfold before you as McInnes sorts through her summer choices.

The last book, Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists, is one she describes as being “just a beautiful book, a wonderful book.”

“It had everything that I like in a book: a really compelling story, well written, almost poetic. It told a tough story, centred around an amazing Japanese garden created in Malaysia. Interwoven with the story of the garden is all of the recent history of Japan and Chinese-Japanese relations.”

Though she confesses to indulging in a popular paperback or two, many of McInnes’ reads, fiction and nonfiction alike, are full of opportunities to learn and broaden one’s knowledge. Presently, she’s reading Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, Mark Kurlansky’s nonfiction profile on the titular fish, from their legendary historical abundance to their present population struggles, complete with recipes at the back.

“It’s a fabulous book,” McInnes says. “I gave it to a friend when it was first published several years ago and when I was down [in Newfoundland], I thought a lot about it and thought, ‘I wish I had read that book!’

“It tells you all about the fisheries and how it’s changed over time. It’s a very, very interesting kind of social history. Really, really nicely written.”

“Summer provides that opportunity to read. It gives you the time to put your feet up and there’s nothing more glorious that sitting outside with a book and the birds are there, the weather’s there – it’s just a really different feel.”

McInnes isn’t planning on wasting a moment.

This post is part of our annual KT summer reads issue. Read all of our other profiles right here.

KT summer reads: John Rapp

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The young reader inside John Rapp is alive and well. Photo by Rebecca Peng.

“You asked me what I like to read,” says John Rapp, the Executive Director of the Dovercourt Recreation Association, “but I prefer to be read to.”

Dovercourt is full today, with over 700 campers attending programs this particular week, and Rapp sits himself down in the middle of a group of twenty-five of them while Charlotte Scott-Frater, the camp counsellor, reads his summer book of choice: Mortimer by Robert Munsch. In moments, the campers – and Rapp – all sing a refrain that is familiar to so many parents: “Clang, clang, rattle-bing-bang! Gonna make my noise all day!” All of them are enveloped in the classic story of a very loud child who doesn’t want to sleep.

When the noise finally dies down, Rapp explains his love for Munsch and Mortimer. 

“Everything Robert Munch writes has got this strange sense of humour and the illustrations are phenomenal,” he says. “I remember when my kids were little, if they asked for a Munsch book, then I was always quite delighted.”

It’s a delight that hasn’t faded over time. He points out that Munsch books have a certain adult appeal. “There are enough references to make it amusing for you too,” says Rapp. “When you have to read the same book 18 times, it’s important that it’s really good, like [Dr. Seuss’] Green Eggs and Ham or it’s really fun, like Robert Munsch.”

Rapp says he was a “total book nut” as a child and describes himself as a lifelong reader. “I always have a book going,” says Rapp. “It’s just that the choices have changed.”

Now that his kids are 18 and 20, he’s not reading a whole lot of Robert Munsch in the evenings, though he still reads with his children in mind.

“My daughter is very much into books, so she keeps giving me books that she wants me to read because she loves them. So I’ve been reading a lot of John Green lately,” says Rapp. “She’s totally nuts about The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska and now she wants me to read An Abundance of Katherines. I know it’s young adult fiction… but it’s just a label. I mean, how many adults read Harry Potter?”

Rapp believes that when you have a teenage daughter, anything they want to talk to you about should be celebrated.

“I haven’t been funny for ten years, so if she wants to talk about a favourite novel, that’s great.”

This post is part of our annual KT summer reads issue. Read all of our other profiles right here.

 

One of Kitchissippi’s top volunteers honoured at Fisher Park

By Rebecca Peng –

“No one I can think of is more deserving of having this park named after them,” says Jim Clarkin, President of the Fisher Park Community Recreation Council.

On June 24, over a hundred kids, fresh from their last soccer game of the season, gathered with their parents to commemorate the naming of Fisher Park’s sports fields.  For all of them, the name is a familiar one.

Coun. Katherine Hobbs congratulates Brian Kearns at the official unveiling. Photo by Kate Settle.
Coun. Katherine Hobbs congratulates Brian Kearns at the official unveiling. Photo by Kate Settle.
Brian Kearns with grandsons Cameron and William and happy onlookers. Photo by Kate Settle.
Brian Kearns with grandsons Cameron and William and happy onlookers. Photo by Kate Settle.
New signage for Fisher Park. Photo by Kate Settle.
New signage for Fisher Park. Photo by Kate Settle.

“This is Brian Kearns’ park,” announces Clarkin. “These are now his fields.”

Brian Kearns spent over 40 years in recreation, 27 of them at Fisher Park. He’s known throughout the community as a dedicated volunteer who coaches a variety of sports – from hockey to gymnastics, wrestling to track and field – at Fisher, Highland Park, and with the Ottawa West Golden Knights.

“It just goes to show what a difference one person can make in people’s lives. So often we hear how with kids, just that one adult can make such a difference,” says Councillor Katherine Hobbs of Kearns’ vast accomplishments. “Brian has made that difference for so many kids. We don’t have enough Brians in our community.”

“You don’t find many guys like Brian,” agrees Clarkin. Clarkin met Kearns when he was just four years old and eager to play baseball.

“After that, Fisher was my life. It was home for everybody and it was a good place to go. It’s the right sports, it’s keeping kids active and having fun, and Brian was always about kids having fun.”

Clarkin credits the expansion and the development of Fisher Park’s sports programs to Kearns’ involvement and dedication.

“We have over a thousand kids that play in the spring programs now. That’s just the fun programs, not the competitive clubs. What he’s done for the neighbourhoods is just so huge. He’s just the best guy, the best coach, and a great guy to know. No one’s better deserving [of this honour] than Brian,” says Clarkin.

“There’s a lot of history in this park,” adds Councillor Hobbs, “and to have him as part of this history is really important. It’s great.”

Having the sports fields named after himself is something Kearns never could have predicted.

“It’s wonderful. It’s overwhelming. It’s actually very humbling. You never expect such a thing, eh?” says Kearns. “When I [first] came here we had a green shack and a couple of outdoors rinks. Now it’s amazing. The community’s just wonderful. They’re the ones who made me who I am today.”

It’s a community he’s still giving back to, not just as a volunteer, but also as a cheerleader. His grandchildren play in Fisher’s soccer program and Kearns is there to support and encourage them, as well as all the other children too.

Families across Kitchissippi are putting the squeeze on cancer

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Lindsay Firestone and Julie Findlay have discovered the secret ingredient of fundraising. Photo by Rebecca Peng.

Saturday, June 21 is the second annual Great Canadian Lemonade Standemonium. Hosted by the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, kids across the city will be setting up their very own lemonade stands, all to raise money for local cancer care.

Woodroffe parent, Julie Findlay, the main organizer of this year’s event, and McKellar Park’s Lindsay Firestone, who spearheaded last year’s campaign, are both full of enthusiasm for the project. “It really kicks off summer and wraps up school,” Findlay explains. More than that, the Lemonade Standemonium weaves together awareness and pure fun. “Everybody in the world wants to do a lemonade stand,” adds Firestone.

The classic lemonade stand is alive and well, and proven to be an effective moneymaker. Over 200 kids participated last year.

“It was amazing to see so many kids out across the city who were so aware of what they were doing,” says Firestone. “They were fully aware they were helping other kids and they all got excited, making their own lemonade, or making it a different colour, or making cookies, whatever they could do to make it fun. They were just so excited to be giving back.”

When her children, Jack and Lola (who, respectively, ran lemonade stands named Lemonade Legends and Princess Lemonade last year) talk about their experience, they’re modest about the impact they’ve had. “I think my stand raised about seventy dollars,” guesses Jack. In reality, his stand, which he manned with eight of his friends, raised over $1,000 and, all together, Ottawa kids raised over $53,000 to support regional research and care for cancer patients.

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Champion fundraisers Ellie (4), Jack (9), and Lola (7) at John’s Family Diner, a supporter of the Great Canadian Lemonade Standemonium. Photo by Rebecca Peng.

“There are a lot of kids who are affected by cancer,” notes Findlay, “whether it’s through their families or they’ve lost someone to cancer.”

The Great Canadian Lemonade Standemonium is about raising awareness as well as funds, educating kids both about cancer and about the ways they can change their community for the better. It’s also a day that Firestone’s children describe as “one of the most fun days” they had all summer.

With the goal of rallying as much support as they can, kids get creative, setting up shop by farmer’s markets, community centres, local businesses, or just in their neighbourhoods. “It’s going from a lemonade stand event to a ‘let’s just have fun in the summer’ day,” Findlay says. The 21st is a day that’s becoming greatly anticipated in classrooms throughout the city, as school days begin to wane.

As the countdown to Great Canadian Lemonade Standemonium Day gets underway, Findlay’s current focus is motivating kids and families to get involved, register online, and start thinking about their stands.  On the day of, however, she and Firestone will be in a different seat: the driver’s. “We have a big truck and we’re going to be driving around to all the stands with a little surprise for all the lemonade standers.”

In their eyes, the success of the campaign is just another reflection of Ottawa’s great community. Last year, their kids set up their stand outside John’s Family Diner on Wellington. The restaurant will be participating this year as well. “They were so excited. They jumped on it,” Findlay smiles. “If you just ask, people want to get involved.”

For more information about setting up your own stand, go to ottawacancer.ca/Lemonade.aspx. If you can’t host a stand of your own, stop by a lemonade stand and enjoy a glass! Find the closest one to you at ottawacancer.ca

Best of the West! This volunteer grew up with Westfest

Tyler Styles grew up during Westfest
Kitchissippi’s Tyler Styles grew up with Westfest

This is the last of our series of profiles about longtime Westfest volunteers. Did you miss the first two? You can find them here and here.

By Rebecca Peng – 

Having lived in Westboro his entire life, Tyler Styles has grown up with Westfest. Though he’s still in high school, Tyler’s been committed to the festival for years. “I was just a festival-goer – and then I decided I wanted to help,” he explains. It was just that simple. Tyler now manages garbage and recycling for all of Westfest.

“I love it,” says Styles. “It’s definitely not the most glamorous job, but it has to be done, right?”

Styles does everything from checking in on the needs of the street marshals to running his own small crew of environmental volunteers, all dedicated to keeping the streets spotless. “During the festival, I’m all over the place. During the day, I’m on the streets and, at night, I’m at the stage. I see it all.”

He’s at the festival from early morning to the very end of the night, when he sweeps the streets to get them ready for the next day. “It’s great. At the end of the day, I can really see what I’ve done. I walk out at the end of the night and look around and it’s like, ‘Woah!’”

Through his involvement with the festival, Styles has received more than just a sense of his hard work, he’s also gained a sense of himself.   “I’ve definitely learned a lot about responsibility and my limits,” Styles admits. There’s a lot of weight on his shoulders, but also a lot of pride and excitement for the festival and the people who attend it.

“My favourite part would have to be just going down on a Saturday afternoon. There are so many people! It’s a giant block party for everyone. I get to meet up with people I haven’t seen in years. It brings people together.”

It’s also brought him together with a second family: his community of Westfest volunteers. They’re the people that keep him excited to come back. “They’re so supportive no matter what,” says Styles.

His Westfest family and his dedication to the festival has helped him branch out in many ways, from getting a job to becoming involved in the other festivals around the city.

He’s a younger member of the family, but Styles has no problems fitting in.  “Being younger, they don’t always see things from my perspective, so that’s something I can give. They also bring out a different, more mature side of me.”

Although he may only see some of them for a single week, the reunion is worth the wait. “The end of the festival is definitely an emotional experience,” Styles admits. “Everyone leaving for the year – it gets me every time.”

It’s that bond that makes the festival and his volunteer family a constant in his life. “I definitely see myself getting involved with Westfest for years to come. Oh yeah. It’s one week out of my life, but I love it every time,” says Styles.

The best of the West! This Westfest volunteer is “father” to staffers

By Rebecca Peng –

In the next few issues we will be introducing readers to some veteran Westfest volunteers. We’re starting things off with Norm Morrison, who’s described as the “father” to Westfest staffers. 

Norm Morrison has been a resident of Westboro for 18 years and a part of Westfest since its “humble beginnings,” when then-councillor Christine Leadman asked him to co-ordinate a parade down Richmond Road. Over the past 11 years, he’s seen the festival blossom.

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“It’s gone from a modest affair with a single stage to a three stage event that draws about a hundred thousand people over the three days,” Morrison says. It’s not such a modest affair anymore.

Organizing a festival of this size means there’s plenty to do, and Morrison has had a hand in almost all of it. He helps co-ordinate the advertising and marketing for the festival, managing public relations with all the businesses in the neighbourhood, and distributes the postcards that get passed onto their customers. “I go to everyone in every store. I meet everyone. It keeps me in touch with the neighbourhood and introduces me to those shops I might not have gone into otherwise.”

This year, Morrison bought himself a red wagon to help him transport all those cards. “If you see an old guy with a wagon and plenty of boxes,” he laughs, “that’s me!”

During the festival, however, Morrison might prove more elusive, and can usually be found around the VIP area and helping out backstage. He also helps with the three-day set up and two-day tear down pre- and post-festival.

Rosalyn Stevens, the festival’s Media Relations Manager, describes Morrison as being “like the father figure to most staff. We love him.”

Though his Westfest duties may sound exhausting, Morrison is committed to several other volunteer positions as well. Morrison is the chair of the Westboro Community Association, and has helped out with the Shriners. There are a couple of other Ottawa festivals that get a slice of his time too. For nine years, he’s volunteered with the Ottawa Tulip Festival and, this year, has been approached to help out backstage at Bluesfest. Still, Westfest is special. “I enjoy it more,” Morrison admits. “It’s also only a block away from my home – that helps!”

Morrison is equally enthusiastic about the team behind the local festival. He’s filled with compliments for Westfest founder, Elaina Martin, and reflects how the festival benefits from being able to work with the same people year after year; how it’s built a community of dedicated volunteers.

“It’s a family affair. It’s all-inclusive,” he says when describing the festival. But it’s more than just bringing Westboro neighbours together. “It gives Westboro a presence outside of Ottawa as well. It’s a showcase for the neighbourhood and the city too.”

One of Morrison’s favourite aspects of Westfest is the Main Street Stage. “It gives local entertainment, younger people, an opportunity to perform. It’s probably the first time they’ve ever performed in front of that many people,” says Morrison. “I think that would be my recommendation for something to check out.”

Regardless of which stage visitors visit, the festival won’t be short of excitement. “Now that I’m retired,” Morrison explains, “I do the things that I like.” Seems that even after all these years, Westfest is something that never gets old.

How to throw a great street party

Street parties bring neighbours together and create lasting memories and friendships.
Street parties bring neighbours together and create lasting memories and friendships.

 

Over the past 13 years, the annual Faraday Street block parties have taken on a life of their own. With close to a 160 guests this year, they’re much grander than the average street party. However, the Faraday parties can serve as a model for any festively inclined street.

Evelyn Eldridge, a Faraday neighbour, refers to herself as the “head delegator” of the whole affair. “It sounds like I don’t do anything, but I do!”

One of the first things she does is phone the city (613-580-2424, extension 28164) to obtain a Special Occasion Permit. The application needs to be submitted in writing 30 days before the event, which means planning starts in the spring.

Years of experience have revealed the ideal time to amass one’s neighbours is just before school starts. “Literally, people take off very quickly.” Also in May, a form is sent out to all her neighbours, asking them to both save the date, RSVP, and pay a small amount for the barbeque (the extra money always goes to charity).

Families also pitch in and bring either a dessert or a salad to the event. “Early on, we were getting some really not so great food,” Evelyn admits, “but then one neighbour had this great idea to make it into a contest. And man, has our food improved. It’s amazing what a little competition can do.”

The other main tasks are divided up between the neighbours. Children’s games and crafts need to be planned and set up. Face painting is a must. They’ve come to prefer Circus Delights (613-728-5050) for the much adored bouncy house. There’s the barbeque, a juggling show, and volleyball in the evening. Someone has to pick up the barricades from the City of Ottawa Surface Operations Branch for the big date, and, of course, music is key to maintaining the event atmosphere.

The street party has become a key and transformative event in their neighbourhood. “Since we started, Faraday’s become just a complete fairy-tale street,” Evelyn says. It became the catalyst for the neighbours to truly get to know one another. “It’s like Mr. Roger’s neighbourhood. The children just love it.” They all go out to other events and vacation together. The kids all play together.

And, thanks to a few great street parties and some excellent planning, Faraday now has 13 years worth of memories, and many more to come.

Leuro Open Badminton Tournament 2013

 

The Hintonburg Community Centre is full of people, crowded around on the edges, watching birdies fly back and forth across the court. On Saturday, July 13, the Luero Open Badminton Tournament is in full swing. There are prizes, of course: a raffle to be won and bragging rights to all the winners, but the Luero Open is about more than just winning.

Run by the Hintonburg Badminton Club, the Luero Open is an annual memorial game. The courts are opened to honour Eric Luong. Eric Luong was one of the original members of the Hintonburg Badminton Club. The club began thirteen years ago, as a small circle of friends. However, over the years, the club has grown into a sizable and diverse community that meets biweekly to practice and play. When Eric Luong passed away in April of 2010, the club knew they wanted to honour their friend and fellow athlete.

All the proceeds from the tournament go to charity. Since it began in 2010, the Luero Open’s players and local sponsors have donated to multiple charities. The club annually raises more than five hundred dollars. In 2011, they raised one thousand dollars for CHEO. This year, the proceeds will be donated to the Ottawa Mission and organizers Jozzepi Foo and Roy Hoople are optimistic for an even greater impact for the community. In its fourth year now, the tournament has grown by thirty three percent, with over one hundred players.

 

At the end of the day – when the scores are counted, wrists are exhausted, and players have worked themselves well out of breath – the club is just happy they can do good in honour of their friend’s memory, and even happier that the community is there to support them as well.

Gnome-napping in Westboro

p 8 Where's Walden

 

When Andrea Tomkins placed Walden – a garden gnome complete with shades, jeans, and arms crossed in clear attitude – in a local flowerbed, she wasn’t expecting a gnome-napping. The well-known Westboro blogger had intended to hide Walden in various locations around the neighbourhood throughout the summer, and had invited her followers to join in, tracking Walden and discovering his hiding places.

Andrea Tomkins described the game as a mix of geocaching and a continuation of her previous Trust Experiment. In March of 2007, Tomkins left a wallet with a ten dollar bill in a local coffee shop and waited to see whether someone would take it or not. The wallet lasted eleven days. Walden lasted one.

“It is disappointing,” Tomkins says. She had been hopeful that Walden would become an incentive for people to get outside and explore their neighbourhood. Walden’s first – and last – location had been outside the local Highland Lawn Bowling Club, and Tomkins had intended to place him in other Westboro landmarks and places tied to local history or modern trivia.

“I was going to have him up at Dovercourt, under a stand of Saskatoon berries,” Tomkins says, mentioning that most people aren’t aware that the berries are edible. Walden’s premise was an example of synthesizing the virtual world with the local community. An experience that had the quality of an inside joke for local followers of her blog, and one that would have had to be experienced both online and off.

“I live a lot of my work life within social media, and I think there’s a huge value to getting off the computer and doing something ‘in real life’.”

Tomkins’ blog, “A Peek Inside the Fishbowl,” has become a popular source of family projects and local life. “Fishbowl” is another example of that intersection point between virtual spaces and reality. “I think blogs and twitter are really important in a neighbourhood setting. Quite often, big media aren’t covering the neighbourhoods in the same way, so the smaller media becomes even more important.”

In her eyes, social media has become a way to spread local news and more grassroots initiatives. “That kind of stuff is really important to a lot of people.” The trick is not just spreading the news, but encouraging neighbours to come out and also be a part of it. In an age where social media is so instantaneous and easily accessible, one can quickly become a spectator instead of a participant.

Little projects, like what Walden could have been, are surely a part of continuing to connect and encourage neighbourhoods to strengthen their ties across modern mediums. Though Tomkins happily insists she starts these activities simply to satisfy her own curiosity, it’s always “more fun” once people get involved or follow along.

Now, with Walden travelling on his own, Tomkins doesn’t know where she’ll apply herself next.
“I don’t have anything in mind, but my brain is a wonderful place! So there might be something around the corner. I don’t know yet!”