Chair, fundraiser, donor – Jason Smith’s triple play

“Alexander is a 90-something per cent student, who swims and plays saxophone…you would never know that he went through that journey.” - Jason Smith, Alexander’s father

That journey began when Alexander was five years old.

He was rushed to hospital and diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. The situation was grim.

Kept in a coma for 10 days, doctors tried to reduce the swelling in his brain, which caused multiple strokes. Surgery relieved some of the pressure, and a portion of his cerebellum was removed.

When Alexander came out of his coma, doctors feared the brain damage was so severe, he would never be the same again.

But there was a glimmer of hope when Alexander showed signs of movement.

When he was medically stable, Alexander was admitted to Holland Bloorview for therapy to relearn speech and movement.

Today, Alexander is a busy, active, articulate 15-year-old, who’s loving every minute of Grade 10.

A new pursuit founded on passion

Alexander’s journey also set Jason on a new path – one that led him to become Chair of Holland Bloorview Foundation’s Board of Directors, as well as a fundraiser and donor.

“When you go through something like that and you come through the other side, it’s hard not to feel extremely lucky,” said Jason.

He felt compelled to give back to Holland Bloorview, and believed he could do so by bringing a different perspective and skillset to the Board from his day job as the CEO of Real Matters – one of North America’s fastest growing technology companies.

When being considered, he said, “I think I can make a difference around unique fundraising strategies, understanding the role of social media and the web, and connect with a different group of individuals…I could add some diversity there.”

That approach led Jason to join the Foundation’s Board six years ago, and he has served as Chair for the last three.

His wife, Heather, also volunteers at the hospital and has given countless hours in the hospital’s playroom, as well as in the Holland Bloorview School Authority.

“It’s been fun working at the Foundation level, working on high-level strategy but then hearing the impact of her working with the kids…It helps keep some of my decision making in perspective,” said Jason.

The view from the Chair

What is he most proud of as Chair?

Jason saw a need to create a stronger alignment between the hospital and the Foundation, and he’s especially proud of being involved in the hiring of the new Foundation President and CEO.

“Making sure there was a great working relationship and building a culture of alignment was really important to me,” he said.

Moving from alignment to angling, Jason was also the architect behind the successful Kasting 4 Kids fundraising event that ran for six years and raised over $1 million for the Foundation.

Each summer, this popular fly-fishing event attracted business professionals who happily traded their briefcases for a rod and learned to fly fish from experienced anglers.

“It’s important to get out there and experience first-hand what it’s like to raise funds,” stressed Jason who is just as proud of the awareness the event raised in the community, as he is the monetary gift.

Jason’s involvement with the foundation goes beyond contributing his time; he is also a very generous financial supporter.

In fact, Jason has gone beyond traditional donations and has gifted company stock to Holland Bloorview Foundation.

Technology’s the trick

So where would he like to cast his line next?

He would love to see the momentum continue to build around family centred care – making families an integral part of the decision making process.

“What better way to drive decision making than by listening to the people you are impacting and including them,” he said.

And being a technology leader, he would love to see this family-centred focus fused with technology as a way of connecting, informing and empowering families and other stakeholders.

“If we can connect with families, practitioners, Board trustees, fundraisers and get donors to better understand Holland Bloorview’s impact – that’s without a doubt the most powerful technology development,” he said.