Sports undeniably bring people together. Ryan Tattle knows this, and it inspired him to start a fundraising campaign through hockey games – which surprisingly did well than he expected. He joins Douglas Nelson to share the story behind Score for Cancer, a project that raises money on behalf of the Canadian Cancer Society. He looks back on how they amassed more than a hundred thousand dollars through hockey games thanks to the community’s burning support, earning him the AFP Outstanding Youth Philanthropist award. Ryan opens up on how her parents made him a strong philanthropist and what motivates him to give back to the community.
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AFP Outstanding Youth Philanthropist Recipient
We are pleased to be the sponsors for the Vancouver AFP National Philanthropy Day taking place on November 25th, 2022. As a part of those festivities, we are pleased to celebrate some of the winners of the Giving Hearts Awards, and share their stories, their motivations, and what caused them to give back, to be inspired, and to do more in our community.
Our guest is Ryan Tattle. He is the winner of this year’s Most Outstanding Youth Philanthropist for his efforts on behalf of the Canadian Cancer Society and his event, Score for Cancer, raised more than $100,000 for research. Ryan joined us from the University of Connecticut where he is studying to be a Finance major, and is playing hockey. We were thrilled with the conversation. If you’re looking for a little bit of motivation in your afternoon, morning, or before you go to bed, you’ll want to know what Ryan Tattle says about his story and his efforts to raise money.
Ryan Tattle, thanks for joining us.
Thank you for having me.
We are so pleased to have you and some of the other award winners from the AFP Giving Hearts Awards this year. I’m going to ask you the question we ask all of our guests when they come on, which is growing up, what was your first experience with charitable giving or giving back to community service?
For me and my sisters as well, my mom always instilled how important giving back is in your community and to others that are less fortunate than you. I grew up very fortunate. My parents worked hard to provide for my sisters and myself. The first real introduction to that would’ve been in 2011. A close family friend of my family, my mom’s best friend passed away from breast cancer.
After that incident happened, my dad along with Lina Vassallo’s sister, Fatima, and her husband created Lina’s Dream, which is basically an endowment fund to raise money towards breast cancer. I was ten years old at the time. I didn’t understand what was going on, but my dad always was like, “You got to help me do this and that.” To me, it was little work, but as I got a little bit older, I understand the actual impact that we were having and it t felt pretty good.
It set the seeds in place or sets the line in place for you to do something important later on. Tell us what is Score for Cancer and what it means to you.
The Score for Cancer was a campaign I started in the summer of 2021. I had been committed to play college hockey and then I had decided to play one more year in junior hockey before heading to college. With that last final year. I was speaking with my dad and I was like, “I want to do something special. It’s my last year.” A couple of weeks later we heard about a good friend and former teammate of myself, Greg La Point, being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Hearing about that as well as having a mom who battles cancer, I said, “I’ve got to try to make a difference.” I’m talking with my dad and then eventually talking with the Canadian Cancer Society. We came up with the idea for Score for Cancer. Individuals or businesses could pledge certain dollar amounts for every point I scored during the season, but we had pledges from $1 all the way up to $500. I can’t believe it, but every point I scored was worth about $1,000. It’s a little bit of pressure, but the motivation for me and my teammates and as well as lots of support for my community. It was incredible.
It’s important. I don’t want to downplay it, but I’m wondering how strong the pressure is to give you any empty-netters at the end of the game.
Some of my teammates will say I shot a couple from pretty far away to get it. I was always thinking about it and my teammates were too. I was always, “I’ll shoot it, whatever.”
That’s great. It’s a really creative way to fundraise. I’m curious what did the Canadian Cancer Society say when you called them up and said, “We’ve got this idea.”
They were awesome. I was honestly surprised. I thought they were going to be like, “Okay,” or a little hesitant, and they jumped right in with me. They set me up with people to solely help my fundraiser. They gave us ideas for branding and helped create websites, donation pages, and things like that. I honestly couldn’t have asked for anything better of an experience. They were unreal for me. My family has been a big part of the Lina’s Dream Foundation which had prior relationships with the Canadian Cancer Society that helped a little bit, but still, they were unreal for me and the Score for Cancer initiative.
If recall right, it was 42 points and 40 games, but it was a little more than $1,000 a point because what was the total amount that Score for Cancer raised?
We ended with 60 points in 52. We were a little bit more and then also had a fundraising game in February. On February 26th, 2022, we created custom Score for Cancer jerseys that we auctioned off to raise money. We had things going on, the silent auction, the stands, and ticket prices were donated to Score for Cancer as well. Along with roughly $60,000 from the pledges and then we raised $20,000 from that one game, but we also had over $20,000 in one-time donations. That’s how we were able to push it over to $100,000.
How close were you before you realized that $100,000 was within reach?
Honestly, I remember I was like talking to my parents one night, “Should we set the goal for $50,000?” We hit $50,000 and I was like, “Should we go $75,000 or $100,000?” I remember telling my parents, “Let’s just do $100,000.” It’s better to come up short. My parents were like, “I don’t know. Ryan, $75,000, that’s good.” I was like, “It’s my thing. I’m going to choose $100,000.” Deep down, I wanted to get there. I’m so grateful for every single person that donated. That means so much to me. There are some extremely generous people that donated a lot of money. There are lots of great organizations out there and the fact that they chose mine was pretty unreal. I’m very thankful for the support.
It’s an inspiring message. What did the Canadian Cancer Society say to you when you crossed that $100,000? Were they cheering you all along the way?
They knew how badly I wanted to hit that goal. They were pretty supportive of it. They were as happy as I was. I remember I was working closely with this lady, Christy. She wrote me a super long, nice email about it. It was pretty heartwarming to get a message like that. Again, they were unreal. Best partner I could have had.
That’s great to know. In our work with the Discovery Group, we talk to a lot of organizations that are looking for ways to engage young people or the youth. When people say, engage the youth, does that sound like they’re talking about you?
Yes. Anyone could be considered a youth at some point, but everybody has an opportunity to make a difference whether you’re 10 years old, 12 years old, or 50 years old. Engaging the youth is where it starts, but it’s never too late to make a difference.Everybody has an opportunity to make a difference regardless of their age. Engage the youth as early as possible. It is never too late to make a difference. Click To Tweet
Many organizations are making a genuine and sincere effort to engage people like you and to tell these important stories about their organizational purpose, bring communities together, and celebrate what’s possible. How could organizations do a better job of engaging people like you or your peers in contributing as you’ve done?
A lot of people want to get involved. I remember when I started the fundraiser, I had a lot of teammates come up to me and even former teammates, “How did you think of this? How did you get to this point?” I was like, “You just got to start somewhere.” There were a lot of people with good hearts out there to start whether that’s some advertising or things like that, but there are a lot of people out there that want to do something and have good hearts. Maybe it’s advertising or speaking in school, stuff like that, but there are a lot of people out there that are willing to do something.
There aren’t many like you that could raise $100,000 in what they do. There’s a lot that can be done to engage younger people in the work of the charitable sector. You started out hitting the $50,000 goal going to $100,000. I’m curious, was it a straightforward line like that, you just started and hit the goal, or were there some ups and downs along the way?
When we first posted the website, the Canadian Cancer Society had set an initial goal of $5,000. I remember seeing it and I was like, “We’re going to hit this in no time.” On the first day, we hit it.
“Do you not know how good I am at hockey? I am going to crush this.”
I was like, “We’ve got to get this up here.” Initially, it was $5,000. I just had unwavering support from my community, to be honest with you. People were super committed to their pledges. How it worked was, at the end of each month, we’d tally up the points and then we’d write you an email saying, “We scored these many points. We would appreciate it if you honored your donation.”
It wasn’t like people were forced to do it was honoring the donations, which was such a noble thing to do. I’m so grateful that people were willing to write it out because it was from September to March. It was a long season. The fact that people were able to stay on top of it and do it for the whole year, that’s why I got to the goal. It’s not something I did.
As you went through it and the goal kept going up, who did you turn to for advice as you were thinking of either probably not on how to score more goals you had that looked after, but in terms of the fundraising or the energy it took to be the face of Score for Cancer?
My dad. He’s someone who I always look up to, not just for philanthropy things, but anything I come across in life. He’s the first person I call. He was a big help. I had to do a lot of interviews and speaking things. I remember at the fundraising game, there were probably over 2,000 people there and they wanted me to speak before the game. I remember talking to my dad and I was like, “I have no idea what to say.” This is the night before. He’s like, “Be yourself. Speak from your heart and the right words will come to mind.” I never wrote anything down. I didn’t do anything. I did what he said and it went pretty well. He’s been there for me the whole time to give me the best advice.
A bit of a high-wire act to go out there and wing it, but it sounds like it worked well. What would you tell other people your age who may think that philanthropy is something you do would after you make a lot of money or after you get old? If they came to you and said, “How did you do this? Why did you do this?” What advice would you give them?
The biggest thing that I’ve learned, and I’d like to share with others is that community together can make such a big difference. I’ve seen it firsthand. I have such a good community in the Coquitlam and the Port Moody areas. That’s why we were able to hit $100,000. That wasn’t me starting the fundraiser. It was all the people that are invested. Cancer sucks, it affects everyone. 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. That’s terrible. No one ever wants to hear those words, but that’s the truth. Everyone knows someone that’s been affected. That’s why when we came together as a community, everyone had an experience like that. That’s why we’re so willing to help. The power of community, that’s my biggest takeaway, and that’s what I would share with those that are willing to start.One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. If people can come together as a community, this problem can be a little less challenging. Click To Tweet
How much would you say your involvement in organized hockey and sport contributed to that sense of community that you’re oozing with when you talk about the success of this fundraising initiative?
Every relationship I have in my life stem from sports. I would say upwards of 90% of them. I grew up in a wonderful area in Port Moody, British Columbia. I’m here in Connecticut in a different time zone and I still talk to my friends back there every single day, but it’s not just friends. It’s family members and things like that. Those relationships have been fostered. Even people that I’d never met before that were reaching out to me about Score for Cancer and about how they made a donation. That was pretty cool as well because these people don’t know me, I don’t know them, but they see my story and the Score for Cancer initiative and they’re willing to support it. That was something that was cool.
There’s something so powerful about involving the goals, cycling, or running, that sense of human achievement to overcome something, which has such a nice parallel with the journey that so many people with cancer go through. It is difficult and challenging. Regardless of how it ends for any one individual, it does take a community to rally around people to make them feel loved and supported as they go through it as you are supported as you went through your fundraising. You’re at the University of Connecticut, you’re going to be majoring in Finance, and you could still change.
It will change, but we’ll see. I’ve got some time.
When you think about getting this award as the Most Outstanding Youth Philanthropist, you’re off to college, what’s next for Ryan? How will Score for Cancer be a part of what you take forward through your education and beyond?
First of all, I’m Score for Cancer Front. I’m incredibly lucky that Coquitlam Express is making the Score for Cancer Game an annual event. This year is on December 17th in Coquitlam. I’ll be flying back for that game and I’ll be there to drop the puck and say some words again, but that’s pretty cool. They’re going to do that game again and try to keep the Score for Cancer initiative alive in that regard. I got a couple more ideas up my sleeve that’ll come down the road. I’ve talked to a couple of close friends about a few things. Maybe in a year or two, we’ll see something else stem, but I don’t want to go into too many details yet.
Keep people waiting for it.
I’ll keep them waiting. That sense of community, coming together, and helping others, it’s almost like a rush. To be able to make a difference and hear people’s stories and that feeling is something that I love. I always want to be able to make a difference whether I’m a student, working, or old and retired. It’s very important that you try to make a difference. It will always be a part of my life and I’m looking forward here. I’ve got some ideas.
I can’t wait to see what they are. I’ll be paying attention as everyone who’s a part of the National Philanthropy Day Awards this year. My final question to you is, how hard is it going to be to drop the puck and not be able to play in the game? If it’s $1,000 a goal, they should let you play a few shifts anyway.
It will be tough. I’ve got a couple of buddies on the team still though, so I’ll give them some incentive if they can get a couple of goals. We’ll see.
Ryan, thank you for demonstrating what being a champion on the ice and off the ice looks like. You and your parents should be very much commended for the work that you put in. Congratulations on the award. Thank you for all that you did on behalf of cancer patients in BC and beyond.
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
About Ryan Tattle
Born and raised in Port Moody, British Columbia; graduated from Heritage Woods Secondary School in 2019. Played Junior A hockey for the Coquitlam Express for 3 years, leading the team as captain in his third season. Founder of Score for Cancer campaign, raising over $100,000 towards cancer research. Currently attending the University of Connecticut playing division 1 ice hockey and pursuing a degree in business finance.