Cowbell's Greener Pastures Fund to benefit children's hospitals - Nov. 17, 2016
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company’s Greener Pastures Community Fund will mean hundreds of thousands of dollars for Ontario’s children’s hospitals, as well as several local initiatives.
Dave Clarke, Cowbell’s Chief Commercial Officer, has taken the lead on the initiative that will see many worthy projects benefit from Cowbell beer sales and fundraisers.
The company’s intention to donate five cents from the sale of every can to a worthy cause through the fund was announced at the company’s Home Opener event in February, when the Cowbell project was first introduced to Blyth residents and stakeholders.
When the fund was first announced, the Sparling family announced that the five cents per can sold would benefit the Blyth-based Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity (CCRC). The scope of the fund has since expanded to include projects across Ontario as well as those underway locally.
Clarke said that five cents from every can or pint of beer sold at Cowbell’s Blyth headquarters, once it opens early next year, will go directly to the CCRC, as will funds raised through events and fundraisers also held in Blyth.
Province-wide, however, Cowbell has picked Ontario’s four children’s hospitals as partners for the fund, with further hopes of helping to fund specific projects at those hospitals.
Cowbell, Clarke said, is being built with a great sense of community. However, while it may be easy to jump to the conclusion that Blyth and greater Huron County is Cowbell’s community, with beer selling ahead of projections across the province, it made sense to view all of Ontario as the company’s community, he said.
They began with the not-so-simple task of distinguishing between communities and landed on districts classified by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), the company’s largest partner, and its 26 districts across Ontario, each with between 25 and 30 stores.
Clarke said representatives of the company then began consulting with LCBO representatives about worthwhile organizations and initiatives throughout the districts and eventually made their way to the four major children’s hospitals in Ontario: The Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario in London, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton.
In early discussions with representatives from the hospitals, Clarke said that he and others from the company have made it clear that they intend the fund to be a long-term partner for these hospitals and projects they hope to pursue down the road.
If one of the province’s children’s hospitals is looking to raise funds for a new piece of equipment or to provide a new service, Clarke said, projects like those seemed like a perfect fit for what Cowbell is trying to accomplish with the fund.
One such example is at the McMaster hospital, Clarke said, which representatives from Cowbell including Clarke, President Steven Sparling, Vice-President and General Manager Grant Sparling, among others toured earlier this fall.
When at the hospital, Clarke said, Cowbell representatives observed designated areas that allowed children to play and spend time with their families and get some fresh air just outside of the hospital’s walls. There is no such facility for the hospital’s mental health patients, Clarke said. It has been identified as a need for the hospital and Cowbell has made it one of the fund’s first projects.
Touring the hospital, Clarke said, was an eye-opening experience for him, not only to see the needs of the facilities up close, but to also see just how dedicated and hard-working the nurses, doctors and volunteers at these hospitals are and what they mean to the children who are patients there.
He also found it difficult to comprehend how intricate and delicate health care can be for children.
Clarke said that while these hospitals are supported by the provincial and federal governments, they rely heavily on fundraising throughout their respective communities.
“You really have to be there and experience it to understand it,” Clarke said. “I left wanting to make a donation. When you go and experience it, it really does make you want to do more.”
Using the company’s sales projections for the next three years, Clarke predicts that the fund could generate approximately $350,000. That figure includes sales and fundraisers at the Cowbell farm in Blyth that will benefit the CCRC.
“That’s not insignificant – especially for a young company,” Clarke said.
Clarke, who comes to the company by way of Oakville, said it means a lot to him to work for such a community-minded company where social responsibility really is imprinted in the company’s DNA.
He says that working for a company willing to give so much back really is “everything you could ask for” but also said that it’s part of a bigger picture in terms of what consumers, especially younger ones, are looking for in companies and products they choose to support, their practices and the causes they choose to support.