Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Donor Profile: Bart MacDougall

Bart MacDougall began his OBC journey in 1993 when he joined the board to help with fundraising. A true believer in the power of the outdoors with a passion for the development and education of our youth, Bart soon became “hooked” on our own brand of adventure, taking part in seven OBC experiences that he says helped take him out of his comfort zone and allowed him to discover more about himself. Bart was honoured as the recipient of our 2014 Kurt Hahn Award, in recognition of exceptional leadership and service. Bart will be stepping down from the board this year and we would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his years of dedication, guidance and friendship. Our endless thanks Bart!

Here's what Bart has to say about why he continues to give back to OBC:

“Have you heard that Outward Bound ‘changes lives’?  That is what drives me to support them.  

While there is a focus on lives that are in a difficult transition, Outward Bound benefits many lives, and it only starts with teenagers.

In the early 1990s I was looking earnestly for a community project to become involved with.  To that point I had been busy on the boards of Bishop’s College School, where I attended, and then Upper Canada College where my two sons attended.  This was followed by a stint at the Art Gallery of Ontario where I was a Trustee and involved in fundraising; however, my thoughts had always been on the development and education of our youth.  Simply put, if a young person develops in an appropriate manner, they are likely to become better citizens in a better world.  

I soon discovered Outward Bound Canada.  My only regret is that I didn't discover it sooner.  It originated during WW2 and started as Outward Bound in the UK in 1941, inspired by Kurt Hahn.  It came to Canada in 1969, but it wasn't until 1993 that I was lured onto the board - by then Chairman, Bob Couchman – in a fundraising capacity to assist with a capital campaign.   

While my interest was primarily their focus on youth, I was to learn that Outward Bound Canada also serves many young adults who find their lives in difficult transition.  Also appealing to me was the use of the wilderness as the classroom, where most people are outside their comfort zone. For me, it was where I wanted to be! But I was to learn that it was NOT these new and different skills such as canoeing, camping, climbing, skiing, and dog sledding that were important.  It was the soft, personal skills that are developed, such as the building of self-esteem, a genuine respect for others, the value of community service, and a serious concern for the environment.  All this wrapped together and you have a variety of programs that are critical to our individual and collective well-being.  

I was to find that it is not until one has the actual experience with Outward Bound that there is a true appreciation for what they do.  In spite of a couple of attempts to have me go on an OBC program, it was not until several years later that I went on my first wilderness trip, and I was hooked.  

On that first program I was with a ‘brigade’ of likeminded adults, taking an interest in what Outward Bound Canada does.  It was a combination of canoeing and climbing and all of us were outside our comfort zones part, or all, of our time in the wilderness.  New hard skills were learned, but it wasn't until we returned to base at the end of five days and "circled up" did we really understand the true benefits of the experience.  Before we were awarded our Outward Bound pins, we were all asked to summarize what we had learned about ourselves and about the others.  To bare our minds and souls to a group of peers who were strangers when we arrived is daunting to be sure.  But now you have had five days together, and silence was not an option! It was truly amazing to hear the variety of benefits and challenges that each participant outlined.  Many displayed extraordinary emotion, and it became very clear that Outward Bound Canada can bring worthwhile change into lives that are already well established and successful.  We were all left to consider what a similar experience could do for a life that is troubled, or in a difficult transition.  

 One program was only a start to my full appreciation of Outward Bound.  I have had six more since the mid-1990s and each one has been a different challenge and a new learning experience.  They have included everything from canoeing, dog sledding, cross country skiing, climbing, sailing, rowing, hiking, and of course camping.  But the real benefit comes in the development of inter-personal skills associated with being with peers outside of ones comfort zone.  The learning curve about yourself can be really steep!

Now to the challenge facing Outward Bound Canada that has been my focus.  There is a never-ending need for funds to support programs for those unable to afford them.  These are our Community Programs that we offer to urban youth; women who have been subjected to violence; Aboriginal youth, and veterans of our country's armed services.  Many in these segments of our society face serious challenges and need our support if they are to have the life-altering experience that Outward Bound Canada can give them.  I intend to continue my support, and I will always encourage others to do the same.  My thanks to all my Outward Bound Canada peers who have been with me during my 22-year journey.  I hope it will continue for many more years."

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