‘A leader is anyone willing to help, anyone who sees something that needs to change and takes the first steps to influence that situation.’ – Dr. Margaret Wheatley
A recent study reported that Saint John is tied with Toronto for the highest child poverty rate in Canada, with an astounding 29 per cent of children in Saint John and surrounding area now living in poverty. Shelley and Evan Doucet were shocked by this statistic and knew without a doubt that they needed to do something.
Shelley and Evan, who’ve been together for about 15 years (and married for seven), felt that it was critical to raise awareness and support a local non-profit program that is dedicated to helping children impacted by poverty. Their response was to organize the First Annual Quispamsis Fun Run and Swim, which takes place on June 27 at the qplex in Quispamsis. All proceeds will be donated to PRO Kids, a local non-profit organization that deals directly with children in poverty. It is a bold move for a couple with full-time demanding jobs and two young children, making them a great role model for leadership as defined above by Dr. Wheatley.
Shelley Doucet is an Associate Professor and Health Research Chair at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John in the Department of Nursing & Health Sciences. Her husband, Evan, works for Irving Oil as the Rail Operations and Logistics Manager.
I started my conversation with Shelley and Evan by asking them what caused them to say,“We’ve got to do something more than just donate money. We need to create awareness and give in a much bigger way to a really worthy, important cause.”
Shelley: Evan and I just started racing last year. Soon after, we talked about how it would be great to give back and plan our own charity race. We knew it would be to raise funds to meet a local need, but we hadn’t identified anything at that point. We just knew that we had been given so much through the sport of running that we wanted to, at some point, give back.
[Tweet “We had been given so much through the sport of running that we wanted to give back. – Shelley Doucet”]
Once we learned more about the child poverty rate in our own backyard, we thought it was a great opportunity to have an impact by helping local children participate in recreation activities when prevented from doing so as a result of financial barriers.
Q: I understand your whole family is involved, how have your children responded?
Evan: When we hear our kids talking about helping out needy families, I think we may have struck a chord with them. Our son Myles is five and our daughter Ava will be three in July. They are both always willing and eager to volunteer or help out in any event that we go to, and can often be found at the finish line handing out water. Shelley and I are blessed to coordinate an event like this together with our children.
Q: What is your goal with the event?
Evan: Our goal for the event is to raise $5,000 with the hopes of attracting 200-300 participants.
Shelley: Several businesses in the Saint John and surrounding area have come forward to cover every expense that we have, which means that 100 per cent of the registration fees and donations will go directly to PRO Kids.
Q: What are the statistics around kids and sport in Saint John?
Shelley: One of the statistics I’ve read recently is that approximately 85% of children in poverty in the greater Saint John area are not getting the help they need to participate in sport, art, recreation or cultural activities. There’s a significant waiting list through PRO Kids for children and families who are looking for support, with 250 kids currently on the waiting list. Our goal is to help get those numbers down.
Evan: The bottleneck for PRO Kids is financial limitations. If the account is empty at the end of the day, this limits the number of children that can benefit from this program – so any help makes such a huge difference.
Shelley: I also want to point out that PRO Kids supports families from Saint John and the surrounding areas. All administration costs are covered by the City of Saint John and the Towns of Grand Bay-Westfield, Quispamsis and Rothesay, allowing 100 per cent of the funds received through sponsorships and donations to go directly to children in our community.
[Tweet “PRO Kids supports families from Saint John and the surrounding areas. – Shelley Doucet”]
Q: When did you say to each other, “We’re going to actually do this”?
Evan: When I heard the announcement of Saint John’s child poverty statistics in September last year, I said to Shelley,“We have to do something.”I told her about the announcement and with Shelley’s health field background with children, we wanted to help out some way somehow.
Shelley: Last fall, in collaboration with one of my colleagues at Mount A, I was awarded a large grant from the New Brunswick Children’s Foundation to do a research project involving children who have complex health conditions. It was at that time that we learned about PRO Kids and also became more invested in promoting children’s health. Our planning for the event happened really quickly after that. We started setting dates and meeting with the town.
Q: What have you learned since deciding you were going to run the event?
Shelley: One thing I learned is to stop talking about doing things and to just do it. There is a quote that says ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it’. I really believe that and I’d say just go out and do it. Just jump in and start planning.
Evan: Just to add to that, it never hurts to ask. Shelley and I are comfortable with talking to strangers and looking for sponsorship. I just couldn’t believe how receptive everyone has been to our question“Can you help out?”
Q: What has been the most challenging part of this?
Evan: The biggest challenge for me is having to wait for the event to start. I am anxiously looking forward to seeing the impact this event will have for families in need. When we pitched this idea to the members of the community, they were so receptive. It’s a community initiative and wouldn’t happen without the support from all participants, volunteers, and sponsors.
[Tweet “When we pitched this idea to the members of the community, they were so receptive. – Evan Doucet”]
Shelley: Initially, I thought the most challenging aspect of the planning would be to get sponsors to cover things like the medals and food. It was a pleasant surprise that a number of local businesses just came forward without hesitation to support the event.
Q: How do you register, donate or find out more about this?
Shelley: Event registration and donations can be made on our Race Roster registration webpage. This webpage and all event information can be accessed through facebook/prokidsrun.com or runnb.ca – the RunNB website.
Q: What have you learned about each other through this experience?
Shelley: I’ve learned a lot about Evan through this experience. I have to give him a lot of credit. He has been the one from day one who spearheaded this initiative. I have learned that he can be very organized and can effectively use his support network to organize sponsorships and volunteers.
Evan: I learned just now that Shelley thinks I’m very organized! That’s quite a compliment when your wife says you’re organized.
[Tweet “That’s quite a compliment when your wife says you’re organized. – Evan Doucet”]
Q: How would you finish the following sentence,“A leader’s job is to . . .”?
Shelley: Have an impact and be an agent of change.
Evan: Provide opportunities and direction.
[Tweet “A leader’s job is to have an impact and be an agent of change. – Shelley Doucet”]
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As published in the June 20, 2015 Telegraph-Journal