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Homes for Heroes

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Currently going into its second year, the event involves a 24-hour spin marathon hosted by CP, where participants race stationary bikes to raise funds to end veteran homelessness.

Scott, a fellow veteran and also a former captain in the Canadian Airforce, fully supported the idea and the first spin competition took place this past April in Calgary, raising approximately $74,000.

“Rory’s enthusiasm was infectious when he approached me with his plans,” said Scott. “The initial proposal was to spin on two bikes in the employee cafeteria, but then the idea gained momentum and grew into the phenomenal event we hosted in April.

Rory Thompson and Scott MacDonald present David Howard, CLP President and CO-founder with a cheque for the money raised through the Spin for a Veteran initiative.
Rory Thompson, Signals and Communications Manager (left) and Scott MacDonald, Senior Vice-President Operations - Systems (right), present David Howard, CLP President and CO-founder (centre) with a cheque for the money raised through the Spin for a Veteran initiative.

CP employee participation ranged from those working in Engineering Services to CP Police to HazMat response officers. Other teams were made up of Calgary Police Services, the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, Lord Strathcona Horse, British Army Training Unit Suffield, British Army Trails End Camp and the Calgary Fire Department. The event was covered by Calgary media, including live coverage on Global Calgary’s morning show.

An instant success, Spin for a Veteran surpassed its original goal of $60,000, with CP matching employee donations. The funds gathered went towards the Homes for Heroes Foundation (HFHF), a charity program that assists with the reintegration of military veterans into civilian life.

Rory became aware of HFHF opportunity through the Canadian Legacy Project (CLP), the organization responsible for the foundation. He was inspired by CLP’s mission to support Canadian veterans in need. He contacted David Howard, CLP President and Co-founder, looking for a way to make a difference; Spin for a Veteran was born.

Birds-eye rendering of the proposed community for veterans.
Homes for Heroes aims to create an inclusive community for veterans that facilitates peer-to-peer support.

To date many of Canada’s veterans struggle with homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health issues and proper access to veteran-specific rehabilitation programs.

Recognizing these challenges, David together with Murray McCann, founder of Calgary’s Field of Crosses Memorial Project, set to find a solution that blended both housing needs and rehabilitation techniques to help veterans integrate back into mainstream society.

“The HFHF program is the first of its kind in Canada, and CP was the first organization to step up and offer its support,” said David. “Our mandate is to provide homes, a community of peers and a support structure, designed to meet our veterans’ individual needs, and this would not be possible without creative ideas like Spin for a Veteran.”

Designed as its own community, with 26 houses, in Calgary’s Bridgeland neighborhood, the project will feature shared gardens and pathways open to the public.

“The idea of having houses instead of condos is very important because the apartment building format has the tendency of isolating individuals,” said David. “We want our veterans to feel like they are part of a larger community and that they are able to get that peer-to-peer support, so many of them currently lack.”

Each house costs approximately $60,000 to build and will bear the name of a fallen Canadian hero. A plaque out front will display the hero’s picture and biography and the name of the organization that helped finance the dwelling.

The $74,000 raised by CP during the Spin for a Veteran event in April, will cover the cost for one of the houses, which will be named the Lord Strathcona House, in honour of Donald Alexander Smith, 1st Baron of Strathcona and Mount Royal, former CP director and Canadian military supporter, and best known for driving the last spike.

Construction of the housing project has yet to begin, as the foundation is currently still working with the City of Calgary on home development planning permits. David remains optimistic the project will open its doors sometime in March 2018, as scheduled.

“In Calgary alone we are currently aware of 160 veterans that need our help, with an additional 2,500 to 3,000 more across Canada,” said David. “The numbers are probably much greater as many of our veterans are too proud to ask for help.”

At a cost of approximately $2.5 million, which includes $500,000 being placed in trust for each community, HFHF hopes to build at least one village in every major Canadian city, with additional facilities to be added on as funding permits.

“I am happy to see so much support and enthusiasm from CP employees”

CP will continue to support the HFHF program in 2018. Growing our Spin for a Veteran initiative, events will be held in Toronto on June 15 and in Calgary on June 29. The events run all day, through the night and into the following morning, giving participants’ family and friends the opportunity to come and cheer the efforts.

“I am looking to have a lot more military involvement this time around from the both Canadian and British Armies, as well as from first responder teams,” said Rory. “I am excited to grow the event and I am happy to see so much support and enthusiasm from CP employees, the broader community, our sponsors and other stakeholders.”

A birds-eye view of the Homes for Heroes unit.
A birds-eye-view of the Homes for Heroes unit

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