Charities that depend on Sens Foundation hopeful funding will continue

Ottawa charities that receive support from the Ottawa Senators Foundation say they're hopeful funding will continue despite plans for the foundation and the hockey club to part ways next month.

Hockey club, charitable foundation set to sever ties at the end of July

Former Ottawa Senators player Kyle Turris poses with members of the Capital City Condors after a game in 2017. The agency, which organizes hockey teams for players with intellectual and/or physical disabilities, receive annual support from the Ottawa Senators Foundation. (Supplied)

Ottawa charities that receive support from the Ottawa Senators Foundation say they're hopeful funding will continue despite plans for the foundation and the hockey club to part ways next month.

The Ottawa Senators Foundation announced Thursday it will no longer be able to use the Ottawa Senators' branding after a licensing agreement expires July 31.

According to the hockey team, the foundation's management refused to take part in a request for proposals process as part of an effort to diversify the causes the hockey team supports.

Three charities that depend on funding from the foundation said they learned about the breakup Thursday, along with the rest of the city.

Jim Perkins, president and co-founder of Capital City Condors, a hockey organization for players with physical or cognitive disabilities, told CBC's All in a Day that had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, learning the foundation and the Senators were splitting up would have "blown our socks off."

The Ottawa Senators Foundation and the Club annouced today that it's agreement with clubs will expire in July 2020. Where does this leave non-profits who rely on that funding? 9:24

"It is a shock, a gut punch, but at the same time, we've almost grown acclimatized to it a bit," he said. "There's kind of been one unexpected thing after another [during the pandemic]."

'They've gone to bat for us'

Due to physical distancing rules, the Condors have cancelled five fundraising events this year, including a golf tournament that normally brings in around $80,000.

The Condors received between $20,000 and $25,000 annually from the Ottawa Senators Foundation, which has also helped them form other partnerships with players and offer a range of programs to their participants, said Perkins.

"They've gone to bat for us, and we've been committed to adapted hockey and making sure that hockey stayed accessible for those who had physical challenges as well as those who have cognitive challenges," he said.

Megan Wright, executive director for Roger Neilson House, which was founded in part by the foundation, said she is confident funding for the palliative care centre for children will be extended.

"We are feeling very confident that our house, our community, our sports, our programs, will continue," she said.

Katt Brooks, right, talks about Pokemon with 14-year-old Tait Gofton. Brooks is a recreation therapist at Roger Neilson House, where her job involves coming up with fun activities for children in palliative care. The house was partly founded by the Sens Foundation. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

Roger Neilson House received $314,000 last year from the Ottawa Senators Foundation, and Wright said she expects the same level of funding this year.

"We're so grateful for their support, and we know that our community will continue to rally around our kids and families to make sure that the children in our region receive the services they need."

For Patti Murphy, executive director of the Youth Services Bureau Charitable Foundation (YSB), she believes their multi-year funding agreement will be upheld by the foundation, whether or not it flies the Ottawa Senators banner. 

The people running the foundation haven't changed, said Murphy, and the two organizations have a strong relationship. Over nearly 10 years, the foundation has provided YSB with upwards of $500,000, mainly for mental health services.

Skaters take to the ice at the Rink of Dreams in front of Ottawa City Hall on Dec. 5, 2015. The City of Ottawa says it pays for maintenance and operations costs for the rink which was built by the Ottawa Senators Foundation. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC Ottawa)

"It will be interesting to see, when everything settles, what that all looks like," she said. 

The foundation also supported a winter ice rink outside Ottawa City Hall.

Dan Chenier, the city's general manager for recreation, said while the foundation paid for the capital costs to build the Rink of Dreams, the city pays for operating and maintenance costs, so the facility is not affected by the foundation's announcement.

with files from CBC's All In a Day, Natalia Goodwin and Radio-Canada's Stephane Leclerc.

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