Redblacks team up to co-host fundraiser
by Caroline Phillips, Ottawa Citizen
The Ottawa Redblacks scored extra points at TD Place Stadium on Wednesday and they weren’t even on the field.
Rather, the new CFL team co-hosted a charity gala in aid of widows and orphans devastated by disease and poverty in western Kenya.
The team’s charismatic quarterback, Henry Burris, attended with his wife, Nicole, and their two young boys. Head coach Rick Campbell came with his wife, Jeri. They live only a few blocks away in their new home in the Glebe. “We love it here and want to become part of this place,” said Campbell.
Team president Jeff Hunt was behind the idea to hold the fundraiser. It took place in the stadium’s Otto’s Club lounge and raised money for HERA Mission of Canada founded by Peggy Taillon with Wendy Muckle as its director.
Guests listened to TSN 1200’s Shawn Simpson lead a friendly football talk with Campbell and Burris, who’s optimistic the losing Redblacks will see better days ahead.
“Right now, a lot of guys are going through the whole cliché of baptism by fire,” said Burris. “We’re just as good as any other team in this league; we’re just a couple of plays away, here and there, but that will come. We’ll continue to focus and maintain that passion, and push toward the goals that the coaches have set up for us.”
Several well-known Kenyan-born Ottawa residents turned out, including Sarah Onyango, Denise Siele and young Devlin Taillon, who is “seven- and three-quarters” years old. Devlin, who was adopted as a baby by Peggy from his native village of Asembo Bay in western Kenya, spent the night playing with his buddies, the Burris boys.
The crowd learned about some of the charity work being done in Asembo Bay from Muckle, who travels there several times a year with HERA Mission. “There are always moments on every trip where I wish every one of you were there to share with me the things that have happened,” said Muckle.
She described the memorable experience of driving to a financial bank with a group of women in the process of starting a poultry business. They travelled in a cramped car on a long and windy road, in the rain, with many stops and much paperwork.
That’s probably not part of the experience she wanted donors to feel. It was more likely this part: “And the sight of the women coming out of the bank, having opened their very first business bank account, and the look on their faces,” recalled Muckle. “How proud they were when they got into the car and they said to me, ‘We’re real businesswomen now’.
“I want to thank you for making that moment possible.”