Update: Trekking Our Way To Core Gifts!

Julie and I have given a lot to LiveWorkPlay over the past 22 years or so, but we’ve lost track of the incredible people we’ve meed and experiences we’ve had that would not have been possible on a different journey.


Trekking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path! Five across the back that’s Julie, Jenn Marilyn, Andrew, and Danae. Then we Barb, Frances, Janie, Marg, and Bruce, with Michael kneeling and Keenan holding the selfie stick!

Many years ago thanks to our great friend Mike Coxon, we heard about Bruce Anderson and how he was supporting organizations to benefit from hopeful and resilient teams. Any work in human services can take a heavy toll on staff, and their mental and physical health impacts the quality of their relationships with those they are helping. We have worked very hard alongside our colleagues to build an organizational culture where we don’t pretend that “being professional” means being unaffected by challenges in our own lives, in the lives of the people we support, their families, or our volunteers.


We both learned something from everyone on this trip, but in terms of those who “demanded our gifts” it was Julie and Danae, Keenan and Michael.

But this isn’t about that,  it’s just a preamble for answering the inevitable question “How’d you end up following this guy along the coast of Wales and then to his house on Vashon Island in Washington State to become a Core Gift Master Facilitator?”

While the trip was technically in the personal domain (and certification in the professional domain) we long ago abandoned any notion that one’s full-time vocation lives in a separate dimension in some place called “work.” Who we are is everything we do, no matter which clock we are on. And so it is that without knowing Bruce through work, we’d not have gone on the trip. And without having gone on the trip, we’d not have ended up completing the certification.

Although certainly possessing of unusual wisdom and also possessing of an intriguing Viking-like appearance, Bruce would be the first to say it’s not just about him. The walk was a co-leadership experience with Andrew Bryan of TrekEpic fame as well as the group of trekkers they managed to assemble. One of the them was another great friend Marg McLean, and let’s face it, without her recommendation we’d probably have been scared off by the entire idea. OK, well, Keenan speaks for himself on that one.


Another amazing group! Back five Keiko, Dan, Julie, Andrew, Joy, then Bruce and Danae, and in the front Wesley, Tracy, Lisa, Keenan, and Charles.

As it happened, it was a marvelous experience on many levels, and one that we’d recommend for others. If you are skeptical, read on!


Julie and Dan got into some deep discussions down at the fire pit!

When the opportunity came to take our appreciation for the Core Gift experience to a deeper level, we found ourselves in Bruce’s living room (and kitchen, and back yard) with yet another incredible group, sharing a different type of journey. We even got to spend some time with Jenn (yep, small world).

This was an intense experience because it’s actually harder to be vulnerable in the presence of people you respect than in front of complete strangers. And in this case, it’s both – people you already know and admire, plus newcomers who have a breadth and depth of experience that make you blurt out an authentic “wow” as you get to know them.

If you’ve read this far, it’s probably because you are still waiting for some answers, like WTF is a Core Gift?


Keenan was paired with Keiko for a key piece of the Master Core Gift Facilitator training.

“Your core gift is the central and innermost contribution that will require both courage and heart for you to bring to the world” or so says Bruce Anderson, but he’d also take care to ensure that you understand this is an ancient concept, not something created in the 00’s to give people something to do on staff retreats.

Every person on the planet is a unique collection of skills, talents, gifts and one core gift. They lie on a spectrum that goes all the way from basic skills we need in daily life, to talents that we have a natural ability for, all the way to the central spark or core gift that gives our life purpose and stability through our darkest moments.

Why should you discover your gifts?

It can be an important way to get to know ourselves better and understand not only “what we are good” at but what brings us joy while doing it. Paying attention to our gifts and especially our core gift allows us to nurture and build on what we are already highly motivated to do. Our self-esteem grows. We recognized that our gift is connected to our purpose in life and we begin to look for new ways and places to use it.

What’s this got to do with LiveWorkPlay or other human services?


Believing everyone has a gift helps us to better understand and be more compassionate with the people in our lives. We also begin to see the world around us through the lens of gifts. In a healthy community, the gifts of every single person are valued and needed but it can take time and effort to make these connections.

This is especially and perhaps uniquely true of people with intellectual disabilities – given they have so many encounters with others based on their perceived deficits, the opportunity to have a different lens – one that is focused on assets and contributions – is a vital role that we can play.


How do you find out what your core gift is?

One way is to have a core gift interview done. It is a series of 19 questions which are thought-provoking but not intrusive. Well, maybe a little, but in our experience, it is rare that anyone is unable to answer. The interviewer helps the interviewee sort through their own answers to develop their core gift statement.

It’s not necessary that the interviewer is a certified facilitator, because all the information needed will be available by following the process and the steps. But what we’ve learned is that more experienced interviewers can be helpful in organizing the information and asking clarifying questions that can help the interviewee when they get caught up in the details.


The “group gift” can be a great exercise. On the trek we all gathered over drinks and came up with this statement that everyone new was exactly right!

What are we going to do with this?

We are still in the preliminary stages of incorporating core gifts into our culture at LiveWorkPlay. We certainly want to honour and promote the gifts of the people we support, our employees, our volunteers, and our community.

One of the ways we hope to do this is through the planning processes we utilize in welcoming and supporting individuals and families who have put their trust in us to help them pursue the life they want in the community. In some ways, it is a familiar practice for all of our staff team – getting to know the people they are supporting and looking and listening deeply to understand what is important to the person, and what excites them.

People with intellectual disabilities may not have a lot of experience with others who are looking to follow their lead (more commonly, they are used to being told things, not doing the telling) so we have to ensure that we bring the core gifts concept into their lives as part of an overall effort to build trust and develop mutual respect.

To that end, we ourselves must be vulnerable and ensure that we do not mistakenly communicate our interest in core gifts as some sort of “disability evaluation tool” we are implementing. Rather, we are looking to help the individual develop confidence in who they are and what energizes them so that we can in turn be of help in supporting them to live the life that is right for them.

And so, what about Julie and Keenan’s core gifts?

You probably have some guesses about that, and you’d like to compare that with what our own experiences have revealed. Well, we’ll do that, but another time. It will be a great opportunity to take a deeper dive into understanding the difference between skills, talents, gifts, and core gift.



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LiveWorkPlay Column, Ottawa Sun

What a great piece by Ottawa journalist and philanthropist Kimothy Walker. The tribute to Dr. Dan (Offord) is wonderfully done. You can read the free online version from this link. At a time when Julie and I are working closely with our board and team to strengthen the organization through continued broadening of leadership, it is a nice experience to pause and think back to how it all began and how far we’ve come!


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Happy 2018!

fireThis was a fun start to a new year! First, you’ll see a quick time lapse of the distant Parliament Hill fireworks. Stick with it! Next up is the fireworks at Lansdowne Park. This was filmed with Facebook Live so the zoom level can’t be adjusted after filming has begun. That’s OK, you will feel like you are right inside the fireworks! Happy New Year from Julie and Keenan!

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I started using Facebook live from my balcony as a way to include people in sports and music going on at Lansdowne Park. Then it turned out people enjoyed it even when nothing special was going on.

Screenshot (47)

I’m a night owl and before I go to sleep I will go live and just leave the video running on the city lights (it maxes out at 4 hours). Some people tune in as it is like watching the aquarium channel – but it’s also a way to view a sunrise.

My view does not capture sunsets, but depending on the weather, there are “sunrise reflections” that can be quite beautiful. I almost did not see this because it was at the end of a video when I had gone out for the day – fortunately I did take a quick scroll and found a remarkable sunset reflection that developed over about a 2 hour period, which I condensed into 60 seconds. The last 20 seconds is amazing. Enjoy!

PS: It’s also interesting to watch the cars on Bank Street (bottom left) or even people coming and going in the windows of the theatre (bottom right).

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This silly little app did a pretty good job of capturing some key themes from 2016 – each individual photo might not be an actual “top ten memory” but they all represent aspects of my life with others and my journey as a person. I go deeper below!

The launch photo is a very appropriate tribute to how the Grey Cup Champion RedBlacks (and Fury, this should be an interesting year!) and living at Landsdowne has become such a feature of our lives. I can’t imagine living anywhere else! Watch this video closely (about 20 seconds in).


I can’t believe this happened in 2016, it seems so long ago. The Algonquin College Public Relations students hosted a series of events through their Dreams Worth Living campaign and raised over $25,000 for LiveWorkPlay. Their energy was contagious!  There’s probably a Dreams Worth Living metaphor about the wonderful lady I’m standing with there.


The Dow Honda, Kanata Honda, Star Motors golf tournament for LiveWorkPlay. My usual insistence on a unique photo caught my teammates in a not quite ready position.


This also feels like ancient history, perhaps because the experience was a bit of a blur at at momondays Ottawa back in August. There are different opportunities in life and you have to try them out to see if they might be for you. The motivational speaking circuit is definitely not my thing, but I was grateful for the chance to try it out. I will definitely continue to do public speaking that hopefully helps motivate people, but speaking (or listening) for the purpose of motivation itself is not for me. I do get why there is a strong community of people who can’t get enough and appreciate what they do.


There’s a recent memory! Festive Family Feast 2016. This is my kind of vibe. I’m very fortunate to be a part of it all.


An increasingly common but highly appreciated phenomenon: visitors from out of town who just want to learn more about what LiveWorkPlay is going and how they might bring some of it back home with them. After some intense chat at the office we headed down to Landsowne to capture some local colour.


What a fun night. I was exhausted as it was just about my busiest week of the year including out of town travel, but there is nothing like The Headstones at Barrymores and old friends. A night I won’t soon forget because I thought I’d somehow messed up getting the tickets (these shows are always sold out for those who don’t  know) but Dean and Sean were totally understanding, right up to the moment when we sheepishly handed over the ticket receipt to the door man, who waved us right in (turns out they don’t use tickets, they just keep a record of online purchases). Jen was in a great spot upstairs (Barrymores is an old theatre converted to a night club) but came down to the mosh pit with us for a great photo taken by a helpful stranger. Yup, 48 years old, and right in the middle of it.


I sometimes get invited to events on Parliament Hill and it’s not really my world. But there are often familiar faces and I’ve learned to not worry about feeling left out. If you know 6 people in a room of 100, between reconnecting and perhaps helping with interconnecting, the time will fly by and you’ll have fun and feel good!


Haha it figures this photo got in there. On a hike with Julie and Marie and I wanted to jump off this log (you can’t see it but it’s pretty high off the ground). I hurt my foot really badly when I landed. But I borrowed a page from my father in law and it did indeed go away about 9 weeks later.


Wow, the Ottawa Valley Tours motor coach trip to Cape Cod with my roommate Phil. It’s suitable that the photo is in a totally non-glamorous location because frankly that’s where most of the good times happened. Phil was also a huge part of this highlight moment.


Yup, I liked a lot of other people’s stuff. I think the benefits of Facebook far outweigh the negatives, but I understand why it’s not for everybody. It never feels that way to me, but I can see why it is painful overwhelmingly to some.


Great mix of people in this closing photo that represent how my personal and professional interests often collide. Again, this is something I find mostly positive, but I am sure others would be horrified at how my worlds collide smile emoticon


Thanks for a great year! See you in 2017!

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The Inside Scoop: LiveWorkPlay Awarded $125,000 in New Leaf Community Challenge


What an experience! Julie and I have done many presentations before, including as paid presenters, once with an audience of about 1,000 people. That’s certainly a lot of pressure. But it’s certainly a very different thing to be pitching for $125,000 and the charity and cause that’s been a huge part of your life for more than 20 years is the potential beneficiary!

You can view the presentation yourself if interested, so I just wanted to share a few interesting insights or observations beyond what you can see from the live video, for those of you who might find yourself involved in these types of events.

The first is that to be concerned about technology and logistics is not the least bit foolish. For example, I had to completely reformat and re-embed all of the videos in our presentation the day before the competition, as for whatever reason they would not play for the organizers (despite having tested on multiple computers on my end). Also our timing was significantly off because we had not anticipated the audience would engage in sustained applause at any point in the middle of the presentation – this is great but it took about one minute out of our allotted time and resulted in a snap decision to completely skip over one of the slides. A great decision as we finished in exactly 20 minutes.

The day of the presentation (too late to do anything about it) the organizer laptop (which had consolidated all of the finalist presentations) was set for the old 4:3 aspect ratio instead of 16:9, so several of our slides were somewhat busted, with text that wrapped in unexpected places, or text boxes that appeared to be exploding. Add the 4:3 and 16:9 discussion to your list of tech checks! I think I would even consider turning my slides into image files so they can only be stretched but not broken (when the laptop in use is not in my control).

The setup was best suited to using the fixed podium microphone, but there were two of us and I’m significantly taller, but you can’t be yanking a mic up and down in a timed presentation, so I just stooped…my neck still hurts. And although I didn’t need to look at my notes very much (it looks like I’m doing that all the time) it was difficult to stoop forward and hold my head up at the same time.

The audience membership made a huge difference to me. Julie’s parents and my father were in the audience, as well as a strong contingent of our staff team, several volunteers, three individuals we are involved in supporting, and quite a large number of family members of people we support. I was not really expecting that and it was a difference-maker. I hugged most of them on the way into the amphitheater and I’m not really much of a hugger, so there you go, at 48 years old and having talked about these issue my entire life, a little reassurance and a reminder of what it’s all about still doesn’t hurt.

The question and answer was an interesting and challenging element. I’ve been on live panels and done hundreds of media interviews, but that’s not the same as a group of civic leaders acting as a jury who have read your written proposal in advance and come prepared, taking very seriously their duty to award the money as best they can.If you’ve watched Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank, I daresay that non-profit competition is much more difficult. If you are pitching in for-profit, you never have to worry about appearing that you are too successful or too capable. In the charity sector we’re not quite there yet – while the logic should be the same – charities that are good at what they do should attract additional funds to keep on doing it, and get funding to simply do it more – it doesn’t really work that way.

Funders (private, government, and non-profit) and public perception both remain attached to the idea that charities should not be “too successful.” But really, if they are using the resources to deliver efficiently and effectively on mission outcomes, whether or not they “need” funds to “stay afloat” should not be how we determine who gets funded. In this atmosphere of impact and social change (with charities being gradually understood to have the role of facilitating change and not just running programs to keep their budget going) charities that deliver need to be rewarded, and not made to feel cautious about their success in making communities stronger.

The New Leaf Community Challenge is of course a part of the solution to this problem, because it does encourage this focus on “how are you changing the conditions in society that determine this problem” and not just “what do you do to make life less hard for marginalized people.” As a society we need to address BOTH simultaneously (feed starving people at the same time as we try to make sure nobody is in position to starve, for example).

In the LiveWorkPlay world of supports and services for people with intellectual disabilities, the prevention and social change aspect of solving problems is definitely well behind other sectors, and in fact, the entire dialogue makes most traditional agencies uncomfortable. But that’s OK, it still needs doing. We can’t solve the problem of people being excluded by investing further in excluding them (which is what we get from group homes and day programs, the dominant paradigm).

With this in mind, although the $125,000 is more than welcome and will be put to excellent use, the opportunity to showcase LiveWorkPlay on the leading-edge of the charitable sector (and really, we think of ourselves increasingly as being a community benefit organization not a social services organization) is greatly appreciated. Thank you to the Community Foundation of Ottawa for making this happen and for making these sorts of bold moves to get people thinking and talking about innovation and social change.

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Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year from Julie and Keenan!


This is a digital copy of our annual holiday newsletter! It actually reads pretty good as image files if you click on the images below (they’ll be a little bigger for reading than if you try to read them right from the blog). But you can see the newsletter in its intended form as a PDF file by clicking here. If, like a lot of people, you aren’t big on text, scroll down for photo collages!





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