When lockdowns were implemented in Spring 2021, public relations students along with their professor, Stephen Heckbert, had to discuss a plan of action for the in-person charity event in support of the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre they had planned. They came to the consensus that delaying their event to Fall 2021 was best.
On Sept. 18, the students were finally able to gather in person to host a charity event after multiple postponements and a last-minute venue change.
The event started early Saturday afternoon in the horticultural gardens at Algonquin’s Woodroffe campus with a stretching and mobility session hosted by instructor Isabelle Scantland. It was followed by a youth-focused portion called Junior Sweat and lastly a HIIT conditioning session.
Among those in attendance was Lara Mills, a professor in the public relations program at Algonquin.
Mills is also a volunteer with the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre, which is a residential youth treatment facility.
Mills explained she did not personally have a hand in helping the students plan the event but attended as a supporter and a participant.
“This is student-organized, student-run. The students choose the charity and they chose this one unanimously,” she said. “Yes some of the events, including this one, had to be postponed due to the lockdown last spring, but here we are on a beautiful day, in the middle of the horticulture garden.”
Elaine Gillis, a third-level student in the public relations program, said that the pandemic kept the whole group on their toes. Still, having to postpone the event was a frustrating experience at times, she says.
“We’ve stayed really really positive,” she said. “And I mean, it’s a really beautiful day, we have no complaints. It ended up for the best and we have this really beautiful location.”
Despite the delays, the event’s hosts and participants all remained committed participants. Gillis says everyone was supportive and happy to help.
“It didn’t take much convincing because they’re wonderful and kind people,” Gillis said. “They’ve been super cooperative and enthusiastic the whole time.”
Brett Mercanti, owner and head trainer at Body and Mind Athletics in Manotick was one of the event’s fitness instructors.
“Being able to give back to a community that is so involved with athletics and fitness, obviously in Ottawa, I always want to be part of that kind of stuff,” said Mercanti. “If there’s anything I can do to share my passion and expertise, I’m going to jump all over that.”
Stephen Heckbert, a professor in the public relations program, explained that despite having gone through the planning process for a campaign like this, setbacks such as the postponements and even the last-minute venue change were important parts of the learning process.
“That kind of learning opportunity for the students is awesome,” he said. “Running into any sort of barrier is a fundamental part of the learning process and I actually like it when things go wrong. My worry is when things go too smoothly. How realistic is that going to be for the rest of your life?”
While there had been talk of hosting this specific event on Zoom, Heckbert says they were committed to hosting this event in person. It becomes easier not to show up to Zoom events, he says, especially after attendees have spent their entire day in Zoom meetings. People would rather be gathered in person, as people experience virtual burnout.
Patrick Gallant, an Algonquin College social service worker alumni and addictions counselor at Rideauwood Addictions and Family Services, believes that events that help promote youth mental health should be a more common occurrence. The work should not stop there, however.
“Having not-for-profit organizations that can help support mental health, especially in youth, is something that the government’s starting to do, but I think can obviously do a little bit more at the same time,” he said.
As of the day of the event, the public relations student’s charity campaign has already raised and donated $10,000. There is still one more fundraising event to come – a charity golf event.
On Sept. 24 the final fundraising charity event – Birdies and Beers, will take place at Pineview Golf club in Ottawa.
Update (Sept. 24): The Birdies and Beers event has been postponed until Oct. 8 due to wet conditions on the course.