Inspiring stories of generosity and heart

In a year ripe with economic challenges, increasing concerns over job security, and the ripple effect of low oil prices, we are hearing remarkable stories of resiliency, innovation and spirit from our workplace campaign teams. A group of campaign chairs met earlier this week and shared inspiring anecdotes of what they have experienced at workplaces throughout the region.

One of the shining lights in the community campaign raising funds for the United Way has been the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Co-Chairs Kimberley Snow and Sonya Earle worked with a great team of volunteers to drive an effort that has resulted in a one hundred percent increase in participation.

“The United Way campaign has been a lot of work, but it has been so rewarding,” said Earle. “A lot of our volunteers don’t want it to end as it has given them an opportunity to interact with people in other departments while helping the community.”

Ian Fowlow from Spartan Controls was particularly excited about the upcoming Skimmin’ the Surface fundraiser, a cardboard boat race happening in the pool at MacDonald Island being organized by The HUB Family Resource Centre, Justin Slade Youth Foundation and Blue Heron. His colleagues went all out to design and build a cardboard craft that is simply extraordinary.


“It was fun watching a group of engineers trying to work together on the design process,” said Fowlow. “They were so into it and look forward to coming out on top this weekend.”

A small team of 13 employees, Spartan Controls is fully invested in giving back.

“Fort McMurray has been good to us,” said Fowlow. “We couldn’t beat our participation from last year because it was 100-percent, but we’re going to match it.”
Excitement and participation continues to grow at Shell Albian Sands. Cathy Steeves and Jennifer Reid were on hand to share stories about how community needs are front and centre with their colleagues.

“We can really see some great team-building going on through the campaign,” said Cathy Steeves. “People win a thousand dollars in a 50/50 draw and they just give it back, saying that they would rather pay it forward. It’s amazing.”

She shared one story of a rather serious team lead who made an announcement at a toolbox meeting that if the team could come up with $5,000 for the United Way, he would come to work dressed as a clown.

“You wouldn’t believe how that room lit up,” said Steeves. “We can’t wait for them to be successful in their efforts so we can take a picture and share it.”

syncrude 2015 campaign total

Wanda Power, Co-Chair of the Syncrude United Way campaign was in attendance, sharing the news of a successful company wide effort that raised over $2.1 million to help meet community needs.

“Between Dave (Dave Evoy – Campaign Chair) and I, we did 67 presentations at all times of the day and night and organized 10 Days of Caring projects,” she said.

From the many schools engaging young people in fundraising events in the Catholic School District to agencies organizing unique and compelling fundraising projects, from dedicated volunteers at site and in the community, the 2015 Community Campaign is peppered with moments of great heart, generosity and big spirit.


“We can’t thank these amazing volunteers enough,” said Marty Giles, 2015 Community Campaign Chair. “They are the heart and soul of this effort to meet growing community needs and they are doing a fantastic job. “


Author: Russell Thomas

​Russell is a marketing and communications professional who has spent 20 years in Wood Buffalo working with the OK Radio Group, Keyano College, Arts Council Wood Buffalo, and now with The United Way of Fort McMurray. A regular blogger, Russell's writing can be seen online ( and in multiple publications. His paintings can be seen in homes and businesses throughout the community. Married to Heather and "Papa" to Dylan and Ben, Russell is a passionate spokesperson for United Way.