Vital City 2015

Dan Pallotta and Eva Friesen
Photo credit: Kristell Clarke

Story by James Mottershead, Calgary Foundation 

A record-breaking year for Vital City       

     Our annual report to the community event welcomed over 1,000 guests for the evening with presentations from Calgary Foundation President and CEO Eva Friesen, social innovation champion Dan Pallotta, Calgary Foundation Board Chair Ali Bhojani and local singer songwriter Michael Bernard Fitzgerald. 
The Calgary Foundation is celebrating its sixtieth year and chose to honour the founders who provided the necessary funds to kick-start the Foundation. Of the 17 founders who still have living relatives, 11 were represented by their descendants that night. 
Our talented master of ceremonies, Ken Lima-Coelho welcomed the audience and the founding families with his notorious energy and sense of humour. Eva Friesen was the first to the stage with her report to community including the Calgary Foundation's past, present and future in Calgary and area. Her focus was that the Calgary Foundation is for all Calgarians and that we can expect the Foundation to continue to build an endowment to address future needs we can't yet see, support people we have not yet met, and to build a city where everyone matters. 

Social innovation guru and speaker Dan Pallotta then took the stage to share his personal and charitable experiences. Pallotta inspired the audience to investigate innovation and the role that it plays both in moving the charitable sector forward and reimagining our own lives. He shared that "the world does not need more practical people. The world needs more ideas, more dreamers." In order to be truly innovative, one needs to be courageous. The conclusion of his speech was met with a standing ovation from the crowd—a sign that the audience took his comments to heart.       

Calgary Foundation Board Chair Ali Bhojani closed the program for the evening with a story about 14-year-old Bianca Velasco. On her first day of classes in 2008, at a new school in a new country, Bianca is not only nervous, she`s hungry. Then she was asked a simple question: what would she like to eat? Bianca went from being one of the thousands of students in our city who come to school without lunch to becoming valedictorian of her high school's graduating class. Bianca has been giving back to the community for the past five years as one of the 1,700 volunteers at Brown Bagging for Calgary's Kids. Her story is just one example of the impact the Calgary Foundation has in the community through its grants. 

Impact is becoming increasingly important to the Foundation, our donors and the organizations serving the community. Ali then announced that the Calgary Foundation will be presenting another impactful speaker next year—Zita Cobb of the Shorefast Foundation. Zita is described as a woman with "a brisk good humour layered over a fierce intensity." Zita speaks passionately about her innovative social enterprise projects that are building a vibrant future for her birthplace Fogo Island, off the coast of Newfoundland. 

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald and his special guests serenaded the crowd throughout the event, and played a few rousing dance numbers for the close of the night. The beat of the drum and melodic harmonies of the signers inspired the audience to dance as they left the exhibition hall, and echoed the energy felt by each attendee—to take what they learned into the community to ignite change and inspire innovation.