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Stepping Up for Canadians – MLB awards Toronto Blue Jays with Allan H. Selig Award for Philanthropic Excellence!

December 21, 2020

Articles

Even in a year without baseball at home, it’s a winning season for The Blue Jays and Jays Care Foundation as club receives the Allan H. Selig Award for Philanthropic Excellence, an honour recognizing Major League Baseball clubs that demonstrate a philanthropic and charitable spirit.  A two-time winner, The Blue Jays and Jays Care received this award for our COVID-19 response – The Blue Jays Community Commitment. Through this program, we committed $7.5M to help underserved families in Canada in two main ways: addressing food insecurity through food drive and Step Up to the Plate initiatives, and virtual programming for our Jays Care kids and families.

We asked Melinda Rogers-Hixon, Chairman of the Jays Care Foundation, about the impact that “Canada’s Team” has made in our communities during this extraordinary year:

Your father bought the Blue Jays in 2000, and for 20 years the club has been “Canada’s Team,” bring people together for the love of the game.  This played out in a very different way in 2020 – how do you think Ted would feel about what the Blue Jays family did to support Canadians this year?

My father believed in progress and innovation and in the power of giving.  He always had a very strong sense of community and would be very proud of the way things played out this year.

Innovation is in our DNA and it comes in many forms.  Using the Rogers Centre to help people all across Canada came naturally to the organization and was just a great way to show how innovative, out-of-the-box thinking can make an enormous impact. It’s about looking at something and imagining the art of the possible. 

The support brought by the Jays is for all Canadians. For my father, this was incredibly important. He would be proud of the culture engendered across the organization by this initiative, and the modeling of a culture that drives employees to step up to the pate and help others.

This year – the first with no Blue Jays games at home – the team is recognized with the Allan H. Selig Award for its incredible efforts to support vulnerable Canadians.  From athletes to advocates, why is this kind of leadership important right now?

The organization really stepped up to the plate during these incredibly trying times and showed that “Canada’s team” is about more than baseball.  As Canada’s team, the players are looked up to by kids and all Canadians across the country.  Which is why it is critically important to lead by example.  As Jack Welsh once said, “when you lead by example, you inspire others to follow you.”

There are 30 MLB clubs, and in the 10 years of this Award, the Toronto Blue Jays has now been recognized twice (tied with the Red Sox).  What is it about this team – and Jays Care Foundation – that drives its commitment to our communities?

Relentless determination.  Whether it is about being the best player you can be, the best person you can be – it is always about finding your passion and being relentless about pursuing it.  Our passion is supporting all Canadians, by making them proud as their team and being there to support them when they need us most.

It is such an honour to be recognized for a second time and it is a testament to the heart and soul that lies in the organization.  Robert Witchel’s leadership has continued to drive us forward, helping us take the spirit and commitment of the Jays Care Foundation and adapt it to the changing circumstances we faced this year.

You were out on the field for Step Up to the Plate.  What was your proudest moment? 

My proudest moment was coming together with my family, my extended family across Rogers and the community at large, gathering around a purpose, giving Canadians their power back after being locked up for so long and having fun with this initiative.  I really enjoyed setting up friendly competitions across the teams that were building boxes and seeing which team could pack the most pallets.  I am happy to say, with my competitive nature, our team won during the times we were on deck!

It also filled me with great pride to see so many of our employees rolling up their sleeves and helping their fellow Canadians.  My father always considered the company “family” and he would have been proud to see the incredible generosity and effort as so many members of our extended family stepped up to the plate at the Rogers Centre to pack boxes for Food Banks Canada.

This year was a home run.  What do you see next for Jays Care Foundation as we recover in 2021 and beyond?

The team has proven it can pivot as needed, discovering and building upon innovative solutions to help those that are vulnerable across Canada.  Not only did we focus on the food bank, but we ran incredible virtual programming for kids across the country, along with virtual training for a multitude of organizations across Canada.  I am really looking to building upon the additional strengths we have discovered in our team and seeing where they can lead us.

From Step Up to the Plate and virtual summer camps, to Challenger Baseball and Ted Rogers Scholarships, Rogers has provided more than $9.4 million in funding to Jays Care Foundation programs in the last 10 years alone, through annual donations, employee fundraising and volunteering, and other initiatives.  Leaning in with Jays Care to drive our common goals of supporting youth through education, enhancing community connections, and uniting Canadians through a love of sport is just one more way we make more possible, together.