By Laura McCaffrey
In the fall of 2013, following vocal feedback from the Carleton community over the course of 15 years, the Carleton football team came back to its home field. The team had been on a hiatus since 1998 when, to the dismay of hundreds of Carleton football alumni, the program was disbanded.
The 2013 reinstatement of the program was possible in large part due to the generosity of the team’s biggest supporters, including Carleton football alumni—the Old Crows—like John Ruddy. Ruddy, who is a former Ravens cornerback, was instrumental in the team’s revival through his multimillion-dollar donation in 2008—a donation that spurred on additional fundraising from other dedicated Old Crows.
“We knew we had to re-establish the team on campus quickly, in order to honour the contributions that had been made to bring us back,” says Coach Steve Sumarah.
The team needed to show why it was an integral part of the fabric of the university—why it mattered, and why people should care. It needed to show its donors and allies that supporting the team meant supporting something much bigger. It was about making noise on campus. It was about school spirit. And more than anything, it was about giving back.
The buzz from the football team’s imminent revival was felt on campus almost immediately and ultimately led to the return of Carleton’s homecoming in 2013.
“Throwback, Carleton’s reimagined homecoming celebration, includes reunions with old classmates, keynote speeches from prominent alumni, campus tours and formal dinners. But the football game and family-friendly pre-game activities are always a highlight,” explains Mark Savenkoff, director of alumni and donor relations. “Now boasting dozens of events, there is something for everyone. All members of the Carleton community are proud to show their Ravens spirit.”
The sentiments of engagement and connectedness that were palpable among the Carleton community at the first Throwback quickly spread to the larger Ottawa community when the Panda Game was re-established. The Panda Game was an old Ottawa tradition that existed prior to the Carleton team’s demise. The Carleton – University of Ottawa rivalry game came back into existence in 2013 and reignited a sense of friendly competition, school spirit and community among the two teams and Ottawa residents.
The team’s commitment to giving back reaches beyond campus; having a positive impact on the communities with which they interact has been a fundamental element of the team’s culture since its rejuvenation. At the core of this culture is a willingness to volunteer, which has evolved in equal parts from a top-down mandate from the coaching staff and a grassroots desire from the players to help others.
The team partners with a wide variety of community organizations and not-for-profits in order to give back, including the Ottawa Mission, Shepherds of Good Hope, Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Movember, Ottawa Raceweek and Athletes in Action.
The players strive to be leaders in the area of philanthropy, as the team takes an active role in organizing and promoting events such as its annual blood donor clinic. The clinic achieves maximum levels of engagement: in its first two years, approximately 100 people per year registered to donate blood, and 61 and 78 pints of blood were collected in 2017 and 2018, respectively. “The impact of the clinic is significant,” says Pat Stoqua, former senior development officer for football. “It directly contributes to saving the lives of Canadians in need of medical attention.”
Not surprisingly, the players love to use their football skill and expertise to give back, too. In the spring of 2013, the team launched the Junior Ravens program. Through Junior Ravens, the players volunteer their time to coach and teach football to Ottawa youth. Over the last 6 years, the team has engaged children aged 5-17 from approximately 25 local schools. In an effort to be inclusive and to ensure that all children get to experience and participate in athletics, the program offers subsidized pricing to under-privileged families.
The program has been such a success that other Carleton varsity teams have followed suit; Junior Ravens is now available for football, basketball, soccer and fencing.
The Carleton football team is Here for Good, in every sense of the phrase. The team is committed to continuously building momentum, both in their craft and through their impact on the Carleton community. The players strive everyday to be better athletes, better students and better citizens—and they are doing so successfully.
For 5th year player Tevin Bowen, being a Carleton football player ties into being a Raven for life. “I’ll always have ties to this place,” he says. “[Whether] I coach university ball at a school in the future, [or] I go get my Master’s at another university. I'll always be a Raven. I'm proud of my Ravens. Ravens are everywhere—[we’re] Here for Good.”
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