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Woman of the Week: Danielle Robinson

Danielle Robinson is the CEO and President of the Ottawa Senators Foundation, an organization that promotes and invests in programs that help improve physical and mental wellbeing of children. The goal is to empower kids to stay active and be engaged in the community. In 2016, 530 kids were equipped with new skates, helmets, and skating lessons on outdoor community skating rink through the foundation. It also donated about 3,000 autographed merchandise, 2,000 game tickets, and 45 hockey suites at the Canadian Tire Centre.

As CEO and president, it is Robinson’s job is to develop the strategic vision for the organization, manage administrative, financial, and communication priorities, act as community ambassador for the foundation, and report on community investment, among many responsibilities. She has a background in communications, public relations, and corporate communications.

Robinson sat down with Women’s Post to talk about her role and her experience working for the community and about learning to love the sport of hockey.

Question: You studied communications throughout your post-secondary education — what was it about this field that interested you?

Answer: For as long as I can remember I’ve been passionate about how people gather, share, and use information for intentional outcomes or results. Throughout primary and secondary school I was always involved in student council, athletics, fundraising events, and volunteering within the community. I also enjoyed relationships with a diverse cross-section of the student body and faculty. This continued into university and after an Introduction to Communications course in my first year of studies, I was enthralled by the notion that one could use communication, emotional intelligence and leadership centralized around intersecting interests, to create change for good.

What was your first job after graduation?  

Communications & Development Officer, Let’s Talk Science. Let’s Talk Science is an award-winning, national, charitable organization focused on education and outreach to support youth development. The organization creates and delivers unique learning programs and services that engage children, youth and educators in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

You made the jump from working in private financial companies to more altruistic charitable organizations – why?

I actually only spent four of the last 20 years employed in the private sector. Even then, the focus of my work was community investment and employee engagement. Like in my previous roles, my work was focused on helping people within the community live better lives by providing opportunities otherwise not available. My passion for corporate social responsibility and strategic philanthropic investment was inspired while employed with Clarica Life Insurance Company. I was introduced to the notion of business requiring a “Social License to Operate” in order to be both successful and differential from its competitors. This work very much tapped into my Communications and Sociology studies as a “Social License” is rooted in the beliefs, perceptions and opinions held by local populations and other stakeholders about the business and therefore granted by the community. Finding that intersection between business success and a community belief system is fascinating and rewarding.

What drew you to the Ottawa Senators Foundation?

 While I had never played hockey growing up, sport was always part of my life and provided many opportunities for growth and social learning. When I saw the job posting for the role at the Ottawa Senators Foundation, all I could do was think about how incredible it would be to have access to an NHL brand and its unparalleled marketing resources and audiences to raise funds, and then be in a position to strategically invest them back into the region. I also thought the role would be a terrific fit with my educational and professional experiences to date.

Are you a hockey/sport fan?

I’ll never forget having to admit to the president of the Hockey Club during my interview that I’d never really watched much NHL hockey and that I wasn’t really aware of who the players were on the team. Once in the role, all that changed very quickly. The energy in the arena and entertainment on a game night is infectious. Pair that with a love of sport and the great work the hockey club, its players, alumni, corporate partners and fans are achieving, I’m proud to say I’m a fan of the game of hockey and the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club.

You have been with the Ottawa Senators Foundation since March 2006. What is it about the work that keeps you there year after year?

 Each morning I wake up knowing that at least some part of my day will be spent on activities that change the lives of people within my community. It’s a pretty great feeling and keeps so many of the “distractions” in life in perspective. When I started with the Foundation, we were a team of four who finished the 2005-06 season having raised $2.5 million. Fast forward to the end of the 2016-17 season, with its terrific playoff run, we’re now a team of eight raising more than $6 million each year. The ability to grow the staff team, reconstitute the board of directors, and create a strategic mission and vision aligned to the business priorities of the hockey club have kept me fully engaged. My passion for corporate community investment and communications has enabled the Ottawa Senators Foundation to create a powerful network of partnerships that result in measurable community investments resulting in the most beautiful storytelling opportunities of lives changed.

How has the Foundation changed during that time? What would you say has been its biggest accomplishment? 

As social and digital mediums have expanded throughout the past decade, so too has our ability to communicate rapidly and effectively. An NHL brand comes with an inherent level of trust and credibility. Using a brand platform like this to advocate for change, create awareness or breakdown stigma is a privilege and one I believe the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club and Foundation have accomplished on several important issues. By way of example, in November of 2010, Daron Richardson, the daughter of former NHL player and Ottawa Senators assistant coach, Luke Richardson, died by suicide. Instead of keeping these tragic details to themselves, the Richardson family worked with the Club to share their story and in Feb. 2011 the Ottawa Senators Foundation hosted its first Do It for Daron Youth Mental Health Awareness Night. The majority of in-game announcements and score clock imagery for that game was dedicated to creating a conversation around mental health promotion, education, and youth suicide prevention. Eight years later, the conversation continues to evolve into a powerful dialogue of action and now every Canadian NHL Team hosts a game night in Jan/Feb known as Hockey Talks Mental Health. This has been a pretty proud accomplishment among many.

How are you helping other women? 

In recent years, I’ve made an effort to be more involved in a variety of women’s networks. I’m always happy to share my time with young women looking at careers in communications, the charitable sector, or other related fields. When approached to speak or participate in forums related to women in business I try my best to participate. I also think it’s important to be authentic in sharing both stories of success and learnings that have come from failure. Being available to female leaders within the community is also important to me. Having a network of peers to support, celebrate and champion within the community is time well spent.

What are you reading right now?

For business, I’m just about finished “The Art of Doing Good – Where Passion Meets Action” by Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon. Personally, I’m on a Fiction book break at the moment, instead opting to binge watch a variety of Netflix original series. 

What’s coming up next for you career wise?

I’m approaching my mid-40’s and have been in my current role for more than a decade. Succession planning has been a priority the past 12-18 months. I believe this is a vitally important piece of leadership work within all organizations. I’m not actively looking to make a career change just yet, as I still have some personal goals within the work of the Ottawa Senators Foundation I want to accomplish, but I do know my next move will require community, communications, storytelling, and leadership be at the core of the role.

How to survive planning a child’s birthday party

Planning a child’s birthday party should be fun and easy, right? It is, after all the, time to celebrate another year of a kid’s life with 10 to 20 screaming mini friends while trying to balance allergies and make sure your child’s dreams come true. Alright, perhaps not so easy, but with a plan in place, and with the help of this survival birthday how-to guide, children’s birthday party planning will be a breeze.

Though birthday planning can be overwhelming, it will become easier once you simplify it and start at step one: location, location, location. Where are you having your ultimate kid’s party? There are many options ranging from the movie theatre to a gymnastics centre or a more classic home party at your house. It can be more difficult to plan a winter party because the outdoors obviously won’t work, but here are a few indoor birthday party ideas for winter babies:

  • Indoor Trampoline party
  • Beading studio for jewelry party
  • Art studio for pottery making
  • Indoor playground
  • Gymnastics centre
  • Rock Climbing
  • Baking yummy treats party
  • Homemade Pizza Party
  • Craft and Arts party

If you are on a budget and can’t afford the $250 plus fees at these expensive venues, opt for a party at home or a room in the local community centre to save on costs. Through the City of Toronto for example, there is an option to rent a room for an arts or baking party, or to rent out the gym for a more sports-themed extravaganza.  For my daughter, we decided to do an arts-themed party at the community centre because we are short on space for a group of children at the house.

After the location and time are booked, it is time to decide how many kids to invite. This is a difficult decision because it is hard to think about disappointing kids that aren’t invited. On the other hand though, if too many kids are invited the costs will go through the roof and planning it will become very time-consuming. Most parties would include about 10-15 kids, because not all the invitees will be able to attend due to other weekend recreational activities. Make sure to include a note in the invitations about letting the host parents know about allergies when people RSVP.

Budgeting for various party expenses is imperative to ensure that overspending doesn’t occur. Use an excel sheet or google doc to keep track of expenses and to organize what is left to be done prior to the party. Try to get friends and family to help out instead of paying venue staff. People love kids’ birthday parties because, frankly, children are hilarious and cute when they are excited. By getting family and friends to help on the big day, it will make things go smoothly and then the parents have some adult companions to enjoy the festivities with.

Last but not least, have fun! There will be points of stress and it is nerve-racking thinking about how your child’s birthday party adds up compared to their classmates’ parties, but at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that your child is smiling and happy.

What are your survival tips for planning a child’s birthday party? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

How to make your dorm your own

Moving away from home for the first time is an exciting and scary adventure. On one hand, you finally have independence from your parents, but then you have to make sure you can actually take care of yourself. Creating a fun and organized dorm room is the way to make that happen.

The first step when moving into a dorm room is to assess the size of the room and figure out what fits in the small space. I had my own room in residence and it came with a twin bed, dresser, and desk. It was literally the size of a closet (honestly, I was just glad I had my own room). Here are a few tips from a university veteran.

Photo by Marco Derksen
Photo by Marco Derksen
  1. Good vibes

By creating a room with colourful and dynamic art, it makes an open and enjoyable space that classmates and friends can also enjoy. When I moved into residence, I was a poor student and had to be creative with my decorating skills. I purchased an art magazine called Juxtapose and hung all of the art on my door and walls, creating a collage. I still use some of these art pieces today. Most campuses in Ontario have poster sales if you are looking for something specific. If you do have to share a room, try using a nice fabric or sheet to separate the space and make it more private. You can also buy a funky bedspread and pillows to make the space even more dynamic.

  1. Ways to leave a note

Another decorating trick is to create a message board. I used a roll of blank white paper on a wall to create a writing area for people to sign and leave messages after they stop by. I also used it to write poems and do drawings when I had a sudden burst of inspiration. These papers are now a memento of my first few years at university.  You can also hang a whiteboard or chalkboard if you prefer. Having a message area is also a fun way for your friends to leave notes at your dorm if you aren’t there, and also so floor mates can inform you of parties and get-togethers.

2011-Master-Closet-Organizer-014

  1. Closet organizers

A closet organizer is a must in a tiny room. These hanging units take up virtually no space and help to keep clothes and personal items organized and off the ground. Be sure to keep the area organized though as the compartments can get quite messy if you pile on extra items or random knick knacks. I personally used my closet organizer for undergarments because these items are small and get easily lost if not in a contained area. These organizers come in a variety of styles and sizes, and can be quite stylish.

 

  1. A wall calendar

University can be chaotic and busy, and having a place in front of your desk with your tests and activities written down is a good way to remember your schedule. I had a large calendar and could record everything from a friend’s kegger to the midterm the next day (hopefully not). Having deadlines visible on a daily basis helped me remember what needed to be done and alleviated stress.

  1. Under the bed storage

Dorm rooms have limited space, so make sure to utilize the space under your bed. Get some short and wide boxes for seasonal clothing or use it to store smaller things like extra toothpaste, Tylenol, and socks. This is also a great spot to store secret snacks when you get the munchies.

Decorating gives character to a room, making it friendly and inviting. It will also make it feel more personal if you feel homesick. Being organized will help you succeed at the “school” part of living in residence (smaller priority sometimes), while the more personal touches will make the tiny room seem like home.

How would you decorate and organize your dorm room? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

Moving in the summer: how to do it right

Moving in the summer can be very hot and sweaty, but sadly it is the most popular time to change homes because the weather is nice — no one wants to move in the snow, right!? With proper planning, patience and a good attitude, moving can go from being a gruelling experience to a fun adventure to your new house. And Women’s Post is here to help you out with these easy tips.

The first thing you need to do is to plan how you are going to move your belongings from one residence to another. If you are moving cities, renting a truck and finding a driver is ideal. Don’t forget to compare rates of rentals ahead of times to save on costs. If you have fewer belongings and are moving a short distance, try asking a friend to borrow a car or a truck for the day instead. Don’t forget to be nice and pay for gas!

Once you have figured out how to get your furniture and knick-knacks from one home to another, the next step is to transfer services to your new residence. Call Canada Post and organize a mail forward date to your new home. Also, call your utility provider — Internet, cable, and hydro — to notify them of your move so that you aren’t paying bills for your house’s next tenants. If you are moving out of the city, ensure your Internet provider is offered in your new destination. Being without Internet in a new home is a pain and is easier when taken care of before moving day.

The next step is to make the ultimate packing kit of the century, which must include packing boxes and buckets, packing tape, markers, coloured labels, and scissors (or an x-acto knife). To make your move slightly more green, invest in recyclable containers that can be re-used after the move at your new home. Use dresser drawers as packing space instead of emptying them. It is a space saver in the moving truck and helps reduce the amount of boxes or buckets needed.

When you begin packing, remember to have towels and linens on hand to protect fragile items. Don’t forget to label each box of else you will have to go through every box to find your favourite mug (label: kitchenware). Organize boxes into different areas so that the movers (or your friends) will have an easier time loading belongings into the truck. Using colour-coded labels is an easy way to make sure each box goes to the right area in the house.

On moving day, leave out tools and allen keys to deconstruct furniture. Also have tape and ziplock bags on hand to attach the relevant tools and screws to the piece of furniture — no one wants an Ikea moment (I’m sure it’s fine with only four screws…). Load heavy pieces first while the moving crew has more stamina and then load the lighter boxes when everyone is beginning to grow tired and there is less room in the truck. Finally, purge any unwanted items. Moving is a great way to get rid of any extra crap in your home.

Most importantly — and DO NOT forget this — provide cold refreshments and a thank-you pizza and beer for your friends and movers. It is hot and heavy work, and no one will help you again if you aren’t courteous about their efforts. Other than that, enjoy your new digs and happy unpacking!

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