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 his parents made him a strong philanthropist and what motivates him to give back to the community.
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AFP Outstanding Youth Philanthropist With Ryan Tattle
In this episode, we have a very special episode focusing on the Vancouver AFP Giving Hearts Awards taking place on November 25th. As part of our sponsorship of the event, as the official podcast sponsor of the National Philanthropy Day Awards in Vancouver, we have the opportunity to interview three of those award winners and share their stories, inspiration and advice for the social profit sector.
If you ever listen to leaders on this show and thought, “There’s a great idea. That’s something I’m going to try to implement.” You’re going to learn a lot from our three guests. I’m very pleased to share with you my conversation with Ryan Tattle, the 2002 Most Outstanding Youth Philanthropist Award Winner.
His efforts on behalf of the Canadian Cancer Society through Score for Cancer raise more than $100,000. If you’re interested in enticing younger people, the youth movement into your organization bringing them closer to your organizational purpose, you’re going to want to read this conversation with Ryan Tattle. Thanks for reading.
Ryan Tattle, thanks for joining us.
Thank you for having me.
Ryan, we are so pleased to have you and some of the other award winners from the AFP Giving Hearts Awards on the Discovery Pod. I’m going to ask you the question we ask all of our guests when they come on. 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 work hard to provide for my sisters and me. As I said, my mom always instilled in giving back. The first real introduction to that would have been in 2011. A close family friend, my mom’s best friend passed away from breast cancer.
After that incident happened, my dad, along with the lady that passed away, Lina Vassallo’s sister, Fatima, and her husband, they created Lina’s Dream, which is basically an endowment fund to raise money toward breast cancer. I was ten years old at the time. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I know that my dad always was like, “You’ve got to help me do this and help me do that.” To me, it was little work, but as I got a little bit older, I understand it. The actual impact that we were having felt pretty good.
It set the seeds in place or set 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.
Score for Cancer was a campaign I started in the summer of 2021. I had been committed to play college hockey, then I had decided to play one more year in junior hockey before heading to college with that last final year on my mind. I was speaking with my dad and I was like, “I want to do something special. It’s my last year. Maybe I do something a little special.”
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 in.” Again, talking with my dad and eventually talking with the Canadian Cancer Society.
We came up with the idea for Score for cancer. Basically, what individuals or businesses could pledge certain dollar amounts for every point I scored during the season. We had pledges from $1 all the way up to $500. I can’t believe it even that every point I scored was worth about $1,000. A little bit of pressure, but it was a motivation for me and for my teammates, and as well as lots of support for my community. That was incredible.
I don’t want to downplay it, but I’m wondering how strong was the pressure to give you with any empty netters at the end of the game?
I think 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’ll just shoot it whatever.
It’s a 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 a little hesitant, and they jumped right in with me. They set me up with people to help solely help my fundraiser. They gave us ideas for branding and helped create websites and donation pages and things like that. I honestly couldn’t have asked for anything better, any better of an experience. They were unreal for me. We also had my family having been a big part of the Lina’s Dream foundation that I spoke about earlier. We had prior relationships with the Canadian Cancer Society, so I think that helped a little bit but still, they were unreal for me and for Score for Cancer initiative.
If I recall right, it was 42 points at 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. We also had a fundraising game in February. In February 26th, we created custom Score for Cancer jerseys that we auctioned off to raise money for. We had things going on like the silent auction, the stands, and ticket prices were donated to Score for Cancer as well. Along with maybe roughly $60,000 from the pledges and we raised $20,000 from that to one night on the game. We also had over $20,000 in one-time donations. That’s how we were able to push it over $100,000.
How close were you before you realized that $100,000 was within reach?
I remember I was talking to my parents one night, “Should we set the goal for $50,000?” We hit $50,000 then, “Should we go $75,000 or should we go $100,000?” I remember telling my parents, “Let’s just do $100,000. It’s better to come up short and whatever.” My parents were like, “I don’t know, $75,000, Ryan, that’s good.” I was like, “It’s my thing. I’m going to choose $100,000 and fall short.”
I think 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. The fact that they chose mine, they’re pretty unreal. I’m very thankful for their 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 bad 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, Kristy Farn. She wrote me a super long, nice email about it, and it was pretty warming to get a message like that. Again, they were unreal. The best partner I could have.
That’s great to hear. In our work with the Discovery Group, we talk to a lot of organizations that are looking for ways to engage young people, engage the youth, they usually say. When people say to 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 where it starts but also, 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, to bring communities together and to celebrate what’s possible. How could organizations do a better job of engaging people like you or your peers and contributing like you’ve done?
I know a lot of people want to get involved and I think that or not many people always. I remember when I started with a 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’s a lot of people with good hearts out there.”
I think just not to start, whether that’s some advertising or things like that but I know there’s a lot of people out there that want to do something and have good hearts or whatever. Maybe it’s advertising. Maybe it’s speaking in school or stuff like that but I know 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. I think there’s a lot that can be done to engage younger people in the work of the charitable sector. The way you told that story, 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 the initial goal for, I think it was $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 not know how good I am at hockey? I am going to crush this.”
I was like, “We got to get this up here.” Initially, it was $5,000. I had unwavering support from my community, to be honest with you. People were super committed to their pledges. How it worked was basically, at the end of each month, we’d tally up the points. We’d write you an email saying, “We scored this many points. We would appreciate it if you honored your donation,” basically.
It wasn’t like people were forced to do it. 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 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.
That’s great. 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, of the energy it took to be the face of Score for Cancer?
Honestly, my dad. He’s someone who I always look up. 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 was 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 and 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 giving me the best advice.
That’s great. 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 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?
I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned and that I’d like to share with others is that community together can make such a big difference. I’ve seen it firsthand now. I have such a good community in the Coquitlam area, in the Port Moody area and that’s why we were able to hit $100,000. It wasn’t me starting the fundraiser. It was all the people that are invested and cancer sucks. It affects everyone.
One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. That sucks. That’s terrible. No one ever wants to hear those words but that’s the truth. I think everyone knows when it’s been affected and that’s why when we came together as a community, everyone’s 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 to those that are willing to start.
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?
Basically, every relationship I have in my life is, I’m from sport. I would say upwards 90% of them. I grew up in a wonderful area in Port Moody, British Columbia and I’m here in Connecticut on a different time zone. I still talk to my friends back there every single day. It’s not just friends. It’s family members, parents and things like that. Those relationships have 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. I think that was pretty cool as well because these people don’t know me. I don’t know them but they see my story. They see the Score for Cancer initiative and they’re willing to support it. That was something that was cool.
There’s something so powerful that involve the goals, cycling and 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 that 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 just as you sound so supported as you went through your fundraising. Now that you’re at the University of Connecticut, you’re going to be majoring in Finance, if we can say that on the record. I think you could still change, even if we say it.
We’ll change but we’ll see. I got some time.
When you think about this getting this award as the Most Outstanding Youth Philanthropist, you’re off to college. What’s next for Ryan? How will this Score for Cancer be a part of what you take forward through your education and beyond?
First of all, Score for Cancer, I’m incredibly lucky that Coquitlam Express is making the Score for Cancer Game an annual event. It’s on December 17th in Coquitlam. I’ll be flying back for that game. I’ll be there to drop the puck and say some words again. That was pretty cool that 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 of 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 but for that sense of community that coming together and helping others. That’s something. It’s almost like a rush in helping and having and able to make a difference and hearing people’s stories. That feeling is something that I love. I always want to be able to make a difference whether I’m a student or working a job or I’m old and retired. I think it’s very important that you try to make a difference. It’ll always be a part of my life. Looking forward here, I got some ideas, as I said.You could always make a difference whether you’re a student, working a job, or old and retired. It’s very important that you try to make a difference. Click To Tweet
I can’t wait to see what they are. I’ll be paying attention as well, everyone who’s a part of the National Philanthropy Day Awards. 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? In a $1,000 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.