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Sens Foundation takes big S.T.E.P.

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
It's a fight of great importance in our community.

And thanks to the second-largest funding announcement in the Sens Foundation's 10-year history, the battle against youth addictions in Ottawa has gained a major boost. The $1.3 million donation announced Thursday will help support the establishment of two residential youth treatment centres, as well as school-based education and prevention programs.

A fundraising campaign for the project, titled Project S.T.E.P./Projet R.E.P.A. and supported by United Way/Centraide Ottawa, was launched in June with the aim of raising $6 million. The Ontario Liberal government is chipping in funding to cover the estimated $2.4 million in annual operating costs for the centres.

"Substance abuse and youth addiction in our community are growing concerns for us all," Senators and Scotiabank Place president and CEO Roy Mlakar, a foundation board member, said during a news conference announcing the donation. "As role models to so many young people in the community, the Senators players take the issue very seriously. Both management and players stand united in a message that we want a community free of substance abuse, especially among our young people."

Senators defenceman Chris Phillips and his wife, Erin, welcome the opportunity to become the campaign's "Ambassadors for Change, and will be active in a number of fundraising events in the months to come.

"Erin and I want to do our part in creating change," said Phillips. "It's about our children, the children and teens of our friends and teammates, our families, our neighbours and our community."

The Sens Foundation has partnered with Variety of Ottawa, an organization committed to assisting children in the community, to achieve its funding commitment. Variety has pledged to raise $300,000 toward that goal through its annual Variety Club Ball.

"The Senators players and team management, our corporate partners, the fans and charitable organizations we support all play a vital role in our success," said Sens Foundation president Danielle Robinson. "It is with the support of organizations like Variety of Ottawa, our first official partner for this fundraising campaign, that we all succeed for our youth."

David Hamilton, past-president of Variety of Ottawa, called the partnership "a natural fit" for his organization.

"We are proud to support Project S.T.E.P./Projet R.E.P.A. and look forward to working together in our commitment to the youth of our community," he said.

Ottawa Police Chief Vern White applauded today's announcement, terming it "a shining example of community leadership and commitment."

"The Sens and its foundation have a tremendous impact on this city, and this gift will be truly felt in our community for generations to come," he said.

Project S.T.E.P. stands for support, treatment, education and prevention. Two facilities are being established to serve 13-to-17-year-olds and their families: A 15-bed facility at the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre in west Ottawa for English-speaking youth, and a five-bed centre to be operated by Maison Fraternité in east Ottawa for French-speaking youth.

Displaying the $1.3-million cheque (from left) are David Hamilton, past-president, Variety of Ottawa; Jean-François Milotte, chairman of the board, Maison Fraternité; Sens Foundation president Danielle Robinson and Dave Smith, honorary president, Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).

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